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Aeropostale (NYSE:ARO)

Q4 2012 Earnings Call

March 14, 2013 4:15 pm ET

Executives

Kenneth Ohashi - Vice President of Investor and Media Relations

Thomas P. Johnson - Chief Executive Officer and Director

Emilia Fabricant - Executive Vice President of The Aeropostale Brand

Marc D. Miller - Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President

Analysts

Betty Y. Chen - Wedbush Securities Inc., Research Division

Adrienne Tennant - Janney Montgomery Scott LLC, Research Division

Lindsay Drucker Mann - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Janet Kloppenburg

Lorraine Maikis Hutchinson - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

Marni Shapiro - The Retail Tracker

Jay Sole - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Jennifer M. Davis - Lazard Capital Markets LLC, Research Division

Randal J. Konik - Jefferies & Company, Inc., Research Division

Lee J. Giordano - Imperial Capital, LLC, Research Division

Dorothy S. Lakner - Caris & Company, Inc., Research Division

Eric M. Beder - Brean Capital LLC, Research Division

Stephanie S. Wissink - Piper Jaffray Companies, Research Division

Jeff Black - Avondale Partners, LLC, Research Division

Richard Ellis Jaffe - Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc., Research Division

John D. Kernan - Cowen and Company, LLC, Research Division

Janine M. Stichter - Telsey Advisory Group LLC

Linda Yu Tsai - ITG Market Research

Howard Tubin - RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division

Edward J. Yruma - KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division

Operator

Thank you for joining us on the Aeropostale conference call to review fourth quarter 2012 financial results. [Operator Instructions] I would like to remind everyone that this conference call is being recorded. And I would now like to introduce Ken Ohashi, the company's Vice President of Investor and Media Relations.

Kenneth Ohashi

Thank you all for joining us this afternoon. With me here today are Tom Johnson, our Chief Executive Officer; Emilia Fabricant, EVP of the Aeropostale brand; and Marc Miller, our Chief Financial Officer.

We issued a press release earlier this afternoon announcing fourth quarter and fiscal 2012 financial results. A copy of the release can be found on our corporate website.

Before we begin, I'd like to remind you that during this earnings conference call, certain statements or responses to questions may contain forward-looking information, such as forecasts of future financial performance. Forward-looking information and statements involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties, which may cause our actual results in future periods to differ materially from our forecasted results. Those risks are described in our annual report on Form 10-K and our quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, all of which have been filed with the SEC and are available on our website. We undertake no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements to reflect subsequent events or circumstances. Listeners of this call are referred to those filings.

[Operator Instructions] I would now like to turn the call over to Tom.

Thomas P. Johnson

Thank you, Ken. Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining us today. Last year, we spoke to you about 4 strategic initiatives that will lay the foundation for improvement of our overall business and brand positioning: offering teens relevant fashion for the dynamic and fast-changing lifestyle; communicating our brand message through fresh and differentiated marketing campaigns that evoke an emotional connection with the teen; building a best-in-class infrastructure to increase speed to market; and developing our future growth drivers to build a global, multi-brand business platform. While we have not reached the level of performance we strive for, I believe we made progress in each of these key areas in 2012. Just as important, I believe that we have the right strategies in place to improve the trajectory of our business going forward. Emilia, Marc and I look forward to sharing these strategies with you today.

First, let me take you through our most recent results. As many of you saw today, we reported adjusted fourth quarter results which were in line with our previously issued guidance. During the quarter, we experienced a strong start to the holiday season, but trends decelerated as the quarter progressed. We are seeing a continuation of these weaker trends in the first quarter similar to what other -- many other retailers are experiencing. Despite macroeconomic challenges, we know that Aeropostale must achieve greater results.

Last year, we made progress against our 4 strategic initiatives. First, we integrated more relevant fashion into our assortment, testing our brand parameters and setting the foundation to build on emerging trends and trending classifications. We highlighted this fashion through our nationwide marketing campaign with brand ambassador Chloe Grace Moretz. To further enhance our brand projection, we opened our innovative and exciting Aeropostale studio concept store.

To support our key initiatives and realize efficiencies across the chain, we made substantial investments in processes and technology. We also made advancements within each of our growth platforms: P.S., e-commerce, international and recently acquired e-tailer, GoJane. While we recognize our accomplishments, we have a lot a work ahead of us.

Our most important initiative is the evolution and transformation of our product. Last year, the teams did a nice job of integrating some compelling fashion into our assortment. However, we still have significant opportunity to develop our fashion offering by curating collections that have a distinct Aero point of view. To lead this very important initiative, over the past few months, we've made investments in talent with the addition of Emilia Fabricant; a new head of Aeropostale Design, Susan Martin; and a new head of Aeropostale Women's Merchandising, Nancy Zarr.

As we move into 2013, we will build on the progress we've made last year and broaden our initiatives centered around our 4 strategic initiatives: product, brand projection, process and growth. Emilia will discuss product and process in a moment. But first, let me discuss brand projection.

In order to continue to be relevant to today's teen, we need to create authentic and emotional marketing campaigns that deliver a cohesive brand and product projection. Moving into the remainder of the year, we will be more directive and clear about who we are and what we stand for. There will be a 360-degree approach to marketing, meaning consistency in brand messaging across all customer touch points, in our stores, online and through social media. We will continue to balance all of this while staying true to our DNA of highlighting great fashion at an incredible value. To support this effort, we are in the process of engaging a preeminent branding firm to help us articulate and crystallize our brand message to our consumer.

Our most important initiative, however, is the evolution and transformation of our product and that -- and the process that supports that transformation. I'll turn it over to Emilia who will take us through this.

Emilia Fabricant

Thank you, Tom. I am very excited to be here today to share with you our merchandising strategies for 2013. One of the key strengths of the Aeropostale business is that the team has done a great job in maintaining a leading market share position in core basics. While core basics, or our heritage products, will continue to be an important part of our business, we know that we have the opportunity to gain a greater share of the girl's closet.

As Tom had said earlier, last year, the team integrated some great fashion into our assortment. This year, we are taking it to the next level by transforming our business into a true lifestyle brand. We are beginning to build curated, head-to-toe collections to meet her various moods and activities. We know that she wants complete outfits that are relevant when she's lounging around, going to school or out with friends on a Friday night. We will do this not only by infusing more fashion into our mix but through balancing our tops and bottoms ratio, creating brand extensions and expanding into new categories.

Starting with a small segment of summer products, you will see a noticeable change in the trim, the finishing and the authenticity of our product. Additionally, we will project this lifestyle approach in our stores, making strong and cohesive statements at the front door, throughout the selling floor and in our marketing.

To support this move to more fashion, we will further enhance our processes and invest in technologies. The key here is to build flexibility, increase speed to market and localize assortment. Moving through the year, we will leave a low, double-digit percentage open to buy and work with our vendors to create greater flexibility and scale in our sourcing model. While we already have chase capabilities today, our goal is to be able to chase almost every classification within 20 to 120 days. And we will also reduce the number of overall floor sets for basics and pulse fashion into the store more frequently. Our design and production teams will also start using the PLM tool to create cross-functional efficiencies and accelerate time lines.

At the store level, we will have greater opportunity to distort our assortment by store profile based on the appetite for fashion in each of these stores. We have already started to distort our assortments through smaller pre-packs and will further improve localization through the implementation of our assortment planning tool later this year.

I speak on behalf of the entire production development team when I tell you that we're excited about the direction we're heading. We all understand that it may take some time for this change to register in the minds of our teen customer. However, we believe that we absolutely have the right strategy to improve the trajectory of our business.

I'll now turn the call over to Marc who will discuss our financials and our profitability initiatives.

Marc D. Miller

Thank you, Emilia. Total net sales for the quarter were down 1% versus last year, reflecting an average square footage increase of 4%, the impact of the additional week in the quarter, which accounted for 3%, offset by a negative 8% comp, which includes our e-commerce channel. Including our e-commerce channel, our Guys business was down 4%, and our Girls business was down 10% for the quarter. Our comp for the quarter was driven by a 5% increase in units per transaction, offset by a 7% decrease in average unit retail and a 6% decline in transactions.

During the quarter, we opened 3 Aeropostale stores and 1 P.S. store and closed 11 Aeropostale stores, ending the quarter with 984 Aeropostale and 100 P.S. stores.

Gross margins for the quarter were 19.8% versus 24.3% last year. Gross margins for the fourth quarter include store asset impairment charges of $32.6 million related to the write-down of assets in 119 stores. On an adjusted basis, excluding the impairment charges, gross margins for the quarter were 24.0% versus 26.1% last year. The 210-basis-point decrease was driven by 70 basis points of lower merchandise margins and 140 basis points from the deleveraging of occupancy, depreciation and distribution and transportation costs.

SG&A for the quarter was 19.9% of sales versus 19.2% last year. The 70-basis-point increase was driven primarily by deleverage from store line expenses, deleverage from previously announced planned marketing investments and deleverage from e-commerce transaction-related expenses. These were partially offset by lower corporate-related expenses driven by incentive compensation and lower store transaction-related expenses.

Our tax rate for the quarter was 40.8% versus 35.9% last year on an adjusted basis. This resulted in a net loss of approximately $0.7 million or $0.01 per diluted share. On an adjusted basis, net income for the quarter was $19.1 million or $0.24 per diluted share.

Our balance sheet continues to remain very strong. We ended the quarter with cash and cash equivalents of approximately $232 million versus $224 million last year and no debt. We currently have approximately $104 million of buyback availability remaining under our share repurchase program. Program-to-date, we've returned over $1 billion to shareholders in the form of 60 million shares repurchased.

Inventory at the end of the quarter was $155 million, down 5% in total, or down 9% on a retail per square foot basis.

Our capital expenditures for the quarter were $17 million, and depreciation and amortization was $19 million.

I will now discuss our guidance outlook. As Tom mentioned earlier, similar to many other retailers, we've been experiencing challenging macroeconomic headwinds and its impact on customer traffic into the first quarter. Additionally, based on the sales shortfall in the fourth quarter versus plan, we are planning increased promotional activity compared to the first quarter last year to clear through inventories. As a result, we expect pressure on both our sales and gross margin lines, and we are initiating guidance at a loss of $0.15 to $0.20 per share. This guidance assumes a share count of 78.7 million and a tax rate of 40.5%.

Looking to 2013, we plan to open approximately 14 Aeropostale stores and approximately 60 P.S. stores. We also plan to remodel approximately 30 Aeropostale stores into our new studio store concept. Additionally, in an ongoing effort to optimize our real estate portfolio, we have identified up to 100 locations for store closure over the next several years. Of these, we plan to close approximately 15 to 20 Aeropostale stores in 2013 on top of the 20 Aeropostale stores we closed in 2012. Accordingly, for 2013, we expect low- to mid-single-digit square footage growth. We expect capital expenditures of approximately $89 million as we invest in store growth and remodels and depreciation of approximately $66 million. The tax rate will be approximately 40.5% for the full year.

Before turning the call over to Tom, I'd like to make a brief comment about our cost structure. While our cost structure is one of the leanest in the industry, we're looking at every discretionary expense across the organization and leveraging our shared services model to realize opportunities for profit improvement. Now I will turn the call over to Tom for closing remarks.

Thomas P. Johnson

Thank you, Marc. While we are all intensely focused on turning around the core Aeropostale business and managing our cost structure, we must also keep our eyes toward the future. I'm proud of the progress we've made in developing our future growth drivers.

P.S. continues to build brand momentum and resonate with the customer. Last year, we achieved productivity levels that exceeded many of our competitors in a very short period of time. We're excited to grow the square footage this year, and we continue to believe that over time, P.S. can become a 500-plus store chain. On the international front, over the past 12 months, we signed deals in the Philippines, Panama, Colombia and Mexico. International licensing revenues are becoming a meaningful part of the profitability with very little financial risk to us. We expect international licensing to contribute at least $0.07 per share for fiscal 2013 and is expected to triple by 2015.

Our e-commerce business also continued to post double-digit growth last year. Over time, we believe the e-commerce business can be a $0.5 billion business. We will achieve this through product extensions, continued website enhancements, new platforms, such as mobile and international shipping, and the further development of both P.S. and GoJane.

We are excited about our growth vehicles and the larger impact that they will have on our business over the next few years. While we face near-term challenges, including macroeconomic headwinds, I believe that we have the right strategies and the right team to improve our business.

Before I turn the call over to Q&A, there are 2 things that I'd like to touch upon. First, I'd like to thank the entire organization for their hard work and commitment in 2012 and their renewed determination in 2013. As many of you may know, we were once again recognized as one of Fortune 100's top companies to work for. We're very proud of this special distinction particularly in a time of such sector-wide volatility.

Second, as many of you know, Michael Cunningham, Aeropostale's President, will be retiring at the end of this month. Michael has been an incredible partner and friend for many, many years. He has helped Aeropostale become one of the most highly recognized and productive brands in retail, and he did it with passion and a lot of humor. From all of us, Michael, who we know you're listening, we thank you for everything that you've done for Aeropostale.

Operator, we are now ready to take questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Our first question comes from the line of Betty Chen with Wedbush Securities.

Betty Y. Chen - Wedbush Securities Inc., Research Division

I was wondering, Emilia, if you can talk a little bit about the merchandising strategies that you alluded to earlier. And I wanted you to confirm the timing, if we heard you correctly. Did you say that we could start to notice some changes around trim finishes, et cetera, around back-to-school in time for the back-to-school selling season? Or how should we think about the timing of that? And then related to that, at that point in time, is there any sort of sense you can give us in terms of the mix of core basics, which remains very important to the business, versus fashion, which seems to be a big opportunity for the company?

Emilia Fabricant

Sure. I do believe that you'll start to see some change in summer. The teams worked very hard into chasing fashion trends that we're seeing happen today, but the full line won't be until the half back half of the year. Today, we're chasing whatever we can as far as bestsellers and trends to maximize the business and drive our fashion trends. As far as the mix, core basics versus fashion, that's really subjected to what's happening on a month-to-month basis. We are focused on updating our core and raising the profitability and making it more relevant to teen. We're reducing over the next 2 quarters the core basics penetration by about 22% and investing into fashion basics and fashion.

Betty Y. Chen - Wedbush Securities Inc., Research Division

Emilia, can I follow up on that for a quick moment? In terms of products that you're chasing into, is there anything you can share with us in terms of call-outs that's working well right now?

Emilia Fabricant

Well, I'm not going to get into specifics, but we are definitely seeing an acceleration in the woven trends.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Adrienne Tennant with Janney Capital Markets.

Adrienne Tennant - Janney Montgomery Scott LLC, Research Division

Mike, one question is it's really -- if you can give us any color on sort of the sales momentum that goes along with the guidance. I was just wondering, if you look at a 2-year stack, your comps get significant harder in Q1, so sort of implying negative sort of mid to high teen, and I was wondering if because you're being more promotional, if we should expect an acceleration in the 2-year stack trend.

Marc D. Miller

Sure, Adrienne. It's Marc. As it relates to comps, clearly the Q1 guidance assumes negative comps. In fact, the comp assumption that's built into the guidance is down double digits. And you are correct in pointing out that last year, Q1 were the best comps of the year. I'm not going to forecast comps going forward other than to say as you see the impact of the merchandising initiatives that Emilia described, we do see the opportunity for AUR expansion. And in that sense, that component of comps, we should see some improvement in.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Lindsay Drucker Mann with Goldman Sachs.

Lindsay Drucker Mann - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Just 2 quick questions. First of all, can you talk about the investment in your remodels and the kind of return that you would expect to see? And is all these remodels similar to the prototype of your new store in the New York area? And then also, can you help us understand what your AUCs were in the quarter and what your expectation is for the next couple of quarters?

Marc D. Miller

Sure, Lindsay. It's Marc. I'll take that. In terms of the remodels, as you know, we did our first remodel at the Roosevelt Field store on Long Island, and the 30 remodels that we spoke to for this upcoming year are in a very similar format. We are value-engineering some of the aspects of the store remodel. But for all intents, the look and feel of the store will be very similar to that first one. The cost of those remodels are slightly north of what our last store model, our lifestyle store model was like. But we have internal investment hurdle rates that are in the high teens, and we will monitor the progress of these stores against those hurdle rates as we make decisions to roll them out on a broader scale going forward. Second question was on average unit costs. We do have the benefit of lower average unit costs for Q1 versus LY. For 2Q and beyond, on like-for-like items, we see costs being flat to slightly down over Q2 and Q3, which is what we’ve said so far. However, due to a mix shift, we do expect to see slight increases in average unit costs as we invest in some of the fashion categories that Emilia spoke to.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Our next question comes from the line of Janet Kloppenburg with JJK Research.

Janet Kloppenburg

I wanted to ask just 2 questions. I'm wondering -- I'm assuming that fashion becomes a bigger part of the mix and core basics become a smaller part. The concern I have there is how does Aéropostale distinguish itself as a fashion brand because it's been so long associated with the ARROW logo. And if that becomes a smaller part of the business, how do you create that unique identity to -- of Aéropostale? And just for Marc, I'm a little confused on the inventory. Your inventory at year end, I think, you said was down high single digits per foot, which is better than I expected, and yet it sounds like you have some carryover product into the first quarter. So I would have thought that would have been washed out. So thanks for clarifying that for me.

Emilia Fabricant

All right. Well, as far as our logo and fashion mix, the first thing I want to say about the logo in the core business is we do believe that it will continue to be a big part of our business as far as -- important. The problem is, is we need to innovate it and we need to update it so it's relevant to the teenager. So that is an evolution that we're seeing. As well as rightsizing logo, we see localization as an opportunity and pulsing it in the right stores and capitalizing on the stores that actually do sell it very well, as well as the fashion part. So it's really a 2-pronged approach.

Thomas P. Johnson

And Janet, just to piggyback on that, this is Tom. The -- really, it's about -- all of our market research showed that the customer comes to us for basics and incredible quality and value. And what they continuously ask for us is that fashion. So we know that pulsing that fashion is, as we did last year, it did resonate and it did connect with that customer. And Emilia's dead on, we have to just do it in a more cohesive, curated fashion. And we know we can do that. The second piece to it is really about the projection of the brand. And oftentimes, during the many years that we've put the large signs up, it's all been about the promotion and the price. And at this point, we really have to balance the -- really the emotional part of that promotion. And that's how we're going to get that girl back in the store. So besides the product, we've got to project a better balance of promotion and emotion.

Marc D. Miller

And finally, Janet, on the question about year-ending inventories, dollars per square foot were down 9% at the end of Q4. But we did have costing benefit year-over-year on that. So that meant units were flattish to slightly down within that number. And clearly, based on the comp trend that we're speaking to for Q1, that rate of unit growth was north of where our traffic trends are, which caused the need for increased promotions into Q1.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Lorraine Hutchinson with Bank of America.

Lorraine Maikis Hutchinson - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

It seems as though you're really accelerating the P.S. rollout, and I was just hoping for an update on that business. Did it break even last year? And do you expect it to be profitable this year? And how are the returns on that capital looking?

Thomas P. Johnson

This is Tom. I can give you some color on the brand. We're really very proud of the way the trend -- the brand represents really the great, new kids' brand out there. Customer has connected with the brand in a deep way. We've added quite a bit of fashion. The fashion quotient continues to build. And the couple of specific things that we've done in the business, besides adding fashion, we've created a just-better zone, which is kind of our answer to everyday low price, which continues to grow. The Boys business has been very strong for us overall. We've added 4 to 6 and the Loyalty Program. All of those things have really helped us gain traction with this young brand. So we're very encouraged at how the brand is behaving. The productivity of the stores is very strong, as we commented on in the up front remarks, and as far as return rates are concerned.

Marc D. Miller

Yes, Lorraine on breakeven, in 2012, we did not break even. As we said, we needed 100 stores to operate on a full year before we would approach breakeven for the chain. And we said last year that just directionally, it was worth a couple of cents drag on earnings each quarter. This year, as we look forward to the rollout of 60 new stores, we do believe we can achieve breakevens for the division for the year. And clearly, the new stores that we're opening, we believe will exceed our internal hurdle rates for returns on invested capital.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Marni Shapiro with The Retail Tracker.

Marni Shapiro - The Retail Tracker

Congrats on your new store prototype. I think it is beautiful.

Marc D. Miller

Great, thanks.

Marni Shapiro - The Retail Tracker

So Emilia, if I can -- since we have you on the call, can I ask you a couple of quick questions? On -- could you -- you've been here now a little while. Can you talk a little bit about the sourcing partners that you found as you came into Aeropostale and how you feel about the partners today? And are there opportunities to add partners as you shift from what were your core basics into fashion and -- or even work with the partners that you have in a different manner, maybe shift them into fashion alongside you guys?

Emilia Fabricant

Well, I have to tell you that one of our key strategies is speed to market -- and we've been working very closely with our vendors to achieve that. Not only that, but the authenticity of our fashion. And I am very excited with what the vendors have been able to achieve. So we are working with both our current vendors and we brought on new expertise as well in -- as we expand in additional categories. And they are a key part of our speed-to-market strategy, and our momentum is definitely growing.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Kimberly Greenberger with Morgan Stanley.

Jay Sole - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

This is Jay Sole on for Kimberly. I got a question. When I see our -- you guys talked about how your 2013 strategy was to control inventory and drive comp through higher AUR. And Marc, I think you heard -- you mentioned it on an earlier answer to a question. Now have you been able to see the strategy take hold? And what have you experienced thus far in Q1 that maybe has changed your plan or recommitted you to the plan?

Marc D. Miller

Sure, Jay. The answer to that is we were playing defense as we went into Q1 just because the rate of sales in Q4, where the buys are so large and the comp decline was negative 8 in total, we just weren't able to liquidate fast enough to get out of all the inventory that we wanted to, to end cleanly at the end of the quarter, which created an overhang into Q1. As we think about forward buys, though, we bought down Q1 and Q2 down mid-single digits, which is part of that inventory discipline that we spoke to at ICR. As we look at the back half of the year, we see the potential to bring down buys potentially even more than that mid-single-digit rate. But importantly, as we place those inventory buys more conservatively, what Emilia spoke to up front is the open-to-buy and keeping open-to-buy in that low double-digit percent range. So we have more flexibility built in the supply chain than ever before to test, read and react to fashion. And so as we place those conservative buys, there's still room in there to chase trends. And as one of the benefits of some of the inventory discipline from the lower Q1 buys, so far in our Girls segment, on full-price merchandise, we have seen that AUR expansion in -- within the first quarter. So as we look into Q1 and beyond, our plan is very much the same: maintain tight inventory discipline; keep the buys down on a unit level; chase, read and react. And we believe that will be a strategy that will raise AUR for the year.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Jennifer Davis with Lazard Capital Markets.

Jennifer M. Davis - Lazard Capital Markets LLC, Research Division

My -- or actually, I have a clarification first, and I'm sorry if I missed it. Did you state the online sales increase without GoJane?

Marc D. Miller

No, we just provided a consolidated e-com growth number, which was plus 16 for the quarter and plus-19% of the year. Just to be clear that GoJane was from about mid-November on where we saw that in our sales.

Jennifer M. Davis - Lazard Capital Markets LLC, Research Division

Right, okay. And then my question is for Emilia since you're on. The items like the lace-back tee, I think you have in -- I don't know how many colors you had in the store, maybe 6 or so. Should we think about that kind of as a strategy as that is what I would call, I guess, a fashion basic, which I think is a good strategy and a right strategy for ARROW. It's kind of a replacement from the logo type of business, and it's still, I think, appropriate for the customer. But I assume, since you kind of buy it relatively deep and buy it across a number of colors, you still get a good price on it. So I was just wondering if the margins on that kind of item are similar to the logos because you do get good -- you at least did get very good buys on the logos because of the volume. So anyway, I'm just kind of trying to get an understanding of that. And then kind of a follow-up on that is about a couple of weeks ago, we saw you've replaced that whole kind of runway graphic tee presentation with these kind of lace-back tees and other items similar to that. But then more recently, we saw some more graphic tees come back in, and I was just kind of curious about that because I kind of liked the direction you were headed in. So just curious.

Emilia Fabricant

Well, let's -- first of all, fashion basics is definitely a key point to our strategy. And I'm not going to get specific to the gross margins, but what we are doing, what the team has done an excellent job of doing, is testing and reacting so we can capitalize on these fashion basics. As far as the graphic tees, I'm not sure what you're referring to. They are down. We are continuing with the fashion basics and fashion strategy, and you'll see more of that come in. So what you're seeing today in the t-shirt fashion basics and more so in the fashion will continue to grow through the quarters.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Our next question comes from the line of Randy Konik with Jefferies & Company.

Randal J. Konik - Jefferies & Company, Inc., Research Division

Can we just talk about the real estate here? I think you just talked about identifying 100 stores. Why not get more aggressive here and really look to pare back the real estate profile here? What -- is there any more in-depth metrics you can share with us on what's losing money, what's not losing money geographically, ABC malls? Just very curious here in terms of the real estate strategy and how we can maybe get the business to improve the returns on capital, et cetera. So can we just get a little more color there?

Marc D. Miller

Randy, I'll start with just a little more color about the store closings and then Tom may speak to some of the regional and the ABC-type breakouts. As we identified, we see the opportunity of up to 100 stores, which is up to 10% of our store base. That's a significant number. And it represents the overwhelming majority of stores that lose money. The ones that are not included that are loss stores today are ones that we have very specific reasons to believe that there's room for comp and margin growth in those locations. We do a thorough analysis, and this is the result of many months of looking critically at our real estate. And what we've seen is that while we have those loss stores and absolutely believe it's the right thing to do, to look at closing those 100-or-so stores, there are economics around when to optimize the timing of those store closings. So we will -- just like last year, we closed 20 stores. We spoke to closing 15 to 20 this year. And as we look to the out years, you can expect to see us at similar levels.

Thomas P. Johnson

And as far as the composition of the stores that we look at to close, as you can well imagine, it's mostly around stores that do low volumes. And generally speaking, the doors that do lower volume are in C locations in addition to some of the selected lifestyle centers that do not have the teen traffic that we need to do the business off of. So typically, the A doors are the ones that perform best and they're the ones that we continue to maintain mostly open.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Lee Giordano with Imperial Capital.

Lee J. Giordano - Imperial Capital, LLC, Research Division

Can you talk some more about the marketing plan and what you're going to be doing to increase traffic and elevate the brand messaging this year?

Thomas P. Johnson

We -- one of the comments I made earlier is that we know we've been very successful at pulsing price and promotion at the front door, and that's very effective for mom more so than the teen. And we know that through the market research that, that teen wants authentic, compelling marketing that just connects with them. So we're looking at a 360-degree look at our marketing attack. It's not only at the store level, at the front door and the in-store experience, it's online and it's in our social media. So we know that we have to be more complete in the way that we communicate to this teen. And we have to amplify our fashion message and really take a hard look at the product items, categories that we know we need to take a stand for. And we're really excited about what you'll see for summer. We feel that the photo shoot really evokes quite a bit more emotion for us, and we're looking forward to showing you some great stuff for fall and holidays as well.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Dorothy Lakner with Topeka Capital Market.

Dorothy S. Lakner - Caris & Company, Inc., Research Division

Just to follow up with Emilia on, one, just a little bit more color on the timing of the change we should see in the fashion composition. I know you said there'll be a small amount for summer, but is it going to be full blown for back-to-school? Or should we really be looking at holiday for the kind of complete impact of what you want to show? And then just in regards to that, what we should be seeing as we look through the stores in terms of the fewer floor sets, which I think you said were just basics, if I'm not mistaken. So what's the timing there? I mean, should we see that right away?

Emilia Fabricant

Okay. So first on the fashion. I would say every month from April on, you will see an incremental change. And the majority of the change will start happening in the back-to-school time frame. But we are continuing to evolve in chasing the business. As we learn more about the customer and their reaction to our fashion, we -- and the fashion trends, we continue to evolve. As far as the fewer floor sets, you will start seeing that change in fall. And it's really more about setting core basics. We'll reduce that amount. And actually, we're increasing the fashion basic and fashion flow. So it's a balance between the 2.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Eric Beder with Brean Capital.

Eric M. Beder - Brean Capital LLC, Research Division

Could you talk about the -- you've used Chloe Moretz as one of your celebrities. You've done this historically before. How do these celebrity endorsements flow into your longer-term marketing plan? I know, historically, you've only taken a celebrity for a year or 2. How do you think of that in -- fits in terms of the marketing business?

Thomas P. Johnson

Sure, Eric. It's Tom. We felt good about the initial buzz that we got off of Chloe. It definitely got quite a bit of attention. We think that it resonated with a subset of the customers. We think overall we really wanted to shift the campaign back to be a little bit more authentic and emotional, and that's where we're headed back to. But I think Chloe was very good for us, and it was right for the time.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Stephanie Wissink with Piper Jaffray.

Stephanie S. Wissink - Piper Jaffray Companies, Research Division

Just one quick one for us on the international market. If you could give us some sense of the scale and the contribution. I know you quantified the EPS potential but just thinking about the overall scale of that business if you were to gross it up to retail. And then any markets that you're looking at here in 2013 opportunistically?

Marc D. Miller

Sure, Stephanie. It's Marc. I'll take that. We finished last year with 30 licensed stores in 7 countries. And as we look to 2013, we see the opportunity to extend into 12 countries this year and end with a store count that's almost triple where we ended last year. So pretty close to 90 stores. Tom alluded to some of the deals we have signed, we'll be opening this year in the Philippines, in Panama, Colombia and in Mexico. And we will have hopefully at least one more market beyond that. Overall, Tom did quantify the EPS impact at approximately $0.07 for this year with the opportunity to triple it over the next 3 years. And we just see, as we add new licensees, continuing to add territories at the rate of 3 to 4 per year. This is a business that will grow exponentially over time.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Jeff Black with Avondale Partners.

Jeff Black - Avondale Partners, LLC, Research Division

Sorry, I guess I'm just confused on the trajectory like everyone else. I mean, it seems like -- I hear you on the macro, and I hear you on the tough environment. But what we saw in February that came in the stores on clearance and now that clearance was 30 off. And you're telling us that April -- is that -- what kind of degree of newness are we having over and above what we've got here? And I guess it just gets to what gives us confidence that this works and turns the switch into 2Q.

Marc D. Miller

So Jeff, let me tackle that one. In terms of the cadence of the business in Q1, February was clearly a month where we were working through Q4 overhang. And as we worked through that overhang, the prices that we needed to get out of that merchandise year-over-year were significantly lower on clearance than they were in prior year. So we had a bigger drag on both AUR as well as merchandise margins to clear out of that Q4 overhang. As we're looking into the back half of March and into April, we definitely see ourselves in a cleaner inventory position. And that's where we're starting to see some of the traction on AUR as we're selling more full price. I believe I mentioned earlier that a Girl's full-price selling AUR is higher this year versus LY. So as we start to see the impact, as Emilia spoke to, over the next few quarters, where we're bringing in the fashions, transitioning that assortment and, in addition, making some of the other merchandising initiatives that she spoke to, such as the -- increasing the bottoms penetration, extending into new product classifications as well as the fashion, we see the opportunity for both AUR and merchandise margin improvement. And the last point on that is one additional benefit we'll have, especially as we approach the back half of the year, is through assortment planning. Emilia mentioned in her up front remarks that we are going to have the ability to deliver more localized assortments than we ever have before. So whether that means getting fashion product to the stores that can handle that fashion product while preserving those stores that tend to sell more core in logo, that's an incremental capability year-over-year. So when you combine all those factors together, we do see the opportunity for both AUR and margin expansion as we progress through the year.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Richard Jaffe with Stifel, Nicolaus.

Richard Ellis Jaffe - Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc., Research Division

And just to follow up on the balance between core basics and then fashion, I'm wondering where average unit retail will go for each of the 2 categories or how the balance will shake out. Presumably, the fashion is going to have a higher average unit retail. Can you help us understand that?

Marc D. Miller

From a composition, while we won't be specific about particular segments, we think we have opportunities to raise AUR on both core as well as fashion. The drivers are obviously as fashion becomes a bigger penetration to the mix, those fashion items do carry a higher AUR. The second piece, which Emilia spoke to as well, is that on core, as we create freshness in that core and some level of differentiation from the staples that we previously offered, we do think there is opportunity to get out of the commoditized part of core and grow AUR in that segment as well.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of John Kernan with Cowen and Company.

John D. Kernan - Cowen and Company, LLC, Research Division

Just a little bit more detail on P.S. Is there a meaningful difference between the merchandise margin you're earning at P.S. and the merchandise margin you're currently earning in the core ARROW business?

Thomas P. Johnson

No, John. The margin structure is similar with P.S. to ARROW. It's slightly lower at this point because of the scale of how we buy for P.S. But as P.S. gains scale, we look to those margins to come up over time.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Dana Telsey with Telsey Advisory Group.

Janine M. Stichter - Telsey Advisory Group LLC

It's Janine Stichter in for Dana. I was just wondering if you could talk a little bit more about e-commerce, what strategies you're using to drive that business. And then any early learnings you've had from the GoJane acquisition?

Emilia Fabricant

As far as e-commerce, you may have noticed over the last year there's been several new initiatives. We have brought in fashion shoes, we have extended sizes. We will continue to bring in these product extensions and Web exclusives that will help us expand the business.

Thomas P. Johnson

And as far as GoJane is concerned, we're very excited to continue the momentum that the brand already has being a very successful e-retailer and certainly leverage the expertise in the new category for us, which is footwear. So more to come, and we know that the shoe business could be very strong.

Marc D. Miller

And the last piece on e-commerce beyond all the product opportunities that Emilia just spoke to, from a platform perspective we're investing heavily in mobile. It's becoming an increasingly important part of our traffic pattern. In fact, Q4, it accounted for over 1/3 of our traffic for mobile. So we're investing a lot in infrastructure to make sure we're optimized across mobile platforms.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Linda Tsai with ITG.

Linda Yu Tsai - ITG Market Research

Yes, how do you feel about the P.S. business in terms of the balance between core and fashion? Are you planning to increase the amount of fashion you carry there as well?

Thomas P. Johnson

Yes, Linda, this is Tom. We feel very good about the teams have done so far and the balance between the fashion and core. The interesting thing there is that, that young customer has a voracious appetite for fashion. So we will continue to flex the fashion muscle over there. And more to come, but we're pretty excited about the balance right now.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Howard Tubin with RBC Capital Markets.

Howard Tubin - RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division

Any regional differences currently in performance you could share with us right now in the first quarter?

Emilia Fabricant

Well, we continue to see the south and the west have incrementally better set of results.

Operator

We have time for one last question today, and it comes from the line of Edward Yruma with KeyBanc Capital Markets.

Edward J. Yruma - KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division

Just a quick question on -- sorry, if you already mentioned this -- on the store impairment charges. Does this indicate then that these stores are kind of negative on a 4-wall cash basis and that there is no likelihood that they will turn? And is that included within that 100-store kind of -- 100-store analysis that you've done?

Marc D. Miller

Edward, the store impairment includes both full impairments, in which case, as you point out, the negative operating cash flows that are projected would never cover the value of the assets that are on the books, as well as partial impairments, in which case we do see cash flows turning positive over time, but the reality is they may not cover the full value of the assets that are on the books. Clearly, as we speak to an opportunity to close up to 100, that is a subset of the stores that we have included in this impairment charge.

Operator

I would now like to turn the floor back over to management for their closing comments.

Thomas P. Johnson

And thank you all very much for your continued support. We look forward to speaking to you in a couple of months. And we definitely will send Michael your well wishes. Take care.

Operator

This concludes today's teleconference. You may disconnect your lines at this time. Thank you for your participation.

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