Benefiting from strong demand growth across the board, especially for the LOFT brand, Ascena Retail (ASNA) turned to profit in the fourth quarter from a loss last year. The impressive results, which topped Wall Street estimates, triggered a stock rally.
The specialty apparel retailer reported net income of $33.2 million or $0.17 per share for the August quarter, compared to a loss of $15.8 million or $0.08 per share in the corresponding period a year earlier. Adjusted earnings were $0.07 per share, up from $0.05 per share last year and above analysts’ forecast.
Driving the turnaround, net sales jumped 7% annually to $1.77 billion, with all the major brands registering year-over-year growth. Comparable store sales gained about 4% during the quarter, particularly benefitting from an additional week.
The owner of the Ann Taylor and Lane Bryant brands also provided the earnings outlook for the first quarter, setting the lower end of the guidance range at a $0.04-per share loss and the higher end at earnings of $0.06 per share. Net sales are forecast between $1.54 billion and $1.56 billion for the current quarter when comparable store sales are estimated to be between flat and up 2%.
Comparable store sales gained about 4% during the quarter, particularly benefitting from an additional week
For the whole of 2019, the management expects adjusted earnings of flat to $0.10 per share. Net sales are forecast to be in the range of $6.45 billion to $6.55 billion in 2019 when comparable sales are seen growing in low single digits.
“We entered Fiscal 2019 with good base momentum, and key growth initiatives beginning to gain traction across our brands. We are making headway with stabilization of our dressbarn brand, and will continue to explore opportunities across our brand portfolio to create shareholder value,” said CEO David Jaffe.
Ascena’ stock gained nearly 10% in the after-hours trading Monday following the earnings report, reversing the sharp loss it suffered during the regular trading session. The shares soared about 64% over the past twelve months.