Ross Stores Inc ROST
Q4 2012 Earnings Call Transcript

Transcript Call Date 03/21/2013

Operator: Good morning, and welcome to the Ross Stores Fourth Quarter and Fiscal Year 2012 Earnings Release Conference Call. The call will begin with prepared comments by management followed by a question-and-answer session.

Before we get started on behalf of Ross Stores, I would like to note that the comments made on this call will contain forward-looking statements regarding expectations about future growth and financial results, including sales and earnings forecasts and other matters that are based on the Company's current forecast of aspects of its future business. These forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from historical performance or current expectations. Risk factors are included in today's press release and the Company's fiscal 2011 Form 10-K, fiscal 2012 Form 10-Qs and fiscal 2012 and 2013 form 8-Ks on file with the SEC.

Now, I'd like to turn the call over to Michael Balmuth, Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

Michael Balmuth - Vice Chairman and CEO: Good morning. Joining me on our call today are Norman Ferber, Chairman of the Board; Michael O'Sullivan, President and Chief Operating Officer; Gary Cribb, Executive Vice President, Stores and Loss Prevention; John Call, Group Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; Michael Hartshorn, Senior Vice President and Deputy Chief Financial Officer and Connie Wong, Director of Investor Relations.

We will begin with a review of our fourth quarter and 2012 performance, followed by our outlook for 2013. Afterwards, we'll be happy to respond to any questions you may have.

We are pleased with the record sales and earnings we delivered in the fourth quarter and 2012 fiscal year, especially considering they were achieved on top of strong multi-year gains.

Results for both periods benefitted from our ongoing ability to deliver compelling bargains on a wide assortment of exciting name brand fashions for the family and the home to today's value-focused consumers.

Earnings per share for the 14 weeks ended February 2, 2013 grew to $1.07, up from $0.85 for the 13 weeks ended January 28, 2012. For the 53 weeks ended February 2, 2013, earnings per share were $3.53 compared to $2.86 for the 52 weeks ended January 28, 2012. Both the quarter and the fiscal year included per share benefit of approximately $0.10 from the 53rd week.

Net earnings for the 2012 fourth quarter were $236.6 million, up from $192 million in the prior year, while fiscal 2012 net earnings grew to $786.8 million compared to $657.2 million in fiscal 2011. Sales for the 14 weeks ended February 2, 2013 grew 15% to $2.761 billion with comparable store sales up 5% on top of a 7% increase in the fourth quarter of 2011. For the 53-week fiscal year ended February 2, 2013, sales increased 13% to $9.721 billion, with the same-store sales gain of 6% compared to a 5% rise in 2011.

For the quarter and the full year Juniors was the best performing merchandise category, while geographically the strength was broad-based. Earnings before interest and taxes for the 2012 fourth quarter grew to 13.7% of sales up from 13.0% in the fourth quarter of 2011. For fiscal 2012, operating margin rose to a record 13.1%, a gain of 75 basis points on top of an 85 basis point increase in fiscal 2011. Profit margins for both the quarter and the full year mainly benefited from higher merchandise gross margin, leverage on operating expenses from the strong gains in same-store sales, and the impact of the 53rd week.

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