Houston—Stage Stores Inc. today posted a 9% increase in its fourth quarter profit thanks to higher sales and margins. And the department store company’s 2012 sales hit a new record. Nonetheless, the department store company’s earnings per share and sales missed analysts’ expectations.
For the quarter ended Feb. 2, Stage Stores, which also operates under the Bealls, Goody’s and Palais Royal brands, posted net income of $35.79 million, or $1.09 a share, compared to $32.71 million, or $1.05 a share, in the prior-year period.
Total net sales for the quarter increased 10% to $527.90 million while comparable store sales grew 6.6%.
Analysts’ average estimate expected Stage Stores to earn $1.16 a share on sales of $528.91 million.
During the quarter, gross margin widened to 32.4% from 31.4% even as input costs rose 8.6%. Interest expense dove 35% to $661,000. Meanwhile store opening costs increased 11% to $500,000 as selling, general and administrative expenses rose 16% to $112.8 million.
‘We Enter 2013′ With ‘Great Momentum’
“2012 was a phenomenal year for Stage Stores and one that all of our shareholders and associates can be extremely proud of,” said Michael Glazer, president/ceo. “We achieved strong gains in sales and earnings and made significant progress on our strategic initiatives. Total sales exceeded $1.6 billion and we achieved a 5.7% increase in comparable store sales, the highest percentage increase in over 10 years. Driven by our record sales, adjusted earnings per share increased by 45% to a record $1.33.”
The annual figures were in line with analysts’ estimate for earnings of $1.30 a share on $1.65 billion in sales.
Sales in the company’s direct-to-consumer segment, which includes online, jumped 65% last year. The company also initiated a new loyalty card program and new cards were reissued to more than 2 million customers. In addition, the company added 25 traditional stores and 31 Steele’s store during the year.
For its fiscal 2013 forecast, Stage Stores expects earnings per share in the $1.45 to $1.55 range, excluding one-time items such as its consolidation of its South Hill, Virginia, operations into its Houston headquarters.
For its 2013 sales, the company expects them to be in the range of $1.69 billion to $1.72 billion with comparable store sales to increase 2% to 4%. Analysts’ consensus expects Stage to earn $1.51 a share, on sales of $1.73 billion in 2013.
“As we enter 2013, we have great momentum and our inventory is well positioned for growth. We have strategically increased our inventory investment to take advantage of several opportunities. We clearly expect to see meaningful sales and earnings growth in 2013 and beyond,” Glazer added.