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Nordstrom, Inc. (NYSE:JWN)
Q1 2018 Earnings Conference Call
May 17, 2017, 4:45 p.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Greetings, and welcome to the Nordstrom First Quarter Earnings Conference Call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. We will begin with prepared remarks, followed by a question and answer session. If you would like to ask a question, please press *1 on your telephone keypad. If anyone should require operator assistance during the conference, please press *0 on your telephone keypad. As a reminder, this conference is being recorded. At this time, I'll turn the call over to Trina Schurman, Director of Investor Relations for Nordstrom. You may begin.

Trina Schurman -- Director of Investor Relations

Good afternoon, and thank you for joining us. Today's earnings call will last 45 minutes and will include 30 minutes for your questions. Before we begin, I want to mention that we'll be referring to slides, which can be viewed by going to Nordstrom.com in the Investor Relations section. Our discussion may include forward-looking statements, so please refer to the slides showing our Safe Harbor language.

During today's call the company does not plan to comment further on the going private expiration process by the Nordstrom family. Participating in today's call are Blake Nordstrom, Co-President; and Anne Bramman, Chief Financial Officer, who will discuss the company's first quarter performance and the guidance for 2018. Joining during the Q&A session will be Erik and Pete Nordstrom, Co-Presidents; and Jamie Nordstrom, President of Stores.

With that, I'll turn the call over to Blake.

Blake Nordstrom -- Co-President

Good afternoon, and thank you for joining us. Our first quarter results reflected our ongoing efforts to integrate our digital and physical assets to serve customers in new and relevant ways. Our overall sales performance was in line with our expectations. We delivered total sales growth of 5.8%. This included an increase of around 250 basis points, primarily from a loyalty event shift. Comp sales, which are reported on a like for like basis, increased 0.6%. The investments we're making in digital continue to pay off. During the quarter, we generated an 18% increase in sales, enabled to our digital capabilities compared to the previous year. Our full price comp sales increase of 0.7% was generally consistent with our trends. Our off-price comp sales increased 0.4%. While we're not satisfied with recent trends in our stores, we're focused on making improvements to our Rack business.

On April 12th, we achieved a significant milestone in our company's history with the opening of our first ever full-line Men's Store in New York City, located near Columbus Circle. This three-level, 47,000-square-foot store features our latest service experiences to help serve customers on their terms, including express Returns kiosk, same-day delivery, 24x7 buy online and pick up in store, and unique brand partnerships. Our Men's Store opened ahead of our New York City flagship, which is scheduled for fall of 2019, and we're off to a good start. Manhattan is a premiere retail destination and represents our largest online markets serving customers. Based on our experience of introducing full-line stores in new markets, we also expect this flagship to deliver a meaningful sales lift in New York City.

This quarter marked another important achievement with the introduction of Nordstrom Rack in Canada. Like our experience in the U.S., we expect synergies between our full price and off-price businesses. We're seeing terrific results from our three store openings this spring in the Toronto and Calgary markets with three more openings planned for this fall. We continue to grow our strategic brand partnerships with a focus on establishing Nordstrom as a partner of choice for brands and providing customers with newness. We want to create a sense of discovery through these collaborations while supporting our regular price selling. Our strategic brands include new and emerging partners, along with established ones.

During a time of transformation in the industry, we've been investing in digital capabilities to expand our customer reach and engagement. This uniquely positions us to increase market share and drive growth. Our customer-focused approach informs how we allocate capital, with the goal of driving customer engagement, market share gains, and improved profitability.

In our top markets, we're further integrating our digital and physical assets across supply chain, technology, marketing, and merchandising to deliver differentiated services and experiences. To lead our efforts, we've recently named Ken Worzel as our Chief Digital Officer. As one of our leaders, Ken is instrumental in driving our digital strategy as we continue to evolve our business. He will also continue in his role as President of Nordstrom.com.

This year, we're launching efforts to link our capabilities in our largest market, Los Angeles, and recently kicked off our efforts with a group of highly engaged customers to co-create unique customer shopping journeys. We intend to apply our learnings from LA to quickly scale to other markets. We continue to see positive trends in customer metrics, which are an important way we measure our progress in gaining new customers and increasing engagement with existing ones. The growth of active customers and customers shopping across multiple channels continues to outpace sales growth, which helps contribute to market share gains.

As we aspire to be the best fashion retailers, our customer strategy is centered on three strategic pillars: providing a compelling product offering, delivering exceptional services and experiences, and leveraging the strength of our brand.

Now I'd like to turn the call over to Anne to provide additional insights into our financial performance and outlook for the year.

Anne Bramman -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Blake, and good afternoon, everyone. We had a solid start to the year, reporting Q1 ETS of $0.51. From a top line perspective, overall sales were consistent with our expectations and reflected strong digital growth. Additionally, credit revenues came in better than expected, the result of our recent efforts to drive new account growth. In full price, our core U.S. business has stabilized trends. Also, Trunk Club shows significant improvement. In off-price, sales were slightly below our plan, reflecting outsize digital growth offset by Nordstrom Rack stores performance. As Blake mentioned, we expect improvements throughout the year.

Turning to gross profit, our rate was down approximately 20 basis points relative to last year. This was due to higher occupancy related to U.S. and Canada Rack openings, in addition to planned pre-opening expenses associated with the New York Men's Store. Merchandise margins were in line with expectations and the prior year, reflecting continuous strength in regular price selling trends. We exited the quarter in good inventory position, with sales growth exceeding a 2% decline in inventory.

Our SG&A rate was roughly 30 basis points higher than last year, primarily due to pre-opening expenses for the New York Men's Store. Our SG&A rate performance reflected an improvement relative to recent historical trends as we continue to benefit from productivity gains in marketing, technology, and supply chains.

Next, I'd like to provide further insights on our path forward. As we shared in last quarter's call, we expect 2018 to be an inflection point for improved profitability based on the following drivers. We've made generational investments in Canada and Manhattan, and through our acquisitions of HauteLook and Trunk Club. We anticipate operating improvements as these businesses scale. We're also benefiting from productivity gains as a result of foundational investments in our capabilities. We expect ongoing opportunities for improved expense leverage, particularly in marketing and technology.

In supply chain, we continue to invest in creating end-to-end value in improving the customer experience. Our strategic brand partnerships represent another lever that enables us to provide a compelling product offering and strengthen our regular price selling.

Now I'd like to take a moment to remind you of our capital allocation principles. First and foremost, our priority is to reinvest in the business to create long-term shareholder value. Over the next five years, our capex plan of $3.2 billion, or 4% of sales, supports investments in digital capabilities and new market opportunities in Manhattan and Canada. In addition, we seek to return capital directly to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases. We recently announced a quarterly dividend of $0.37 per share and resumed share repurchase activity. And finally, we remain committed to maintaining a strong investment-grade rating.

Turning now to our full year outlook, we've narrowed the EPS range to $3.35 to $3.55, raising the low end to incorporate our first quarter performance. Our first year sales outlook remains unchanged, reflecting a comp sales increase of 0.5 to 1.5%. Our updated EBIT outlook assumes current credit revenue trends at a mid-teens growth rate.

As a reminder, our outlook includes the following sales timing considerations. While comp sales will be reported on a like for like basis, total sales will be impacted by an event shift from the anniversary sale. Additional, revenue recognition is not expected to materially impact full year sales, but there will be associated impacts related to the anniversary event shift. These two combined factors are estimated to create a timing impact to total sales growth by approximately 150 basis points in Q2 and Q3. Please refer to our appendix for further color.

Finally, before we turn to Q&A, we'd like to announce our plans to host an investor event on July 10th. This will give us an opportunity to provide further insight into our customer strategy, how we're positioned for the future, and drivers of long-term value creation. We plan to webcast the event and will follow up with more details.

Now I'll turn it over to Trina for Q&A.

Trina Schurman -- Director of Investor Relations

Thank you, Anne. Before we get started with Q&A, we'd like to ask that you limit to one question. If you have additional questions, please return to the queue. We will now move to the Q&A session.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Thank you. If you would like to ask a question, please press *1 on your telephone keypad. A confirmation tone will indicate your line is in the question queue. You may press *2 if you would like to remove your question from the queue. For participants using speaker equipment, it may be necessary to pick up your handset before pressing the * keys.

Thank you. Our first question is from Oliver Chen from Cowen & Company. Please proceed with your question

Oliver Chen -- Cowen & Company -- Analyst

Hi, thank you. And great job on the Men's Store. Really innovative with the structure and service and curated assortment. Our question is about digitally enabled sales. What's ahead in terms of improving profitability and margin rates in that over time? And related to that is your comments around supply chain. Just, what would you say are the bigger opportunities, just making sure that it's as seamless as possible in terms of the next chapter of the supply chain? You've been really advanced, in a lot of the features that you offer, such as geo-location and inventory accuracy. I would love your thoughts. Thank you.

Erik Nordstrom -- Co-President

Sure. This is Erik. First, on the digitally enabled sales, first of all, our profitability on those sales is really terrific. It's some of our highest profitable customer engagements that we have. So, our goal is to -- well, not only are they profitable; more importantly, they're some of our highest satisfaction services we provide. So, our focus is to have more customers participate in it. We have a challenge on awareness. We offer a lot of services in our stores, and it's not always as conspicuous to customers what those capabilities are. It's one of the things we learned at the local store we opened in Los Angeles. By having a store that's all about services, it's been easier to communicate to customers what we can do, and engagement with all those services has been terrific. So, we're seeing nice growth in what we call our digitally enabled sales, and we'll continue to do that.

Supply chain, in general, we're looking to leverage the inventory we have to serve customers better. We think it's an advantage that we have a lot of inventory very, very close to our customers, which is in our stores. Our stores are often in the big markets, and that happens to be where the vast majority of our online customers are too. So, a big step in that will be opening a fulfillment center in Southern California. We're just getting under way with plans on that. But we'll be able to, through that and some other initiatives we're working on, be able to offer our customers much bigger selection at much faster shipping rates. And it also leads to a pretty significant step in inventory efficiency for us, too.

Oliver Chen -- Cowen & Company -- Analyst

Thank you. Best regards.

Erik Nordstrom -- Co-President

Thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Mark Altschwager from Robert W. Baird. Please proceed with your question.

Mark Altschwager -- Robert W. Baird -- Analyst

Good afternoon. Thanks for taking the question. Could you provide a bit more color just on the comp results in the off-price business? What do you believe drove the softness in the quarter, and did weather play a role at all? And what do you see as the key drivers to the improvement over the remainder of the year that you had talked about, and especially on the store side? Thank you.

Blake Nordstrom -- Co-President

Hello, Mark. This is Blake. And I mentioned in the off-price comments that we had a 0.4% increase that was just slightly below our plans for off-price. But within that, we had really strong digital online sales here with nordstromrack.com and HauteLook. But our stores did see some softness in the first quarter. And you mentioned whether we did see some seasonally related items and classifications impacted, predominantly women's apparel. Women's is our largest merchandise division in the Rack. There's a number of initiatives that we're working on. I think the thing that we're most encouraged about is that the customer counts are flat, so we still have a lot of great foot traffic, and we have a real opportunity, if we get the mix and the buy right. Our inventories are in line, so we're fluid. We have open to buy, and we don't believe we have undue risk with markdowns. So, we've been able to address that on a daily basis on those things that are underperforming. And so, we have -- we fully expect to see improvement throughout this year, both in our plans and our expectations, and we're working hard on a number of initiatives to address those opportunities in Q1.

Mark Altschwager -- Robert W. Baird -- Analyst

Thank you. Best of luck.

Blake Nordstrom -- Co-President

Thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Paul Trussell from Deutsche Bank. Please proceed with your question.

Paul Trussell -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Good afternoon. I just want to make sure we walk away understanding the spread between comps and sales with the various shifts. So, first, wanted to ask if you could discuss the rewards loyalty event that shifted into 1Q. And while I understand that helped overall sales by 250 basis points, could you just clarify whether or not that is included in comps? And then also, looking into 2Q. You know, next sales, you mentioned it will be helped by the inclusion of the anniversary sale by 150 basis points. But do we net that out against the 250 basis point shift, I guess, lost from the loyalty event? Help on those items would be greatly appreciated.

Anne Bramman -- Chief Financial Officer

Sure, absolutely. And you know, 53rd-week years are always challenging, no matter what company you talk to in the retail space. So, let me try and walk you through that. So, from a comp perspective, we're looking at this one a like day for like day. So, the shifting calendar has no impact to comp sales. The only delta that we laid out is in the appendix slide of the deck that we went through is on the triple point there, and it's net of several things. It's the calendar shift as well as any impact that there was in the quarter for revenue recognition. So, we netted all of that together, and that's part of the spread between comp and total sales growth. When we go to Q2 and Q3 and the rest of that schedule, we've netted all of that together for you, so all you have to do is look at it all together between shifts and calendar, shifts and events, and revenue recognition, and that's just the net impact.

Paul Trussell -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Okay. Thank you.

Anne Bramman -- Chief Financial Officer

Mm-hmm.

Operator

Next is Dana Telsey from Telsey Advisory Group. Please proceed with your question.

Dana Telsey -- Telsey Advisory Group -- Analyst

Hi, good afternoon, everyone.

Blake Nordstrom -- Co-President

Hi.

Dana Telsey -- Telsey Advisory Group -- Analyst

Hi. Can you talk a little bit about what you're seeing in terms of the merchandising side of the business in terms of with the new products that you've put in, new brands that are resonating, and how it's differing in Rack versus full-line? Thank you.

Pete Nordstrom -- Co-President

Yeah, Dana, this is Pete. You know, it's been part of our initiative for a while to be really explicit and purposeful about trying to bring in new brands, and that's gone really well. The thing that's probably most encouraging is that we see growth and strength across our portfolio. And it's not necessarily because it's new, or because it's small, or because it's exclusive, or because it's a large established brand. It's kind of how it all works together. So, in terms of some of the new things we've done that have been successful, I think now we have Allbirds, Sweaty Betty, Cezanne, introduced Anthropologie Home. All that's been really great. But at the same time, we're also having really good designer business and established brands that you know. I mean, Gucci, Valentino, and San Laurent are all in the top handful of growth brands that we have. Chanel is also in there.

So, I mean, I think you see it play out when you look at our Men's Store, for example, the kind of unique breadth of offer that we have. And we know that's a recipe that works. It takes a lot of finesse and working on it, and the whole, you know, brand vendor part of it evolves all the time. But it's something we've spent a lot of time working on and trying to establish collaborative relationships so we're solving for common problems. And I think we're really encouraged by where we are with this and what's possible in the future.

Dana Telsey -- Telsey Advisory Group -- Analyst

And on the full-line stores, is there any categories of strength, categories that you want to see improve more that we should be looking toward?

Pete Nordstrom -- Co-President

Oh. Well, gosh. I'd say the one that we want to improve more is probably shoes. We had a challenged Q1 in shoes. A lot of that was related to some of the seasonal stuff that came up earlier, if you just looked at purely like, sandal sales, as an example. Now, a lot of that's changed now that the weather's kind of swung all across the country, a little bit back on track there. But I'd say, you know, our women's shoe business, if we can get that humming along, that would make a big difference. We've had continued strength in the accessories/handbag/beauty part of our business, which it, you know, just continues to do really well. You know, you heard me mention the designer part. That's the best-growing part of our business, is designer across the handbag, the women's apparel, and the men's apparel, and shoe offerings. And as good as that is, I think it suggests it could be better. So, we think we can do more that way as well. There's a lot to be encouraged about, I think.

And again, we talked about the established brands. You've got brands like Lauder or Nike and people like that that have been around for a long time, and we have good, strong business with them and good collaborative efforts.

Dana Telsey -- Telsey Advisory Group -- Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

Next is Erinn Murphy with Piper Jaffray.

Erinn Murphy -- Piper Jaffray -- Analyst

Great, thanks. Good afternoon. I guess going back to the digital focus, if you kind of think about furthering that, could you just maybe speak to how that's impacting the number of stores you're thinking about on a long-term basis for both Rack and full-price here in North America? And then at 29% being digitally enhanced, where do you see this going over time?

Erik Nordstrom -- Co-President

Hi, Erinn. This is Erik. Well, how we look at it, both in full price and off-price -- and I would say we're a little farther along on full price. We have stronger data -- is looking at it by market, and really look at within markets about how can we gain market share by leveraging both our digital assets and our physical assets. And so, we continue to get better information all the time of the synergy between the physical and the digital. So, with that, you've seen us close, I don't know, two to three stores a year over the last couple of years. I think that's probably the best barometer going forward. We certainly don't anticipate large-scale store closings. All of our stores are profitable, both in Rack and our full-line stores. So, it's more understanding a market and where we get the best engagement with customers, and how that adds up to be a profitable relationship with customers. So, our focus is market share by local market and how we can grow that.

Erinn Murphy -- Piper Jaffray -- Analyst

And then just maybe on active customers, last quarter, you talked about 33 million active customers. I think that's the first time you've given that metric. Any update to where that was at the end of the first quarter?

Anne Bramman -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, so I don't think it's materially changed. And our plan -- we try to give some color commentary in the script as far as how we're thinking about the customer. I think that's more of a metric that you'd want to look to on a rolling 12-month basis.

Erinn Murphy -- Piper Jaffray -- Analyst

Right. Thank you.

Operator

Next is Matthew Boss with JPMorgan.

Matthew Boss -- JPMorgan Chase & Co. -- Analyst

Great, thanks. So, question. At your full price doors, same store sales decelerated from a 2.4 comp in the fourth quarter to a 0.7 comp this quarter. Comparison was similar. I know you said sales hit your plan, and you spoke to signs of stabilization. But I guess, what do you think accounts for the sequential slowing at full-price, despite what a lot of companies are speaking to as a pretty strong consumer backdrop for your core customer? Just maybe, Blake, any thoughts that you have for that sequential slowing.

Anne Bramman -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. So, I think a couple of things, Matt, before we talk about the overall. I just want to get anchored in some of the numbers. So, the first thing is when we talk about full price, that includes stores, our digital channels, as well as Canada and Trunk Club in it. So, that is all in full price business. So, that's not necessarily same store sales. As we mentioned last quarter, it's really gotten very muddy, and it's really -- it's not even how we look at it inside the business as well. So, we're really looking at this less on a channel basis and more on a comp and total sales based on full price/off-price. So, that's number one. So, when you look at the release that we did, it actually shows -- we showed that on a comparable basis, we went in and revised it so you could see the overall trends in that full price business. So, we actually saw, in Q1, against Q1 of last year, actually, it was a positive comp versus last year, was a negative comp. So, we feel like in Q1, our full price businesses continued trends, particularly what we saw in the second half of last year.

Matthew Boss -- JPMorgan Chase & Co. -- Analyst

Right. And so, the 0.7% comp that you did this quarter, what comp did you do in the fourth quarter on an apples-to-apples basis?

Anne Bramman -- Chief Financial Officer

2.4.

Matthew Boss -- JPMorgan Chase & Co. -- Analyst

Right. So, what accounts for that sequential deceleration from the 2.4 to the 0.7? That was really the basis of the question.

Jamie Nordstrom -- President of Stores

This is Jamie. I think one of the things that we saw coming into Q1 was a little bit -- a slight deceleration early in the quarter on some of our online traffic, mostly as a result of some changes we made with marketing. It wasn't so much product or execution. Those trends started to shift toward the end of the quarter. So, while you're right, it does show a deceleration, you know, I think there's some puts and takes in Q4. We feel pretty good about how we came out of Q1. Overall, if you look at our business, our full price business over the last year, really two years, it's been incredibly stable, and in terms of traffic and ticket and average price point, all those metrics. So, there's really nothing to point to that would give you any comp on that.

Matthew Boss -- JPMorgan Chase & Co. -- Analyst

Thanks a lot.

Operator

Next is Chuck Grom with Gordon Haskett Research Advisors.

Chuck Grom -- Gordon Haskett Research Advisors -- Analyst

Hey, thanks. Good afternoon. Anne, back in March, you gave us some color on the margin cadence as 2018 progressed. I think you said, and it's not in the slide deck this afternoon, so I just wanted to ask and see if you can clarify, that you said the first quarter would be below, second quarter would be above, and then the back half would be in line. Operating margins were down about 45 basis points here in 1Q. Just want to see if you still believe in the cadence throughout the rest of the year.

Anne Bramman -- Chief Financial Officer

So, directionally, we do believe that's the right cadence. Color, there's gonna be a little bit here and there. But when we looked at the margins for Q1, it was pretty in line with our expectations. So, we still -- and so, the guidance we gave for the ups and downs as well as the full year, we feel is pretty -- it's pretty correct.

Chuck Grom -- Gordon Haskett Research Advisors -- Analyst

Okay. And then just looking ahead on slide 11, you talk about the planned improvement. It's the second time you've shown that slide. Just curious where you think when you look at over the next couple of years, operating margins could get to. And I guess embedded in that, what would be the comp that you would need to get there, and what would be the leverage hurdle?

Anne Bramman -- Chief Financial Officer

I'm sorry, so you're talking about the generational investment?

Chuck Grom -- Gordon Haskett Research Advisors -- Analyst

Yeah, on slide 11, when you talk about planned improvement over the next four to five years.

Anne Bramman -- Chief Financial Officer

Okay. So, a big -- so, as we've been talking about, we've been making investments along the way. And we've had to keep -- we're opening up stores in Canada with Rack, which we're seeing is really enhancing our penetration and strategy and customer awareness in the Canadian market. And we see that as a big piece of it. And the other big piece that's coming online is the Tower, the New York Tower in fall of next year. So, as that comes online, that's really gonna help the margin improvements. And then we're continuing to see, you know, our digital growth. And we talked about those in the off-price and full price business. And so, we highlighted the fact that Trunk Club's improved, and we've also highlighted the fact that we had outsize digital growth in our online business for the off-price.

Chuck Grom -- Gordon Haskett Research Advisors -- Analyst

Okay. Thank you.

Operator

Next is Simeon Siegel with Nomura / Instinet.

Simeon Siegel -- Nomura / Instinet -- Analyst

Hi, thanks. Good afternoon. To follow up on an earlier question, just recognizing the puts and takes of the new com methodology and I guess that the 53rd week shifts are only impacting derives. So, any help you could give us with expectations for your 2Q comps on what I think is a tougher compare. And then just, Anne, sorry if I missed it, the tax rate, what's the right way to think about that? When does that start to come down? Thanks.

Anne Bramman -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. So, we don't normally give guidance as far as comps on a quarterly basis. And so, we looked at -- we delivered a comp of 0.6 for Q1, and we still have reaffirmed our guidance for the total year. And so, again, we're looking at comps as a true -- or a like day to like day versus -- so, we gave you guys the shift in the calendar for total sales versus comp. The way I would think about the tax rate, it is -- we still are supporting the rate that we gave at the beginning of the year for guidance. But there's just some timing shifts between recognizing profitability within Canada and the U.S., so it's gonna be a little choppier through the year. But for the full year, it should blend to what we gave you.

Simeon Siegel -- Nomura / Instinet -- Analyst

All right, thanks. Best of luck for the year.

Operator

Next is Kimberly Greenberger with Morgan Stanley.

Kimberly Greenberger -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Thank you so much. I wanted to just follow up on Erinn's question about the optimal store count. Knowing that you're looking at your store count on a market by market basis, after you've gone through that analysis and sort of aggregated it up, what numbers are you going up with in terms of an ideal U.S. store fleet, both for Rack and for full price? And then I just wanted to ask, it sounded like the slight miss to plan in the off-price business came from the women's apparel business. Do you attribute that just to weather? Do you think there were any execution issues, and was that the only business that mis-planned? Thanks so much.

Jamie Nordstrom -- President of Stores

Hi, Kimberly. This is Jamie. I'll take the first part and hand it over to Blake. In terms of store count, we're really acknowledging a tops down number. I'd reiterate what Erik mentioned earlier. We're looking at market by market, and we have more mature markets. We happen to be calling from Los Angeles right now, where we've been doing business for 40 years. Some of these stores, we opened in centers that were once better than they are now. We've got some stores that are in centers that are doing better than ever. And so, there's a lot that goes into how we look at it. It's about investing in existing stores. We have a number of stores that we've made big investments in over the last few years and have plans to continue to invest in our best stores. In addition to that, we have a store that might be the fifth or sixth store in a market that we opened when that made a lot more sense, I think, ten, 15, 20, 30 years ago. And you've seen us close some of those stores. So, it's a combination of investing in our best stores, culling those stores that are in malls that are not as relevant anymore. But overall, looking at it market by market and seeing how we can be as effective as possible in serving our customers there.

Blake Nordstrom -- Co-President

So, Kimberly, this is Blake. In terms of the Rack or off-price, we have roughly 240 stores. These are very productive stores, and we're very pleased to have a great robust online business as well. It was just shy of a billion dollars last year. So, we're in earlier days of trying to understand, as Erik talked about earlier, and Jamie, about looking at it from the customer's point of view, and how we can best serve them, both in a physical brick-and-mortar and also digitally. So, we're strategic and opportunistic in terms of new store growth. We don't have a set number. Again, we're about 240. We're opening six in Canada this year. We have six stores in the U.S. and a relocation. We have four slated for 2019. So, it's not a set number. It has to meet our criteria. These are all strong stores. So, we're not looking to close stores. But we do think in general that we have a very strong base with that strong digital base to best serve the customer.

Your second question was regarding women's, and you asked about the weather or the seasonal part of it that I mentioned, and were there any other execution issues? Yes, there was. But I think the most material was some bets that we made in some areas that were more seasonally related that, in Q1 at least, didn't play out as well, and the customer voted. Your other question was were there any other businesses or merchandise areas within the Rack that mis-planned? No, I would say predominantly the other merchandise areas met or slightly exceeded their plans. Again, since women's is such a large part of the business, it had an impact on it. But across the board, we see lots of opportunities. And that's what we're getting after. We have a number of tests that we're working on right now. This is a business that's pretty nimble and agile, and so, we can take those learnings and the feedback we get from our people and the customer, apply it, and literally within 30 days, get some feedback, and make adjustments. And the fact that our inventories are in line is a real strength for us.

Kimberly Greenberger -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Super helpful. Thanks so much.

Operator

Next is Brian Tunic with RBC Capital Markets.

Brian Tunick -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Great. Thanks very much. Question on the outsize growth you're seeing in digital. Is that fulfillment and shipping, etc., is that still having a negative impact on margins or have you reached scale? I just haven't heard you guys talk about that being a detriment right now. And then secondly, of the $3.2 billion in your capex plan you're talking about, what is being assumed for DCs and supply chain versus other investments? Thank you very much.

Erik Nordstrom -- Co-President

Hey, Brian. This is Erik. I'll take the first one.

Brian Tunick -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Hey, Erik.

Erik Nordstrom -- Co-President

Our growth in digital . . . what was the question?

Brian Tunick -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Fulfillment.

Erik Nordstrom -- Co-President

Fulfillment. Yeah. Sorry about that. Yeah, you know, as you've heard us talk about that. We look at our business as full price and off-price because the customer journey is very much digital and physical combined. And the impact of digital goes way beyond what's captured in e-commerce sales. That being said, when we do break it out as best we can, and it's hard to get precise because there is so much overlap. We break it out for full price, our e-commerce profit margins are about exactly the same as our store profit margins. So, we don't experience any movement in our operating margins when there's a shift from physical to digital. Anne --

Anne Bramman -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. So, on the capex, and if it's helpful, there was, I think, applied in the Q4 or the last quarter earnings deck that just to highlight between -- so fulfillment was roughly about 20% of our capex spend. And if you look at technology and fulfillment combined, it was almost half.

Brian Tunick -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

That's very helpful. See you on July 10th. Thank you.

Erik Nordstrom -- Co-President

Thank you.

Anne Bramman -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks.

Operator

Next is Paul Lejuez with Citi.

Paul Lejuez -- Citi -- Analyst

Hey, thanks, guys. I'm just curious if there was a gross margin impact of the shift on the loyalty event this quarter, and what might be the impact in 2Q. And also, just curious higher-level how you might characterize the promotional environment out there today relative to recent quarters. Thanks.

Anne Bramman -- Chief Financial Officer

So, I'll take the gross margin question. We really aren't seeing a shift in the margin component to it. And so, Pete, you want to take the promotional environment?

Pete Nordstrom -- Co-President

Yeah, there's really kind of no news on the promotional environment. It's pretty stable. And in some ways, the things that we've done have mitigated that, given kind of the preferred brands strategic approach that we're taking with a lot of brands. A lot of that's in response to trying to offset some of the promotional activity. But by and large, if you look at it, it's pretty flat. Consistently flat.

Paul Lejuez -- Citi -- Analyst

Okay. And was there any sort of pressure from this highly below plan sales at Rack? Did you have to promote more heavily there to move through? Is there anything you could quantify in 1Q on the gross margin line?

Pete Nordstrom -- Co-President

I don't know if there's anything I would call out. There are classifications, whether we've got a glut inventory, that customers aren't responding. So, you know, this kind of isolated case would be like, dresses. We've got a lot of dresses, and they're backing up. And so, we might take additional markdowns at selected times to move a classification. But it doesn't move the needle for the total gross margin, and it's not apples and oranges to what we've done in previous years. So, we think we're able to address those slow sellers and maintain our margins.

Anne Bramman -- Chief Financial Officer

And I would just say that, as I called out in the comments, that our gross margin was pretty consistent with what we were expecting, and in the year-over-year as well.

Paul Lejuez -- Citi -- Analyst

Okay. Did you expect any pressure in the second quarter as a result of that, the dresses glut, if that's what you call it?

Pete Nordstrom -- Co-President

No, I think what we're pleased about is we're trying to in more real-time address any slow sellers that we have, and we feel very good about how current our inventories are and the risk or exposure to it. And I think that's why Anne and the team felt confident with our full year guidance.

Paul Lejuez -- Citi -- Analyst

Gotcha. Thank you. Good luck, guys.

Anne Bramman -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks.

Pete Nordstrom -- Co-President

Thank you.

Operator

Next is Michael Binetti with Credit Suisse.

Michael Binetti -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Hey, guys. Thanks for taking my questions here. I just want to be crystal clear, and I know you won't help us with the second quarter comp and give us the year, but is your view that to build our comps from here, we start with the momentum in the first quarter, which in your mind is the underlying momentum if we ignore these shifts as the 0.6, and that's not affected by loyalty, and that that doesn't come out of 2Q, so we roll that momentum forward, and then incorporate some sort of acceleration that Jamie spoke to earlier with some of the digital headwinds early in the quarter rolling off by the end of the quarter? Is that the way that we should be rolling forward here as we think about the near-term underlying momentum of the business?

Anne Bramman -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. I think that's pretty fair. I guess I would say, you know, when we gave the comp guidance of 0.5 to 1.5, it was based on what we were seeing as pretty consistent trends. We would expect on the high end of our guidance on the comps, that we're gonna see continued improvement and our off-price businesses will continue to accelerate in growth and digital. So, you have to contemplate that on the high end. On the low end of our comp guidance, what you would assume is a change in off-price, and in particular, the Rack stores, really doesn't change that much for the year. So, that's kind of the bellwether I would use when you look at the rest of the year.

Michael Binetti -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Okay, and then just a couple on the margin really quickly here. I think you gave some commentary last quarter that first quarter EBITDAs would be down, and that came through. Second quarter, EBITDAs would be up. Third and fourth quarter, it would be flat. And then can you help us anchor ourselves on the gross margin impact of the anniversary sale moving in in the second quarter? Can we use the historical analogies of the 2016 shift for how much the gross margin moves because of the sale?

Anne Bramman -- Chief Financial Officer

Wow. That's pretty granular.

Michael Binetti -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

I have a lot going on here.

Anne Bramman -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. There's a lot going on there. So, I think -- again, I would encourage you to take a look at comps and build from there on the account of other shifts and to get the total sales. I think once you do that and you look at our historical patterns aren't things like anniversary sales, I think you can kind of massage out what the margin structure would look like in the EBIT pieces to it.

Erik Nordstrom -- Co-President

I mean, usually if there's a margin issue related to the sale, it's after the sale because we've not sold through well, and then that brings open markdowns kind of down the road. So, it really doesn't happen in the moment so much.

Michael Binetti -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Okay. All right, thanks.

Operator

Next is Lorraine Hutchinson with Bank of America.

Lorraine Hutchinson -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Thank you. Good afternoon. Just wanted to follow up on the comment that Trunk Club made significant improvements in the quarter. Can you just talk a little bit about why and what your expectations are for that business this year?

Erik

Sure. It's Erik. Yeah. If you're talking about last year, we really spent -- or the team spent all of last year doing a pretty deep dive in change to the business model, mainly around the trunk business here. We do have the Clubhouses, but the majority of the business is through the trunks. So, we've pulled back on marking last year to get the business model to the point where we think we can scale it. We think we're to that point right now. Over the last several months in particular, like anything we do, it's about serving customers better. And our customers' response has been significantly more positive. It particularly shows up in the Keeper 8 we have from the trunks we send out and the number of repeat trunks that customers are signing up for. Both of those metrics are significantly improved from what we've had since we bought the business. So, I would describe it as still early days, but we're certainly encouraged that the core of the business, the trunk business, has a model that is something we're excited about. We are confident that that success will continue, and it's something we can get behind and start to leverage more.

Trina Schurman -- Director of Investor Relations

We'll now take one more question.

Operator

Our last question comes from Brian Cowen with Bank of America.

Brian Cowen -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Hi, thank you. Anne, on an ongoing basis, you continue to run at the high end of your 1.5 to 2.5-times long-term leverage range, and I appreciate the comments on IG ratings. I guess I'm wondering, has the targeted range changed? And then can you discuss your willingness to sort of flex the balance sheet for additional investment if you find it, share repurchase, M&A, or sort of where you'd be comfortable operating from a credit rating perspective if you find a unique opportunity? Thank you.

Anne Bramman -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. so, on the flex side, we are at the top end right now. We've had, as you know, some of the pre-opening expenses and some of the investments in Manhattan and Canada that's kind of driven that up to the higher end of the leverage range. We still feel very comfortable with that leverage range. As I mentioned in the comments, we're very committed to being a strong investment grade debt company. And so, you know, as we start bringing some of these generational investments more online and see more growth, we expect to see that leverage to get back into the norm.

As far as the flex on the balance sheet, I think we'll have a lot more opportunity to provide some color on the Analyst Day on that as well. But in general, we do like to -- we have a fairly conservative balance sheet. We do want to be investment grade. And we do take a look at where is the best return on our investment. So, first, investing in the company and driving shareholder value that way, and then looking at the best way to return cash to shareholders, whether it's dividends or share buyback. We do take a look at share buyback as a return metric, and we are a little opportunistic as we see the price maybe get out of bounds where we think the intrinsic value is of the company, and we'll go be opportunistic in that manner. So, and from an M&A perspective, again, we've got a very flexible balance sheet, so again, we're looking at what's the best right investments and the long-term return for the shareholders.

Brian Cowen -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Thank you for all that detail. Appreciate it.

Trina Schurman -- Director of Investor Relations

Again, thank you for joining today's call. A replay, along with a slide presentation and prepared remarks, will be available for one year on our website. Thank you for your interest in Nordstrom.

Operator

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

Duration: 46 minutes

Call participants:

Trina Schurman -- Director of Investor Relations

Blake Nordstrom -- Co-President

Anne Bramman -- Chief Financial Officer

Erik Nordstrom -- Co-President

Pete Nordstrom -- Co-President

Jamie Nordstrom -- President of Stores

Oliver Chen -- Cowen & Company -- Analyst

Mark Altschwager -- Robert W. Baird -- Analyst

Paul Trussell -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Dana Telsey -- Telsey Advisory Group -- Analyst

Erinn Murphy -- Piper Jaffray -- Analyst

Matthew Boss -- JPMorgan Chase & Co. -- Analyst

Chuck Grom -- Gordon Haskett Research Advisors -- Analyst

Simeon Siegel -- Nomura / Instinet -- Analyst

Kimberly Greenberger -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Brian Tunick -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Paul Lejuez -- Citi -- Analyst

Michael Binetti -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Brian Cowen -- Bank of America -- Analyst

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