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Ascena Retail Group Inc ASNA
Q3 2013 Earnings Call Transcript

Transcript Call Date 06/05/2013

Operator: Good afternoon, my name is Cheverly, and I will be your conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the Ascena Retail Group's Third Quarter Earnings Conference Call. I would now like to introduce Allison Townsend of ICR. Ms. Townsend, please begin.

Allison Townsend - ICR: Thank you, operator, and good afternoon to everyone. Today's call is being recorded and will be available for replay later today. Information on accessing this replay is available on today's press release. As a matter of formality, we would like to remind participants that remarks made by management during the course of this call may contain forward-looking statements about the Company's results and plans. These are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause the actual results and implementation of the Company's plan to vary materially. These risks and uncertainties are referenced in today's press release as well as in the Company's most recently filed Form 10-Q.

Finally, in these remarks, we refer to adjusted earnings, which is a non-GAAP financial measure. A reconciliation of the non-GAAP measures we discuss today to GAAP measures are included in today's press release.

At this time I'd like to turn the conference call over to your host Mr. David Jaffe, President and CEO. David?

David R. Jaffe - President and CEO: Thank you. Good afternoon and thank you for joining us to discuss our fiscal third quarter. A challenging external environment characterized by continued economic pressure on middle income consumers, coupled with an unseasonably cold and warm winter had a negative impact on traffic. Sales improved across all brands in Q4 to-date compared to Q3. However, the late May and early June comps were choppy suggesting that the improved trend may have been driven in part by pent up demand from the cold spring.

With that background let's look at the overall financials. Total comp sales for the third quarter were down 1%, reflecting a store comp decline of 4% and e-commerce sales increases of 37%. All of our brands except Catherines had negative comps, driven predominantly by the environment I just described, the Lane Bryant and dressbarn were further impacted by merchandizing misses.

Adjusted EPS for the third quarter were $0.26 compared to $0.34 in the same quarter last year, driven primarily by the disappointing sales results. I'd like to walk you through results for each of our five brands in a little more detail. Adjust this, total comp sales were down 2% in the third quarter, with store comps down 4% and e-commerce up 27%. The store comp decline was driven by soft traffic and transactions. However, total revenue was up 4% driven by new store growth.

With regard to specific categories, accessories, denim and casual pants were standout performers. Warm weather merchandise such as shorts, tank tops and warm weather footwear are key elements of spring sales and underperformed during Q3. However, trends on this merchandise as well as total Justice brand sales have rebounded in early Q4.

Driven by new store growth, total Justice revenue was up 4% for the quarter. We took the cadence of promotion up versus last year with the marketing strategy that continues to focus on communicating value through both targeted loyalty programs and store-wide point-of-sale events. Justice executed three additional point-of-sale events during the quarter, including two flash sales events, in which an additional 20% off was offered. Recent consumer research indicates that Justice continues to be the market leader in a tween girls space.

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