Chico's (NYSE: CHS ) may have reported some dismal same-store sales for December yesterday, but the retailer's shares rose significantly anyway. Maybe some investors were heartened by word that the retailer was getting a brand new CEO.
Same-store sales dropped 12.4% in December, although such dramatic drops in monthly comps are, unfortunately, nothing new at Chico's. Of course, I suppose that might look like a minor bump, considering many retailers reported abysmal December figures -- look at Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE: ANF ) , with its 24% plunge in comps -- but then again, Chico's has been lagging on the same-store sales front for several years now.
Meanwhile, Chico's named David Dyer to replace CEO Scott Edmonds, who has retired. Dyer has been a board member at Chico's and does have retail experience. He previously served as CEO at Tommy Hilfiger and Land's End (which was purchased years ago by Sears (Nasdaq: SHLD ) ).
Edmonds was a veteran at Chico's, although the last several years certainly didn't allow him to leave on a high note, so shareholders probably aren't shedding many tears over his departure. Chico's five-year chart tells quite a tale; remember in February 2006, when the stock topped out at about $48 per share? It's hard to remember those days now that Chico's has needed a turnaround for several years running, and said turnaround still doesn't really seem all that forthcoming, especially with the current economic headwinds battering so many retailers.
I once thought that Chico's looked like a beaten down value stock, but I have since given up on that notion. I am just not keen on the specialty retailers that aim for older female customers in general; these include not only Chico's but retail names like Ann Taylor (NYSE: ANN ) , Talbots (NYSE: TLB ) , and Coldwater Creek (Nasdaq: CWTR ) .
All of these companies may be having their share of problems getting the right merchandise on the racks lately, but I also strongly believe that older female shoppers have quite a knack for shutting their wallets with a resounding snap when times are bad. While Chico's may be the best candidate for a turnaround in its niche, I'd prefer to look for value retail stocks elsewhere. A new CEO may be able to turn the ship around, but investors should remember the serious challenges this retailer faces; a fresh face at the helm is not likely to be enough.