Yellow Flags Keep Waving In Retail

by: Wall Street Strategies

By David Urani

On Tuesday, I pointed out a few yellow flags in the retail space as we head into 4Q earnings season. Those warnings came from Sears (NASDAQ:SHLD), Target (NYSE:TGT) and Gamestop (NYSE:GME). Today, the yellow flags keep rolling in with a few more lackluster sales updates:

• For the two-month holiday period ended December 31, Tiffany & Co (NYSE:TIF) posted constant-currency same-store sales as flat. Sales were actually down 2% in the Americas, while being up modestly in Asia and flat in Europe. Fiscal year 2013 guidance now expects earnings to be at the lower end of their previously issued $3.20-3.40 forecast, which would also put it below the $3.31 consensus. Chalk this up as one blemish in the high-end jewelry market.

• American Eagle (NYSE:AEO) is getting plucked after posting sales results for their quarter-to-date that were up a lukewarm 5%, with a 1% increase in comparable stores excluding online. As such, fiscal Q4 guidance is reiterated at $0.54-0.56 versus the $0.56 consensus. In quite a general but indicative comment, CEO Hanson says "the customer and competitive environment was challenging." In other words, soft demand and pricing cuts, as we've been noting in the space.

• The Street is also taking the heat to Aeropostale (NYSE:ARO) following a Q4 guidance revision to a meager $0.20-0.24 versus the $0.40 consensus. Comps for the nine weeks ended December 29 were down 8% year over year. Management notes significantly deteriorated traffic following Black Friday.

• Ascena Retail Group (NASDAQ:ASNA), owner of Lane Bryant, Dressbarn and others, says, "the holiday selling season proved to be challenging" (catching a trend here?), and consequentially lowered its guidance to $1.20-1.30 versus the $1.55 consensus. Comparable sales for November and December were down 1% over last year. Management says they will enact markdowns as they head into spring.

It wasn't entirely bad, though, as the holiday horror show could have been sidestepped with superior execution including a strong lineup of goods:

• Urban Outfitters (NASDAQ:URBN) is the one apparel company to buck the trend today, having reported holiday sales up 15% for November and December with a $666 million mark of the beast increase in sales. Sales were up 10% at the Urban Outfitters name brand. Free People continues to be a growing bright spot, up 33% as that brand brings a highly attractive selection to the more affluent teen crowd. Total comparable sales were up 9%.