Logo of jester cap with thought bubble.

Image source: The Motley Fool.

The TJX Companies (NYSE:TJX)
Q3 2020 Earnings Call
Nov 19, 2019, 9:30 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:


Operator

Welcome to the TJX Companies third-quarter fiscal 2020 financial results conference call. [Operator instructions] And as a reminder, this conference call is being recorded, November 19, 2019. I would like to turn the conference call over to Mr. Ernie Herrman, chief executive officer and president of the TJX Companies, Inc.

Please go ahead, sir.

Ernie Herman -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Thanks, Yvonne. Before we begin, Deb has some opening comments.

Deb McConnell

Thank you, Ernie, and good morning. The forward-looking statements we make today about the company's results and plans are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause the actual results and the implementation of the company's plans to vary materially. These risks are discussed in the company's SEC filings, including, without limitation, the Form 10-K filed April 3, 2019. Further, these comments and the Q&A that follows are copyrighted today by the TJX Companies, Inc.

Any recording, retransmission, reproduction or other use of the same for profit or otherwise without prior consent of TJX is prohibited and a violation of United States copyrights and other laws. Additionally, while we have approved the publishing of a transcript of this call by a third party, we take no responsibility for inaccuracies that may appear in that transcript. We have detailed the impact of foreign exchange on our consolidated results and our international divisions in today's press release in the Investors section of our website, tjx.com. Reconciliations of the non-GAAP measures we discuss today to GAAP measures are posted on our website, tjx.com, in the Investors section.

Thank you. And now I'll turn it back over to Ernie.

Ernie Herman -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Good morning. Joining me and Deb on the call is Scott Goldenberg. Let me begin by saying that I am extremely pleased with our strong third-quarter results. Our consolidated comp store sales increase of 4% was well above our expectations and over a very strong 7% increase last year.

Earnings per share of $0.68 were also significantly above our plan. I am particularly pleased with the continued strength of our largest division, Marmaxx, as comp store sales increased 4% on top of a very strong 9% increase last year. Once again, we saw strength in both Marmaxx's apparel and home businesses. In addition, I want to highlight the terrific comp and traffic strength of our European business which drove the 6% comp increase at TJX International.

In the third quarter, customer traffic was the primary driver of our comp store sales increases at each of our four major divisions. Clearly, our great values and eclectic mix of quality branded merchandise continue to attract shoppers around the world. Further, this quarter marks the 21st consecutive quarter of customer traffic increases at TJX and Marmaxx. With our excellent third-quarter results, we are raising our full-year outlook, which Scott will detail in a moment.

Looking ahead, the fourth quarter is off to a solid start. We are seeing fantastic product availability across a wide range of brands, and we are in a great position to keep flowing fresh merchandise to our stores and online throughout the holiday season. Longer term, we are excited about our potential to keep gaining market share and continuing the successful growth of TJX in the U.S. and internationally.

Before I continue, I'll turn the call over to Scott to recap our third-quarter numbers.

Scott Goldenberg -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Ernie, and good morning, everyone. As Ernie mentioned, third-quarter consolidated comparable store sales increased 4%, which was over a 7% increase last year and well above our plan. Customer traffic was up overall and was the primary driver of our comp sales increases at each of our four major divisions. As a reminder, our comp sales increases exclude the growth from our e-commerce businesses.

Third-quarter diluted earnings per share were $0.68, up 8% over the prior year's adjusted $0.63 and well above our expectations. Now I'll recap our third-quarter performance by division. We are very pleased that every division delivered a comp increase at or above their second-quarter comp over strong results last year. Further, each division exceeded the profit plan -- profit margin plan.

We are seeing good momentum at all our divisions heading into the holiday season. Marmaxx comp sales increased 4% over a very strong 9% increase last year and were driven by customer traffic. Once again, both our apparel and home businesses were strong, which points to Marmaxx's ability to keep raising the bar. Segment profit margin increased 10 basis points.

As we begin the fourth quarter, we are excited about the initiatives we have planned to keep driving sales and traffic during the holiday season and beyond. HomeGoods comp increased 1% in the third quarter over a strong 7% increase last year. We are very pleased with the HomeGoods two-year stack comp increase of 8%, which is a significant improvement, compared with a 2% two-year stack comp increase in the first half of the year. Segment profit margin was down 40 basis points, primarily due to expense deleverage on the 1% comp.

Customers love HomeGoods, and we are very confident in its enduring appeal for consumers and the fundamental strength of this division. TJX is Canada's third-quarter comp growth of 2%, with over a 5% increase last year. Adjusted segment profit margin, excluding foreign currency, was down 180 basis points, primarily due to transactional foreign exchange pressure, higher supply chain costs and lower merchandise margin. We are excited about the holiday initiatives we have planned in Canada and longer term are convinced we will continue to gain market share in that country through our three Canadian chains.

At TJX International, comps grew a very strong 6% in the third quarter. Again, this quarter, we saw strength throughout our U.K. regions and across Europe. In Australia, comp performance continued to be strong.

Adjusted segment profit margin excluding foreign currency was down 20 basis points versus last year. We remain very pleased with the sharp execution of this organization and the terrific result despite the uncertainty of Brexit and the challenging European retail environment. I'll finish with our investment in Familia, which we detailed in our press release. We are excited to have an ownership position in a profitable, off-price retailer of apparel and home fashions in Russia.

We like Familia's strong financial profile and management team. This investment allows us to gain exposure in a new region of the world with an established off-price retailer that has significant growth potential. We are also -- we are always looking for ways to increase value for TJX's shareholders and see this as a good use of cash with an attractive return profile. Now let me turn the call back to Ernie, and I will recap our fourth quarter and full-year fiscal '20 guidance at the end of the call.

Ernie Herman -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Thanks, Scott. Now I'd like to highlight some of the opportunities we see to keep driving sales and traffic in the fourth quarter. First, we are set up extremely well to offer consumers exciting, compelling brands for their holiday gift giving. We expect our stores to be as branded as ever across most families of business this holiday season.

We are seeing fantastic product availability in the marketplace, and our buyers are taking advantage of it throughout numerous categories, for a wide range of quality, good, better and best brands. Second, we expect to be flowing fresh merchandise to our stores and online, even later this year and multiple times a week throughout the holidays. Regardless of the number of shopping days this holiday season, I am confident consumers will get their shopping done and visit us for exciting gifts for everyone on their lists. In addition, post-holiday, we will remain focused on being a destination for gifts throughout the year.

Third, we feel great about our holiday marketing campaigns that started airing earlier this month. I hope you've had a chance to see them. Across our divisions, our campaigns are bold in order to distinctly position us as the shopping destination for inspiring gifts at amazing prices. We also are leveraging our campaigns across digital and social media platforms.

Each of our four major divisions will be actively marketing every week throughout the holiday season. Next, we're planning to capitalize on the holiday season to promote our loyalty programs. These programs are important vehicles for us to continue to engage with customers and encourage more frequent visits and cross shopping. Next, we believe our stores provide consumers with a convenient and efficient way to shop this holiday season.

Our off-mall locations make our stores very easy to access. Once in our stores, shoppers are able to scan an extremely wide selection of merchandise across multiple categories in a very timely manner. Again, we will have something for everyone's shopping gift list, in-store and online, where they can shop us 24/7. Lastly, we are well positioned with our gift cards and believe that many consumers will be looking to use them right after the holidays.

We feel great about our initiatives and our plans to transition our stores post-holiday and are confident that our fresh and exciting selection of merchandise will entice shoppers when they visit us. At the e-commerce, we were very happy with the launch of marshalls.com in September. We are excited to offer consumers the convenience of shopping both Marshalls and T.J. Maxx Online whenever they want.

As with tjmaxx.com, we are differentiating marshalls.com's offering from our Marshalls stores to give consumers a compelling reason to shop both channels. In both our U.S. and U.K. online businesses, we like the growth and metrics that we are seeing.

In closing, we feel great about our momentum heading into the fourth quarter, which is off to a solid start. Long term, we are confident that we have a significant opportunity to continue growing our customer base and gaining market share around the world. We believe the growth we have seen in Gen Z and millennial customers across all of our major divisions for the last several years, bodes well for our future. As always, we remain laser-focused on executing our off-price business model.

We believe our unwavering commitment to offering consumers excellent values on great brands and fashions combined with our treasure hunt shopping experience will continue to be a winning formula for TJX. Now I'm going to turn the call over to Scott to go through our guidance, and then we'll open it up for questions. Scott?

Scott Goldenberg -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Ernie. Before I provide our detailed guidance, I want to spend a moment and update you on tariffs. Based on the tariffs in place now, we have started to see some pressure on our margins from the goods we see directly sourced from China. This includes the merchandise that we are committed to and the changes in tariff legislations -- legislation that was announced after our Q2 call.

For Q4, our guidance now includes the negative impact from these tariffs. Now moving on to our Q4 guidance. We expect earnings -- earnings per share to be in the range of $0.74 to $0.76, a 9% to 12% increase over the prior year $0.68. We're modeling fourth quarter consolidated sales in the range of $11.7 billion to $11.8 billion.

For comp store sales, we're assuming growth of approximately 2% to 3% on a consolidated basis and at Marmaxx. Fourth-quarter pre-tax profit margin is planned in the 10.4% to 10.6% range, versus the prior year's 10.6%. We're anticipating fourth-quarter gross profit margin to be in the range of 27.6% to 27.8%, versus 27.8% last year. We're expecting SG&A as a percent of sales to be approximately 17.1%, versus 17.2% last year.

For modeling purposes, we're currently anticipating a tax rate of 25.8%, $5 million of net interest expense and a weighted average share count of approximately $1.22 billion. Moving on to our full-year fiscal '20 guidance. We are raising guidance for fiscal '20 earnings per share to be in the range of $2.61 to $2.63. This would represent a 7% increase over the prior year's adjusted $2.45 million.

This EPS guidance now assumes consolidated sales in the $41.2 billion to $41.3 billion range, a 6% increase over the prior year. This guidance assumes a 1% negative impact due to translational FX. We are expecting a comp increase of approximately 3% on a consolidated basis. We expect pre-tax profit margin to be in the range of 10.4% to 10.5%.

This would be down 30 to 40 basis points, versus the adjusted 10.8% in fiscal '19. We're planning gross profit margin to be in the range of 28.2% to 28.3%, compared with 28.6% last year. We're expecting SG&A as a percentage of sales to be approximately 17.8%, versus 17.8% last year. For modeling purposes, we're currently anticipating a tax rate of 25.7%, net interest expense of about $12 million and a weighted average share count of approximately 1.23 billion.

Now to our full-year guidance by division. At Marmaxx, we now expect comp growth of 3% to 4% on sales of $25.4 billion to $25.5 billion and segment profit margin in the range of 13.4% to 13.5%. At HomeGoods, we are planning comps to increase 1% on sales of approximately $6.3 billion and segment profit margin to be approximately 10.4%. For TJX Canada, we expect a comp increase of 1% to 2% on sales of approximately $4 billion.

Adjusted segment profit margin, excluding foreign currency, is expected to be in the range of 12.3% to 12.4%. At TJX International, we now expect comp growth of 5% to 6% on sales of $5.5 billion. Adjusted segment profit margin, excluding foreign currency, is expected to be approximately 4.9%. It's important to remember that our guidance for the fourth quarter and full year assumes that currency exchange rates will remain unchanged from the levels at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

In closing, we look forward to giving you fiscal '21 guidance on our Q4 earnings call in February. Now we are happy to take your questions. [Operator instructions] Thanks, and we will now open it up for questions.

Questions & Answers:


Operator

Thank you. [Operator instructions] Our first question today is from Alexandra Walvis.

Alexandra Walvis -- Analyst

Good morning. Thanks so much for taking the question. My question is on the investment that you made in Russia. Can you talk a little bit about the decision-making process behind that, why this market, in particular? Where do you see the growth potential? And how are you thinking about the sort of builds versus buy when thinking about new retail formats? Thanks so much.

Ernie Herman -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Sure, Alexandra. The first thing is this, like anything we approach, we felt this was a terrific opportunity to become a strategic investor in a business that is pretty much what our off-price apparel and home fashions business is. So it was a great opportunity for us. It allows us, as you look down the road, a strong financial profile, where we see a slightly accretive addition to our earnings beginning in fiscal 2021.

But when you boil it down, one of the things that really hit us when we were first engaged with looking at Familia is the DNA of that business is very similar to the way they approach the business, very similar to what we do. You have a strong financial profile, where they have profitable margins, low-cost structure. They have significant store growth potential, with more than 275 stores today, including nearly 50 stores opening in 2019. So you start adding all of these aspects.

By the way, we did a tremendous amount of due diligence. So Scott Goldenberg, Doug Mizzi, who's our senior executive vice president, and we had Glenn Brenner. We had a whole team that really engaged, did multiple visits. We had Bank of America involved advising us, PwC.

We really were highly engaged on all facets of it, a strong management team. I'll tell you one thing that to the core, which was important to us is the relationships that we established during the process. We could tell that their merchant teams were compatible with our merchant teams. In fact, they have set themselves over there with 100 buyers already in place and a strong heads of buyers and -- which we love to see because we're very merchant-focused.

The -- everything in that model over there as they continue to gain market share in Russia just screams out that it's very much a nice TJX relationship and investment on our part. Scott, I don't know if you want to add.

Scott Goldenberg -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes. Yes. So just to echo a few things. Ernie talked about some important stuff from merchandising, a lot of the families of businesses are similar, but there's a lot of categories that they still can both expand and new ones to go in.

So we felt a lot of great opportunities ahead, but also from -- as a finance guy there, we love their strong balance sheet, their operating cash flow. They finance all of their working capital and store growth from internally generated funds. So love that characteristic about it and still have room to pay a dividend. So love the financial characteristics.

And just in terms of Russia, Ernie mentioned the number of stores, there's a lot of white space to open up, and they are really the only effectively off-price retailer in Russia, so --

Ernie Herman -- Chief Executive Officer and President

They're -- Alexandra, they're expecting to add a similar number of stores over the next three to five years, which is very exciting. And just so you understand, as we move forward, Scott Goldenberg is actually going to be a board observer, and Doug Mizzi will have a seat on their board. Doug Mizzi, again, who's our senior executive vice president of Overseas, Canada and Australia. So we will have a continued strong relationship in terms of our investment.

Alexandra Walvis -- Analyst

Got it. Thanks so much, guys.

Operator

Next question is from Matthew Boss.

Matt Boss -- Analyst

Great. Thanks and congrats on a nice quarter and a pretty tough tape.

Ernie Herman -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Thank you, Matt.

Matt Boss -- Analyst

I guess, Ernie, I guess, strongest two-year stack in seven years at Marmaxx, again, despite the highly competitive and promotional backdrop that we're hearing from other retailers. Can you speak to some of the wins that you're seeing across both apparel and home that's really driving this consistent momentum? And anything you'd particularly highlight as opportunity as we look into the fourth quarter and holiday?

Ernie Herman -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Yeah. Definitely, Matthew. So yes, the two-year stack was strong. I would like to say, which, of course, I would do with the teams here, not as strong as maybe it looks on the 2-year stack because this -- the last year number at Marmaxx was up against a relatively weak number the third quarter before, in full transparency.

So having said that, yes, even if we added all three years, we've done extremely well in our third quarters here. These past two quarters, particularly have been driven, I think, by a branded content and opportunistic -- as I mentioned in the beginning of the script, what we'd like, Matthew, is the availability across a lot of good, better, best brands across numerous families of business, and the store has allowed us, and it's really started last year in that third quarter. We've been able to go after a lot of brands within all the different families of business and in apparel, particularly. Home has been -- and yes, our home business has been very healthy as well.

And I think our teams have done a really good job there of going after the category trends there. So less about the brands in our home business and more about the category trends, which I think have been integral to why we've been putting increases on top of the increases. One of the -- and you're talking about Marmaxx, ironically, one of the things that I just mentioned in terms of that branded content and the branded push we've been having, we feel it's important in every one of the divisions in TJX to keep us differentiated in every geographic area that we're in. So Marmaxx has certainly been the epitome of that, I would say, in the last quarter.

But Europe has really had a similar push and more availability on that front and great execution on the categories there in apparel and Home as well. And as we go to fourth quarter, I think that, that was kind of the second part of your question, what we're looking for there, because the branded content has been so good in a lot of the apparel areas. Oh, by the way, accessories, it's been excellent too for us, women's accessories as well. Those areas tend to be strong giftable areas for holiday.

And so we see the momentum. We've made a lot of the buys for holiday in those areas, obviously, by this point in time, and we have great visibility into that branded -- more-branded-than-ever content going into fourth quarter. So great question.

Scott Goldenberg -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes, Matt, the only thing I would add to what Ernie said, is just the -- like we've seen for when business is very good, and we have the higher comps is the consistency of the comps across the all -- almost all of the regions in the United States and the -- consistent among on all of our types of stores, the suburban, Exurban, etc., so I think it's the consistency of the comps as well that bodes well for lifting the overall comp.

Matt Boss -- Analyst

Great. And then, Scott, maybe just on SG&A. Well, I know you're not providing formal guidance today. Just any puts and takes to consider on the expense line as we look ahead, I think, would be really helpful.

Scott Goldenberg -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes. No, again, not -- no real changes to what we've talked about before. I mean the supply chain cost, both for this year and going forward is still -- is the biggest one, mostly having to do with building out our infrastructure investments, but no real changes. Wage, all the other ones are similar.

Wild cards obviously are tariffs, FX, etc. And the only other one I would talk about would be probably a little better than what we thought as freight costs due to some of our own strategies that we put in place, plus the renewal when we had some of our contract renewals that we said would happen at the end of the third quarter were a little better than we would have thought on some of the inbound freight and some of the outbound freight in terms of what we've been trending. So I think positive news there. But overall, nothing significantly different than what we've talked about and elaborated on last quarter.

Ernie Herman -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Matt, I would just like to -- I'm going to circle back also to your question, because one other thing hit me on the two-year stack in Marmaxx, one of the things they've done that's been really terrific, I think I've discussed this with many of you in the past is the planning organization there that flows the merchandise. We've been chasing a trend. So the buying team and the planning team have just done a great job at staying on top of the sales trend by region of the country and by family of business. So Scott was talking about how the regions have all been healthy, sales by category have been widespread, but the planning area in Marmaxx, I think, has done an outstanding job of being able to flow to the sales above plan because that's not always easy.

It's very complicated. And I give our buying teams in Marmaxx and our planning teams a lot of credit to be able to chase the sales trend that was clearly higher than what we planned it to be.

Matt Boss -- Analyst

That's great color. Best of luck.

Ernie Herman -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Next question is from Kimberly Greenberger.

Kimberly Greenberger -- Analyst

Thank you. Great. Thank you so much. Very nice quarter.

I just wanted to ask about tariffs, Scott, if I could. It seems like the fourth-quarter gross margin guidance, which does include tariff impact is for sort of flat to 20 basis points of decline in gross margin. It seems really quite modest. So were there some remediation efforts you were able to put into place.

I guess I just would have thought maybe there would be a little bit more pressure, but you guys seem to be managing through it very nicely so far.

Scott Goldenberg -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes. I mean I'll start and then Ernie will jump in. Yes. So overall, in the fourth quarter, some of what we've been seeing, both in the third and fourth quarter -- well, third quarter and what we think in the fourth quarter is we had improvement in markdowns to the better sales in the third quarter.

We see some opportunity there in the fourth quarter as well. We have seen better buying as well in -- as we move through the third and fourth quarter. Tariffs, we did have more tariff expense due to some of the changes in the -- in tariff legislation, but mostly the bigger piece had to do with -- as we committed to goods, there were more tariffs that we had to spend. We also compared to the freight costs, as I mentioned just earlier have come down slightly.

So there's less freight costs in the fourth quarter than what we would have seen in the first -- certainly the first three quarters of the year. So yes, the margins are planned up and would have been up a bit more even as we still had some FX pressure, primarily internationally. So yes, I think there has been better buying and Ernie, you can talk to that a bit.

Ernie Herman -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Kimberly, a great question. One of the benefits that we've had is we believe that a lot of vendors have been bringing goods in earlier this year, which has been an advantage of us. And it's helped us in the third quarter to mitigate tariffs as such. The issue, unfortunately, going forward into 2020 is more challenging than that because we don't have as much visibility as we move forward into next year as to whether or not we can keep mitigating like we have.

It remains to be seen what happens with the vendor and competitor pricing, consumer demand potential tariff pass-throughs, and we have so much of fiscal '21 that is not committed to versus currently, where we have the visibility for this fourth quarter. So much of next year, we have just a small portion committed to that. It's kind of up in the air, and we're a little suspect as to what we can mitigate for next year. As well as we -- also, unfortunately, know that on some of our direct imports, which, in the scheme of things isn't a huge number, we know we are getting hit with tariffs on those.

So I have to tell you that for next year, it's a bit of a wait and see, again, until we start to get a little closer to that time period and see what happens with the vendors.

Kimberly Greenberger -- Analyst

Ernie, does that -- does your commentary, particularly regarding vendors and their behavior with bringing goods in early, does that relate to your comments at the end of Q2, or on the Q2 call, where you talked about the product availability out in the marketplace is basically some of the best that you've ever seen? And does that remain the case?

Ernie Herman -- Chief Executive Officer and President

So I think that has been a help to the degree, I would say, it is not a major driver, though. So when we go to our European markets, Canada, here, all the markets have had way more goods, and it's in categories where the tariffs actually, it's like, yes, somewhere tariffs are and a lot where tariffs aren't. So that would tell us that it's just a general availability is through the roof. I still think some of that, Kimberly, relates to the e-comm businesses around the board because the e-comm business, I think, have -- many have been off their projections on sales, and that is creating -- it's less the department stores, it's more the e-comm business creating more spill-off of merchandise.

And I do believe a little component of that might have been tariffs coming in early but it just -- it's beyond what that number would have been. So good question.

Kimberly Greenberger -- Analyst

Thanks, Ernie.

Ernie Herman -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Welcome.

Operator

Thank you. And our next question is from Paul Lejuez.

Paul Lejuez -- Analyst

Hey, thanks, guys. Can you talk about the performance of HomeSense and what you might be seeing in terms of cannibalization of the HomeGoods' concepts when those two go head to head in the same market? Also, curious how you're thinking, now that you've got 20-something of these HomeSense stores, about the best location for HomeSense and where it should play relative to HomeGoods in the market? And any early view on how many might be opening next year?

Ernie Herman -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Sure. Let me -- Paul, I'll start and then Scott can talk to maybe next year's stores. But in terms of the cannibalization, what started off as -- so first of all, our HomeSense sales had tapered off for a little bit, weren't as strong as we had hoped. Part of that is some of the categories that were weak in HomeGoods were also weak in HomeSense.

So that was holding us back. In terms of the actual transfer sales the -- we've seen, in total, about where we planned it to be. And what it is, is the nearby stores have actually had a little less transfer but stores a little further away than the nearby HomeGoods because HomeGoods -- HomeSense draws from a large radius, as does HomeGoods by the way, more so than a Marmaxx. It was hitting some of the other stores.

So in total, we ended up with almost identical to what our transfer sales had been planned at the cannibalization. So I would say on that front, pretty much on plan. We -- in terms of store openings, Scott, do you want to talk about where we're at, which is I --

Scott Goldenberg -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes. We really, Paul, haven't given any guidance at this point in terms of any of the store openings we're doing next year. So still going to have a healthy number of both overall stores for HomeGoods and all that. I would say our new store openings and just general thinking about HomeSense, HomeGoods is pretty much on our pro forma or better.

So we like what we're seeing both on our HomeGoods stores. HomeSense stores, I think, the one thing we had -- there was still work to be done. One thing we had not seen when we were contemplating the model was the amount of wage, freight and certainly -- and tariff impact, as Ernie has mentioned, a little more impacts the home business. So I think those were pressures that were not contemplated when we first created the model.

Having said that, a lot of work has been done to -- and we've seen the results of improving the operational side of the business in terms of some of the expense management has continued to get better. Our margins are continuing to prove. And I think, still work to be done, but all moving in the right direction. I think the differentiation and all that is what we would have expected.

So I still, as Ernie said, I think, still -- we still think we have a lot of room we can improve on the sales and still on operating. But overall, feel pretty good about -- like I think, as we've seen recently and just the home businesses in those categories were certainly a little bit hit harder in HomeSense than even the general HomeGoods business. So that's it.

Ernie Herman -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Correct.

Paul Lejuez -- Analyst

Got it. Just want to follow-up on Familia. Do you have an option to buy a larger stake at a certain price as part of this initial investment?

Scott Goldenberg -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes, we're not going to comment on any of the details. I think, over time, we could buy more, but not going to go into any further at this point. Obviously, we like what we've done and that's about all we'll comment on now.

Paul Lejuez -- Analyst

Thanks, guys. Good luck.

Ernie Herman -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Thank you.

Scott Goldenberg -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question is from Kate Fitzsimons.

Kate Fitzsimons -- Analyst

Yeah. Good morning. I'll add my congratulations as well.

Ernie Herman -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Thank you.

Kate Fitzsimons -- Analyst

My question is on inventory. Yeah, could you just speak to your overall inventory strategies, inventories were up 13%. Should we think about a greater packaway number pushing that inventory balance higher year on year, just given what you are seeing with the buying environment and up 9% on a per-store basis. There was a mention of later flows in your prepared commentary.

Just any color on how you're thinking about product flow plans for the fourth quarter and how we should think about that inventory would be great.

Ernie Herman -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Sure, Kate. Again, very good question. So this is -- there's a few different reasons why we're very comfortable with where we are. First thing is, the inventories are up, yes, there's a little bit more packaway.

That is not the driver, though. It is not that big of a number in the scheme of things. Part of this is we had a couple of years where, actually, our sales were ahead of our inventory growth. So we are playing a little bit of a catch-up there.

But the No.1 reason is we're chasing the trend of our business with a market that has been absolutely loaded with goods that we want to take advantage of. And this is really the time when the ultimate opportunistic approach of TJX really comes through. So this is like prime time for us to say OK, we are going to -- because we logistically are set up, we're one of the few retailers who can flow goods to the stores differently than we own them in the DCs. So what we're able to do right now is even some of it wasn't a packaway, we're able to buy very aggressive if we think the deal at the right cost and at the right retail provides an exciting deal, chase the trend, and the trend in Marmaxx specifically has just been so strong that you'd want to keep doing that, obviously.

And that's a big driver of that inventory number you are talking about. And then this allows us to really try to maximize the sales as we go into fourth quarter, off of a strong, as you heard about, our two-year stack that I think Matt had asked about back in the beginning, it allows us to continue to kind of propel for a healthy two-year stacks as we go forward. And if we end up a little long in some things, some of these goods could become packaway because we bought it so advantageously. So it's really the ultimate chasing of the business trend.

Also, there's a little of the compressed holiday selling window that's entering into play. And I think that's a piece that said, "Hey, we're better off having this -- a little bit of a reserve inventory to kind of drive the top line. And again, start with the fact that we're able to buy these goods at advantageous costs.

Scott Goldenberg -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes. The only thing I'd add to what Ernie has said, so we liked what we did last year with a little bit more enhanced flow, and this year I think we took a step above that. So it did cause the third-quarter ending inventories and -- to be higher. It's not affecting our operation of the business.

It's -- this would be obviously more staged in our distribution centers, waiting to be flowed out to the stores. And as you can see in our third quarter, as we talked about, our per store inventories were where we wanted to be, particularly at Marmaxx and our markdown rates came down. So we feel good about the overall management and go forward. Obviously, I think it will come down, but there'll still be more packaways likely at the end of this year when we end the year than what we had in the prior year.

Kate Fitzsimons -- Analyst

OK, guys. Best of luck for holiday.

Ernie Herman -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question is from Jay Sole.

Jay Sole -- Analyst

Great. Great. Thank you. A lot of retailers talked about how maybe August was OK but September was really tough because of weather.

It just sounds like from the comp at Marmaxx that you didn't see that kind of trend. Was that the case? Can you talk about maybe what you saw by month and why maybe you weren't impacted by warm weather or whatever was going on in September?

Ernie Herman -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Jay, we don't break it down by month. But what I can tell you is we had a fairly consistently healthy quarter in that sales -- it wasn't one of these quarters where it was like up and down. It was just pretty consistent. So again, we don't give breakdowns by month, but it was consistent.

Jay Sole -- Analyst

Got it. And then maybe if you can just talk a little bit about just the -- a little bit more on the transportation cost. I know you sort of said it came out a little bit better. Can you maybe -- is it possible to dimensionalize like how transportation costs when you renewed those contracts changed on a year-over-year basis just maybe directionally?

Scott Goldenberg -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes. I'm not going to unpack it all, but the biggest piece for us was on our inbound rates were significantly less than what we had planned. Again, there was a step down on the outbound rates, but less to do with the negotiations with just a bit of a natural drop-down of what those increases were. So that was the biggest driver.

Fuel costs have been not a big factor. I think one of the things -- we're not going to go too much into the overall, the rest of the rates, whether they were ocean rates or intermodal rates still have low to mid-single-digit increases. So no real change there. The one wildcard for next year, which is to be determined, is the ocean freight.

In ocean freight, there's going to be some requirements for low sulfur fuel to be determined when that's going to go in -- go into effect, but it could have some higher rates on the ocean freight next year. But overall, it was really -- it was the truckload deliveries on the inbound that were the biggest savings and that's really what it is. So that's it, Jay, on that.

Jay Sole -- Analyst

Thanks.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question is from Omar Saad.

Omar Saad -- Analyst

Thank you. Great quarter. Ernie, I wanted to ask you a follow-up to one of the comments you made about the inventory availability at the end of the quarter being really good. You made a comment that a lot of this is coming from the e-commerce channel.

I'm trying to understand exactly what that dynamic is? Is it traditional retailers, e-commerce businesses that are overstocked and those DCs are ending with too much inventory? Or are you seeing it from pure e-commerce businesses, maybe help unpack what you meant behind that, I would appreciate it.

Ernie Herman -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Sure. So Omar, across all fronts, so what you have is you have your vertical -- and here's the good news, it's fairly widespread. So you have your vertical e-comm players. So brands that have their own e-comm site difficult for -- I would -- by the way, and I would lump all e-comm players into the challenge in their defense predicting need.

Remember, most -- almost all the goods they're selling on their websites are imported goods with long lead times. So they're trying to predict e-comm sales by category and item, not so easy to do. They don't have all the years of history that a brick-and-mortar retailer would have. And it's always been a little bit more volatile for those guys to try to predict their needs relative to -- and that's on a category or an item -- and on their need.

So -- and that whole challenge applies really to the vertical e-comm players as well as the guys that have brick-and-mortar and e-comm sites because you're still running into a challenge of being long on certain categories because the need -- the sales just haven't been what you thought. By the way, it doesn't mean they don't have categories where the sales were better than they thought and they didn't have enough, right? In total, in total, it's just because there were so many e-comm players now spread out across the board it has yielded -- from whether the vertical guys or the multichannel guys, it has yielded, and by the way that applies to whether it's accessory categories or apparel categories, hardlines, I would say there's a growing chunk of our off-price buys are coming from that channel. And those are the reasons. If you had a picture -- if you were kind of wanted -- if you spend a week in one of those offices that are in e-comm, you'd see how -- where you're placing goods so far ahead on a website and trying to predict the need, it's just very difficult.

And most of them are in a high-growth pattern, which adds to the volatility of their ability to project.

Omar Saad -- Analyst

Really helpful insight, Ernie. Thank you very much, it's really helpful, Ernie. Thanks. Good luck.

Ernie Herman -- Chief Executive Officer and President

All right.

Operator

Thank you. And our next question is from Mark Altschwager.

Mark Altschwager -- Analyst

Great. Good morning. Thank you. You had a nice change in trajectory on the HomeGoods' operating margin in the quarter, and you raised your guidance there for the year.

I was hoping if you just talk a little bit more about the drivers to that performance and the upside to your expectations? And how should we be thinking about the margin trajectory on HomeGoods from here?

Scott Goldenberg -- Chief Financial Officer

I'll jump in, Mark, for a second on that. I think similar to what Ernie is just saying about the buying environment, I think HomeGoods has taken advantage all year particularly in the third quarter buying better than what was planned even despite having, as Ernie indicated, a higher tariff impacts, but we're certainly a lot better buying. We were able to leverage some -- on the markdown line even with the one comp, but some of that's a technical opportunity versus the prior. But nonetheless, we controlled the inventories very well.

So merchandise margins were certainly a big factor there. The -- as we said also, when we did the first call at the beginning of the year that the supply chain cost and the freight cost would be more first half weighted. In the supply chain piece of it, it was going to be a bigger impact in the first two quarters because we cycled the opening of the Carteret in New Jersey distribution opening in the third quarter. So started to see that drop a bit.

So that was a piece of it and the freight costs are going to be lower in the back half of the year than the first half. So those three components made up the rest. And then I would say HomeGoods did a particularly good job on the lower-than-planned comp of mitigating and doing a great job of expense management. So that was substantially better than what we had thought.

So the combination of the expense management, the lower change in the supply chain and the freight and the better merchandise margin and -- due to better buying primarily was the difference between the third quarter and the first half of the year.

Mark Altschwager -- Analyst

Thank you. And then on HomeGoods, I know you had talked about some of the inventory mix being a drag on that comp last quarter. Do you feel like you've worked through that -- some of the suboptimal inventory as we head into the fourth quarter?

Ernie Herman -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Yeah, Mark, I say -- I would say, we actually still have work to do on some of those areas and departments that we have not been happy with the execution, so stay tuned on that. I think we have a lot of work to do. We have other areas that I think have actually picked up, and that's where you're getting the sequential improvement. In those other areas, I would say, we're still not happy with where we are and hoping more by the first quarter that we would have those more straightened out.

So yes, still more work to be done. I'm very happy with the way we're entering the quarter in total in terms of better momentum than where we were six months ago but not really specifically in those categories.

Mark Altschwager -- Analyst

Thank you and best of luck.

Ernie Herman -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. And our next question is from Lorraine Hutchinson.

Lorraine Hutchinson -- Analyst

Thanks. Good morning. Do you see any opportunities to take price to offset some of the tariff pressure next year? Or should we model tariffs offsetting any easing of freight costs as we look to fiscal 2021?

Ernie Herman -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Lorraine, actually, we do not see that at all for next year. In terms of tariffs, we have not -- we haven't seen any retails moving in the environment. So that's part of -- we are going to be the last retailer to ever do any retail adjustments. And we have not seen in any of the categories an ability on our part because we haven't seen it in the competition.

We haven't seen any retail strangely enough going up. Some of the categories where -- and specifically in the home area where the tariffs have hit are actually areas that are under pressure in terms of value and we probably wouldn't be -- there's some of the less likely areas that we could actually raise retails. We would like -- by the way, we would like to -- I wish that was the case. And so as a result, when you go into next year -- again, this is why we are apprehensive about saying that we can mitigate the tariffs because it could be a challenge based on -- the lack of visibility that we have right now is just having us on the standby to standby mode.

And we really don't want to commit to being able to mitigate, at least not today.

Lorraine Hutchinson -- Analyst

And then do you have any insight or guardrails around how next year's earnings growth could look in those scenarios?

Scott Goldenberg -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes, I'll jump in, Lorraine. Yes. So I think is -- basically, since we haven't -- as Ernie has said, we haven't bought the vast majority of the goods. It's too early to tell.

There's just too much volatility in what could or could not happen with the pricing. So we'll comment it, obviously, on when we get to the next call, when three-plus months from now, we should have a better indication of what -- we'll have at least a meaningful amount of buying having taken place. So not the answer you probably want to hear, but we're not going to be really go through any scenarios or give any guidance at this point in time.

Lorraine Hutchinson -- Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question is from John Kernan.

John Kernan -- Analyst

Good morning, guys, and thanks and congrats on all the momentum as we head into next year.

Ernie Herman -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Thank you.

Scott Goldenberg -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you.

John Kernan -- Analyst

Scott, a question on SG&A. You've made quite a few investments in supply chain this year, both on the SG&A line as well as capex. Just wondering how that affects your ability to leverage SG&A as we go into next year and just how we should thematically think about SG&A as a source of long-term margin upside?

Scott Goldenberg -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes, again, not commenting too much about next year guidance. Supply chain -- most of our supply -- we've spent a lot of money, a lot of it's in remodeling our stores, opening new stores, opening new distribution centers in the short term to medium term. The growth from adding new distribution centers is still a deleverage point for us. It should be a similar amount and that's about all we're going to say long.

And we're not really going to answer the longer-term piece of it at this point. But -- so it's -- I don't want to comment on what may or may not happen several years from now. At the moment, it is -- I would just say same thing I said in the last call, looks to be a similar amount of deleverage at least just specifically talking about supply chain.

John Kernan -- Analyst

Any color you can give us on capex in terms of where that -- the direction into next year, obviously stepped up a bit this year I think related to some of those supply chain investments.

Scott Goldenberg -- Chief Financial Officer

Again, too early to make the call. I mean we've stepped up our capital this year, a couple of hundred million, but it looks to be, at this point, less than what we thought. We think our cash position will be a bit better than what we thought. That's really due to a combination of a lot of factors.

So I think capex will be -- probably would not be that much different into what we had planned it for this year. I think this year will end up less, which means it'll just be a timing of capital moving for projects that didn't get done this year into next year. So -- but we're not going to give a specific number. I would say, this year's number is a good guide to what we would do next year.

John Kernan -- Analyst

Excellent. Thank you, and again, congrats.

Scott Goldenberg -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you.

Ernie Herman -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. And we do have time for one final question. Our last question today is from Bob Drbul.

Bob Drbul -- Analyst

Hi, good morning, thanks. Just I was wondering if you could comment on T.K. Maxx in the U.K. and what's happening there? And not sure if you gave this but the mix for the Russian investment in terms of the merchandise mix vendor overlap, in terms of apparel, just sort of how that shakes out versus where you guys are today?

Ernie Herman -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Sure, Bob. On the T.K. Maxx business, we couldn't be happier. Obviously, the one thing we -- in the earlier release and the script that we can highlight as much as I'd like to talk to right now with you is just the market share that we keep capturing and it's just been off the charts if you start actually looking at what's happening in retail over there.

And again I would go back to our teams have just done a fantastic job. And that goes from every portion, from their logistics, from their flow and their planning area there, similar as to what I mentioned at Marmaxx earlier. They have kept it -- not easy to drive a sales trend to those comps. When you -- again, as you know, culturally, in this company, we plan conservatively, and they are right now running strongly ahead of what the conservative plans are.

That requires a buying team and a merchandise planning team and a store execution and logistics, DCs, marketing team, Scott, of course, would say a finance team as well, that would all be contributing to a strong trend there that is really right now performing very well. So just very happy with -- again, in terms of the mix that you were asking about, it really goes back to what I said in the beginning, though, they're -- they have just delivered in their case, more of the better and best branded goods. So yes, it's in across almost every family of business. I happened to just be there a week ago.

And when I was in the stores, I was just seeing with the teams. We were looking at the branded content throughout the different categories of goods. And I really haven't seen it to that level really ever before on one of my visits over there. And Scott has actually been there recently.

I think he and his guys have seen the same thing, Scott?

Scott Goldenberg -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes, I'll just jump in. I'm not going to comment on the merchandise content, but in terms of the overall -- I mean, some of the other factors we just love -- what we see there is conversion has been great across all of their markets. The performance, like we've talked about Marmaxx across consistent -- really consistent across all of the countries that we do business there. The new stores are performing well.

We're opening a lot of vendors, which I think Ernie was alluding to, some of it's due to e-commerce vendors. One of the things that we particularly like and alluded to is -- Ernie's talking about the market share but our performance versus the best we can determine versus retailers, whether it's in Europe or the U.K., that our performance, particularly in the U.K. is strikingly better and is also much, much better than the European retailers. So love that.

We've maintained that delta. And we've done a pretty good job in the last two years of maintaining our margins compared to what a lot of other retailers in Europe have done with the pressure that's been due to -- with both Brexit, wage and the FX impact, which they have a lot on the currency. So feel real good about how we've held up. And certainly, as Ernie commented, the No.1 thing being just great top-line sales.

So I feel real good about our business going into the holiday season.

Ernie Herman -- Chief Executive Officer and President

And then your part b, Bob, I think, was on Familia's [ next week ]. Yes, right now, we wouldn't comment on the -- how much it overlaps or not. I will tell you and I think Scott said this in the beginning, they do run a full line store, similar to what we do, and they have a home division. They have multifamilies of business.

And I think there's some, obviously, vendors that would overlap and a fair amount that don't. But again, we think it's a good relationship.

Scott Goldenberg -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes, I think -- yes, two things, just one to add on that. There's, I think, plenty of merchandise -- same thing we would say here with us and competitors, and there's plenty of merchandise availability in Europe as well. The one thing I just want to also add is our e-comm business in the U.K. is particularly strong in combination with a strong brick-and-mortar.

We're almost -- we are -- we have breached the 7% of U.K. sales on our e-comm with strong brick-and-mortar so we feel real pleased with how we're doing both segments there. And almost 50% of the goods that are ordered are Click and Collect. So again, that's something that's a bit differentiated there with our e-commerce business.

Ernie Herman -- Chief Executive Officer and President

And one of the pluses, as you know, we all -- we talk about here is our e-comm business, we purposely keep it differentiated so that we don't cannibalize our stores as much. So over there, maybe not as differentiated as here, but still differentiated with the goal of having the customer shuffle. So I think that was our last question. And we've enjoyed the call.

Thank you all for joining us today. We look forward to updating you on our fourth-quarter earnings call in February. Thank you, everybody.

Operator

[Operator signoff]

Duration: 62 minutes

Call participants:

Ernie Herman -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Deb McConnell

Scott Goldenberg -- Chief Financial Officer

Alexandra Walvis -- Analyst

Matt Boss -- Analyst

Kimberly Greenberger -- Analyst

Paul Lejuez -- Analyst

Kate Fitzsimons -- Analyst

Jay Sole -- Analyst

Omar Saad -- Analyst

Mark Altschwager -- Analyst

Lorraine Hutchinson -- Analyst

John Kernan -- Analyst

Bob Drbul -- Analyst

More TJX analysis

All earnings call transcripts