Ross Stores (ROST) reported a 0.7% rise in earnings for the first quarter of 2019 helped by higher sales and lower provision for taxes. The results exceeded analysts’ expectations. However, the off-price retail apparel and home fashion operator guided second-quarter earnings below consensus estimates. Following this, the stock inched down over 2% in the after-market session.
Net income inched up 0.7% to $421.14 million and earnings increased by 3.6% to $1.15 per share. The results included about $0.02 per share benefit from favorable timing of expenses that are expected to reverse over the balance of the year.
Total sales grew 6% to $3.8 billion. Comparable store sales rose 2% compared to the previous year’s gain of 3%. The company delivered sales gains at the high end of its guidance as well as better-than-expected EPS growth despite continued underperformance in Ladies apparel.
Looking ahead into the second quarter of 2019, the company expects comparable store sales growth in the range of 1% to 2% on top of a 5% gain last year. Earnings are anticipated to be in the range of $1.06 to $1.11 per share, up from $1.04 per share in the prior-year quarter.
For fiscal 2019, Ross Stores lifted its earnings guidance to the range of $4.38 to $4.52 per share from the prior range of $4.30 to $4.50 per share. This is compared to the previous year quarter’s earnings of $4.26 per share.
While the operating margin of 14.1% was down from the prior year, it was above the company’s expectations mainly due to higher merchandise margin. As expected, this improvement was more than offset by increases in freight and wage costs and the timing of pack-away related expenses that benefited the prior year period.
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During the first quarter of fiscal 2019, Ross Stores repurchased 3.4 million shares of common stock for an aggregate price of $320 million. As planned, the company remained on track to buy back a total of $1.275 billion in common stock during fiscal 2019.
Shares of Ross Stores ended Thursday’s regular session down 0.02% at $94.51 on the Nasdaq. The stock has risen over 14% in the past year and over 15% in the year so far.