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Press release from Business Wire

Stage Stores Reports 22% Increase in Fourth Quarter EPS; Company Issues FY 2012 Sales and Earnings Guidance and Provides Update on $200 million Stock Repurchase Program

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Stage Stores Reports 22% Increase in Fourth Quarter EPS; Company Issues FY 2012 Sales and Earnings Guidance and Provides Update on $200 million Stock Repurchase Program06:00 EST Tuesday, March 06, 2012 HOUSTON (Business Wire) -- Stage Stores, Inc. (NYSE:SSI) today reported net income for the fourth quarter ended January 28, 2012 of $32.7 million versus $32.0 million for the prior year fourth quarter ended January 29, 2011. Diluted earnings per share for the quarter increased 22% to $1.05 this year from $0.86 last year. Commenting on the Company's fourth quarter results, Andy Hall, President and Chief Executive Officer, stated, “We are pleased that we met our sales expectations for the fourth quarter; however, despite a 22% increase in earnings per share, we fell short of our bottom-line goal. Our results are a reflection of the highly promotional business environment that was prevalent throughout the quarter. We increased our promotional activities in an effort to respond to our customers needs and to maintain our inventories at an appropriate level. Our heightened promotional activities, coupled with our inability to pass through most of the fall cost increases, negatively impacted our merchandise margins and led to an 80 basis point decline in the gross profit rate. Importantly, we were able to control our SG&A expenses, and achieved a 40 basis point drop in the SG&A rate while operating 27 more stores versus last year.” For the 2011 fiscal year, the Company reported net income of $31.0 million, or $0.92 per diluted share, versus $37.6 million, or $0.99 per diluted share, for the 2010 fiscal year. Commenting on the Company's full year results, Mr Hall stated, “2011 was more promotional than anticipated and, similar to the fourth quarter, this environment negatively impacted our merchandise margins and led to the lower results for the year. We are pleased with the result of our expense focus, as the SG&A rate was 50 basis points lower than last year. We are also pleased with our year end inventory level and content. We ended 2011 with a 1.7% increase in comparable store inventory.” Mr. Hall continued, “During the year, we had many accomplishments that will contribute to our near-term and long-term growth. We thank our 14,000 associates for their tireless efforts. We launched Steele's, our new off-price concept, with the opening of our first three Steele's stores on November 1st. Steele's fills an off-price shopping void in small markets and leverages our small market expertise with a complementary format to our department store model. We grew eCommerce sales, items offered and the number of visitors to our eCommerce website throughout the year. For the year, eCommerce sales exceeded our expectations and reached $8.6 million. We opened 28 new Goody's stores and rebranded 148 non-Goody's stores with the Goody's name. We were pleased with the performance of both our new and rebranded Goody's stores. We completed the roll-out of our markdown optimization tool (“MDO”) in early spring. We expect a benefit to gross margin from MDO in 2012.” Mr Hall concluded, “We increased our quarterly dividend rate by 20% this year and spent $110 million buying back 6.8 million shares of our stock Our balance sheet is strong and we remain confident in our ability to continue funding our growth initiatives and returning capital to our shareholders.” Fiscal 2012 Full Year Projections The Company is projecting comparable store sales for the year to be in a range of flat to up 2%. The Company noted that FY 2012 has 53 weeks compared to 52 weeks in FY 2011. The Company estimates that the 53rd week will add $17 million to net sales. As a reminder, comparable store sales will be reported on a 52 week basis and will not include the 53rd week.   FY 2012 OUTLOOK   FY 2011 ACTUAL Sales ($mm) $1,584   -   $1,613 $1,512   Diluted EPS $1.02 - $1.14 $0.92   Diluted Shares (m) 31,225 33,278 The Company stated that the EPS and share count projections for the fiscal year do not include any impact from 2012 stock repurchase activities. The Company also stated that, going forward, it intends to provide annual sales and EPS guidance only. Annual EPS guidance will be updated as needed. Commenting on the Company's full year projections, Mr. Hall stated, “While we believe there will be a modest improvement in the economy, we also believe that the current promotional business environment will likely continue in 2012. Product cost pressures are expected to negatively impact our merchandise margins in the spring, but should abate in the fall, providing us with a tailwind for the second half of the year. We are planning to open 30 to 35 department stores and 25 to 30 Steele's off-price stores during the year, and we expect net capital expenditures of approximately $45 million.” $200 Million Stock Repurchase Program - Update The Company also announced today that it intends to spend the $100 million remaining balance of its $200 million Stock Repurchase Program by the end of 2013. In 2012, the Company plans to repurchase up to $50 million of its common stock. Since the specific timing and amount of repurchases will vary based on market conditions and other factors, there can be no assurance as to the amount, timing or prices of these stock repurchases. Additionally, the Stock Repurchase Program may be modified, extended or terminated by the Company's Board of Directors at any time. Conference Call Information The Company will host a conference call today at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time to discuss its fourth quarter and full year results. Interested parties can participate in the Company's conference call by dialing 703-639-1218. Alternatively, interested parties can listen to a live webcast of the conference call by logging on to the Company's web site at www.stagestoresinc.com and then clicking on Investor Relations, then Webcasts, then the webcast link. A replay of the conference call will be available online until midnight on Friday, March 30, 2012. About Stage Stores Stage Stores, Inc. operates primarily in small and mid-sized towns and communities. Its stores, which operate under the Bealls, Goody's, Palais Royal, Peebles, Stage and Steele's names, offer moderately priced, nationally recognized brand name apparel, accessories, cosmetics and footwear for the entire family. The Company currently operates 819 stores in 40 states. The Company also has an eCommerce website. For more information about Stage Stores, visit the Company's web site at www.stagestoresinc.com. Caution Concerning Forward-Looking Statements This document contains “forward-looking statements”. Forward-looking statements reflect our expectations regarding future events and operating performance and often contain words such as "believe", "expect", "may", "will", "should", "could", "anticipate", "plan" or similar words. In this document, forward-looking statements include comments regarding the Company's belief that its markdown optimization tool will benefit its gross margin in fiscal 2012, the number of stores that the Company plans to open in fiscal 2012 and the estimated amount of net capital expenditures for the fiscal year. Forward-looking statements also include comments regarding the Company's sales, comparable store sales, EPS and share count projections for the 2012 fiscal year. Forward looking statements also include comments regarding the estimated impact that the 53rd week of the 2012 fiscal year will have on net sales. Forward-looking statements are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties which could cause actual results to differ materially from those anticipated by the forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, those described in our Annual Report on Form 10-K as filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the "SEC") on March 30, 2011, and other factors as may periodically be described in our other filings with the SEC. Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this document. We do not undertake to update our forward-looking statements. (Tables to Follow) Stage Stores, Inc.Consolidated Statements of Income(in thousands, except per share data)(Unaudited)         Thirteen Weeks Ended January 28, 2012 January 29, 2011 Amount % to Sales (1) Amount % to Sales (1)   Net sales $ 479,096 100.0 % $ 453,679 100.0 % Cost of sales and related buying, occupancy and distribution expenses   328,736 68.6 %   307,490 67.8 % Gross profit 150,360 31.4 % 146,189 32.2 % Selling, general and administrative expenses 97,163 20.3 % 93,834 20.7 % Store opening costs 452 0.1 % 168 0.0 % Interest expense, net of income of $0 and $17, respectively   1,015 0.2 %   896 0.2 % Income before income tax 51,730 10.8 % 51,291 11.3 % Income tax expense   19,016 4.0 %   19,311 4.3 % Net income $ 32,714 6.8 % $ 31,980 7.0 %   Basic and diluted earnings per share data: Basic earnings per share $ 1.06 $ 0.87 Basic weighted average shares outstanding   30,432   36,629   Diluted earnings per share $ 1.05 $ 0.86 Diluted weighted average shares outstanding   30,603   37,083   (1) Percentages may not foot due to rounding.   Stage Stores, Inc.Consolidated Statements of Income(in thousands, except per share data)(Unaudited)         Fifty-Two Weeks Ended January 28, 2012 January 29, 2011 Amount % to Sales (1) Amount % to Sales (1)   Net sales $ 1,511,919 100.0 % $ 1,470,590 100.0 % Cost of sales and related buying, occupancy and distribution expenses   1,101,319 72.8 %   1,053,766 71.7 % Gross profit 410,600 27.2 % 416,824 28.3 % Selling, general and administrative expenses 353,834 23.4 % 350,865 23.9 % Store opening costs 5,670 0.4 % 3,192 0.2 % Interest expense, net of income of $24 and $88, respectively   3,821 0.3 %   3,875 0.3 % Income before income tax 47,275 3.1 % 58,892 4.0 % Income tax expense   16,315 1.1 %   21,252 1.4 % Net income $ 30,960 2.0 % $ 37,640 2.6 %   Basic and diluted earnings per share data: Basic earnings per share $ 0.93 $ 1.00 Basic weighted average shares outstanding   33,021   37,656   Diluted earnings per share $ 0.92 $ 0.99 Diluted weighted average shares outstanding   33,278   38,010   (1) Percentages may not foot due to rounding.   Stage Stores, Inc.Consolidated Balance Sheets(in thousands, except par value)(Unaudited)     January 28, 2012 January 29, 2011   ASSETS Cash and cash equivalents $ 18,621 $ 89,349 Merchandise inventories, net 348,913 325,501 Prepaid expenses and other current assets   33,434     30,423   Total current assets 400,968 445,273   Property, equipment and leasehold improvements, net 300,717 317,954 Intangible asset 14,910 14,910 Other non-current assets, net   19,713     17,947   Total assets $ 736,308   $ 796,084     LIABILITIES AND STOCKHOLDERS' EQUITY Accounts payable $ 106,991 $ 95,365 Income taxes payable 6,187 12,657 Current portion of debt obligations 13,782 13,490 Accrued expenses and other current liabilities   60,308     61,661   Total current liabilities 187,268 183,173   Long-term debt obligations 35,721 25,002 Deferred taxes 17,830 14,399 Other long-term liabilities   82,783     84,001   Total liabilities   323,602     306,575     Commitments and contingencies   Common stock, par value $0.01, 100,000 shares authorized, 30,444 and 56,946 shares issued, respectively 304 569 Additional paid-in capital 349,366 516,079 Less treasury stock - at cost, 0 and 20,508 shares, respectively (835 ) (320,055 ) Accumulated other comprehensive loss (4,748 ) (2,935 ) Retained earnings   68,619     295,851   Total stockholders' equity   412,706     489,509   Total liabilities and stockholders' equity $ 736,308   $ 796,084     Stage Stores, Inc.Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows (in thousands) (Unaudited)     Fifty-Two Weeks Ended January 28, 2012 January 29, 2011   Cash flows from operating activities: Net income $ 30,960 $ 37,640 Adjustments to reconcile net income to net cash provided by operating activities: Depreciation, amortization and impairment of long-lived assets 61,680 62,417 (Gain) loss on retirements of property, equipment and leasehold improvements (101 ) 169 Deferred income taxes 6,768 3,548 Tax benefits from stock-based compensation 738 1,081 Stock-based compensation expense 7,690 6,775 Amortization of debt issuance costs 347 298 Excess tax benefits from stock-based compensation (1,339 ) (2,172 ) Deferred compensation obligation 134 85 Amortization of employee benefit related costs 592 427 Construction allowances from landlords 4,499 5,476 Changes in operating assets and liabilities: Increase in merchandise inventories (23,412 ) (19,141 ) Increase in other assets (4,369 ) (8,216 ) Decrease in accounts payable and other liabilities   (6,132 )   (10,512 ) Total adjustments   47,095     40,235   Net cash provided by operating activities   78,055     77,875     Cash flows from investing activities: Additions to property, equipment and leasehold improvements (45,731 ) (36,990 ) Proceeds from insurance and retirements of property, equipment and leasehold improvements   413     531   Net cash used in investing activities   (45,318 )   (36,459 )   Cash flows from financing activities: Proceeds from revolving credit facility borrowings 238,800 4,300 Payments of revolving credit facility borrowings (214,300 ) (4,300 ) Payments of long-term debt obligations (13,489 ) (12,726 ) Payments of debt issuance costs (1,149 ) - Repurchases of common stock (110,919 ) (31,976 ) Proceeds from issuance of equity awards 7,286 6,199 Excess tax benefits from stock-based compensation 1,339 2,172 Cash dividends paid   (11,033 )   (9,450 ) Net cash used in financing activities   (103,465 )   (45,781 ) Net decrease in cash and cash equivalents (70,728 ) (4,365 )   Cash and cash equivalents: Beginning of period   89,349     93,714   End of period $ 18,621   $ 89,349   Stage Stores, Inc.Bob Aronson, 800-579-2302Vice President, Investor Relations(baronson@stagestores.com)