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Sally Beauty Holdings (NYSE:SBH)
Q1 2020 Earnings Call
Feb 06, 2020, 8:30 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:


Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by, and welcome to the Sally Beauty Holdings first-quarter earning results. [Operator instructions] And as a reminder, today's conference call is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to Mr. Jeff Harkins.

Please go ahead.

Jeff Harkins -- Investor Relations and Strategic Planning

Thank you. Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the Sally Beauty Holdings first-quarter earnings conference call.Before we begin, I want to point out that we've made a supplemental slide presentation available for today's call that can be viewed for the link provided on our investor site at sallybeautyholdings.com/investor-relations. In addition, I'd like to remind you that certain comments, including matters such as forecasted financial information, contracts or business and trend information made during this call may contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Many of these forward-looking statements can be identified by the use of words such as believe, project, expect, can, may, estimate, should, plan, target, intend, could, will, would, anticipate, potential, confident, optimistic and similar words or phrases.

These statements are subject to a number of factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from expectations. Those factors are described in the Sally Beauty Holdings' filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including its most recent annual report on Form 10-K. The company does not undertake any obligation to publicly update or revise its forward-looking statements. The company has provided a detailed explanation and reconciliations of its adjusting items and non-GAAP financial measures in its earnings press release and on its website.

With me on the call today are Chris Brickman, president and chief executive officer; Aaron Alt, president of Sally Beauty Supply and chief financial officer; and Heather Plutino, group vice president of finance. Chris will start by offering some thoughts on our first quarter and give you an update on our key transformation efforts. Aaron will then discuss our first-quarter consolidated and segment financial results, touch on our supply chain modernization efforts and then discuss our views on our full-year financial guidance for fiscal 2020. Now I'd like to turn the call over to Chris.

Chris Brickman -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Jeff, and good morning, everyone. During our first quarter, we continued to make significant progress against our transformation plan. We saw Beauty Systems Group and our European operations deliver positive comp growth and improve their gross margins. Beauty Systems Group achieved its highest sales revenue in a quarter ever.

More significantly, we took important steps toward our goal of becoming a mobile-first digital retailer, enabled by a differentiated category position, a national store network and consumer-centric fulfillment options. We did all of this while dealing with a retail calendar with six fewer shopping days, a retail consumer who waited until the last minute to shop around both Thanksgiving and Christmas, and a series of significant technology implementation distractions, which impacted our retail top line same-store sales and gross margins. The good news is that we have a natural hedge between our retail and our professional businesses. We saw strength in Beauty Systems Group that offset the traffic challenges at Sally Beauty.

For the quarter, we delivered only modestly negative same-store sales, down only 0.3% at the enterprise level, but with a 1.2% comp at BSG and a positive comp in Europe as well. We largely held our gross margin despite headwinds. But as expected and predicted during last quarter's earnings call, we did see higher SG&A expenses as we invested in the business and responded to wage inflation. We recognized that short-term challenges have created a gap with respect to earnings expectations.

We have been working over the last six weeks to fill the gap. Aaron will bridge our results, our responsive actions and our view of the remainder of the year for you later in the call. While the decline in overall sales and the SG&A increase did result in a decline in operating earnings and operating margin and ultimately a decrease in both GAAP and adjusted diluted EPS, I want to emphasize that these are one quarter's results in the face of a significant transformation that is taking place over multiple quarters. Unlike many retailers, Sally Beauty Holdings is in the advanced stages of a detailed transformation plan and remains both highly profitable and highly liquid.

If you take one message away from us today, I wanted it to be this: our first priority is to complete the transformation and put in place the right retail and digital capabilities to set the company up for long-term success. We're focused on unlocking the full potential of our highly differentiated business, and we will invest additional resources as appropriate over the year if that is required to deliver our objectives. Let's spend some time talking about the specifics of Q1. As we have discussed in prior earnings calls, in recent quarters, we've seen stabilizing traffic trends versus comparable periods in prior years.

That changed in Q1. The first quarter's calendar was unique in that Thanksgiving was late with six fewer traditional holiday shopping days than last year. Retailers generally responded by making Black Friday into Black November, with high discount offers beginning as early as the first week of November this year. We did not play that game and held most of our Black Friday-oriented offers to the weekend before Thanksgiving.

Our retail traffic was stable in October, then dropped noticeably in the first three weeks of November, as the consumer took their time starting their shopping. Traffic recovered the week of Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, but dropped again until the week of Christmas when it again recovered. While we, no doubt, felt some pain, the specialty retail traffic index data shows that other specialty retailer traffic trends suffered at the same times and to similar degrees. The consumer also shifted some of their purchases to digital channels.

We were quite pleased with our digital performance over the period. As a reminder, we have a methodical but fast process of moving from being an unsophisticated brick-and-mortar retailer to being a mobile-first digital retailer that leverages its differentiated category position with a national store network and a full set of fulfillment options. In our Sally Beauty business, our goal, of course, is to grab the consumers' attention with our expertise and to help for Unleash for PROtential by filling her need for hair color, hair care, and related products where she wants it, when she wants it, and at a cost and price that makes sense for both of us. We know we are playing catch-up, so we are moving fast in learning and adapting in real time.

The digital path we are on is the right one and does not change as a result of Q1. Five quarters ago, we launched our new CRM platform. Four quarters ago, we launched our new Sally Loyalty Program and tied it into our new POS systems and our digital platforms, and it now has more than 16 million active members. Three quarters ago, we launched and updated SallyBeauty.com mobile-first website, and also tied it to our Loyalty Program.

Two quarters ago, we launched the new Sally Beauty mobile app, which now has been downloaded over 900,000 times. We further refined the website and began development of our order management system so that we could access all of our inventory and, where appropriate, split shipments. During the most recent quarter, we started to knit all of this together by deploying our new order management system across the Sally Beauty and Beauty Systems Group network to allow us to better access our inventory and split shipments, test delivery capabilities such as same-day delivery for BSG, launched the new ColorView technology in 600 stores and on the Sally app, and expanded our Sally Beauty digital marketplace efforts with eBay, Google, and Amazon. Following the end of Q1, we also executed the consolidation of our digital teams into one team to lead digital efforts for both Sally Beauty and Beauty Systems Group.

We have hired two new digital expert leaders Kevin Matz, VP of e-commerce; and Vanathy Lakshmi, VP of digital product. Together, they bring real-life, been-there-done-that retail, and wholesale digital pedigrees from the likes of Ulta, Walmart, Stuller, and Cache. Looking ahead, by the end of the current quarter, we expect to launch sallybeauty.ca, along with our first iteration of ship-from-store capabilities. An important evolution since we do not have or intend to build a traditional distribution building network for our Sally Canada business.

All e-commerce shipments to consumers will come from inventory in Canadian stores. We will test, we will learn, and we will expand for both ship-from-store and BSG's same-day delivery. We are making significant digital progress. In the most recent quarter, our global digital business grew 27.6%, with the sally U.S.

and Canada business growing the most at 37.8%. As with many of our initiatives, Sally U.S. and Canada is leading the charge and we are now turning to leverage our learnings and capabilities elsewhere, first, with BSG, and then more broadly in Europe as a further part of Project Surge. Our U.S.

and Canadian digital retail penetration increased 100 basis points to 3.7% for the quarter, while our overall penetration rate stands at 4.5%, meaning it is still all upside for us as we continue to drive digital capabilities and penetration. We have a massive amount of change under way, much of it tied to technology, and we are operating on aggressive timelines with significant interdependencies. Any time you combine transformation and technology, you have to be ready and able to learn and adapt. In the first quarter, we experienced technology integration roadblocks, which together had a significant impact on our first-quarter revenue, same-store sales, and gross margin.

We are approximately 60% of the way through our X-Store POS implementation across the U.S. and Canada, meaning we have reached critical mass. During the quarter, we discovered design issues within our X-Store system, which resulted in incorrect pricing data flowing to some of our Sally stores, particularly in Canada on a significant number of items. Technology issues also resulted in some customers receiving elevated promotional discounts, which resulted in a degradation of sales and gross margin.

Finally, our new Loyalty Program is tied into our new X-Store systems, interacts with our promotional cadence and calculation. As a result of the system implementations, we experienced higher redemptions than expected from our early testing on legacy systems. These redemptions also stacked in ways that we were not expecting, having unplanned and negative impact on revenue, same-store sales, and gross margin in the Sally Beauty business. Aaron will quantify the impact of these challenges in his remarks.

The good news is that these integration issues were discovered before we implemented POS chainwide, and we were able to pause the X-Store rollout quickly at Sally Beauty to mitigate the impact. While there is still work to do, we believe that we've addressed the majority of the underlying issues, making these issues largely a first-quarter learning experience that should not impact the rest of our year. That said, we will remain watchful given the ongoing transformation and our continued agenda of significant technology change. We've restarted the POS rollout, and expect to complete the point-of-sale effort across the Beauty Systems Group by the end of the second quarter and Sally Beauty by the end of May.

As I mentioned earlier, our strategy and our priorities remain unchanged: play to win with our customers based on our differentiated core; improve our retail fundamentals whether through people, process or technology; advance our digital commerce capabilities; and fund our transformation by relentlessly looking for cost savings measures. To close my remarks, I will highlight a few key progress points and plans in the business for Sally Beauty segment. During the first quarter, the business executed a soft launch of the single largest brand investment since I have been at the company. Through the relaunch of the Sally Beauty brand with Unleash you PROtential, the effort went live and national on January 6, and you will find our brand-building efforts in digital, TV, radio, and out-of-home channels across the country.

Examples of the marketing are available on our website. As part of this effort, the business also launched our Sally Crew influencer development program to further expand our digital reach. We have received more than 1,000 influencer applications for Sally Crew. Newness and innovation continue to be a focus area.

We launched CHI professional color, CHI appliances, Maybelline cosmetics, and Waterless dry shampoos during the quarter and tested a number of pro-hair care options such as TIGI, Big Sexy, American Crew, and It's a 10, that do not have exclusive distribution elsewhere. We will continue these efforts and introduce exciting line extensions from Texture ID, SheaMoisture, Carol's Daughter, Mielle, and other brands during Q2. In addition, Vivid colors continue to grow and are now 20% of color sales at Sally. We continue to make progress on our stores having remodeled most of the Charlotte market, launched the Manhattan concept store that will become a dense urban ship-from-store location, and tested store iterations in North Texas.

All in anticipation of our North Texas remodel cycle and building out a number of new stores in a variety of markets during Q2. Now, turning to Europe. At the start of Q1, we launched Project Surge to turn around our European operations. That effort has five key planks: customer and customer marketing, store operations, country-specific focus, product assortment, and technology integration.

While we are still in early days of the effort, we are pleased with the results so far, particularly with respect to the store operations work in the U.K. Europe was a positive contributor to our same-store sales for Q1, with improvements driven in the U.K. and Ireland and parts of Continental Europe. We're also excited to announce that we have reached agreement to launch the Redken color brand in our European stores in late Q3 of this year, further evidence that our teams remains focused on driving this turnaround, and we are looking forward to talking about additional wins at the end of next quarter.

Now, Beauty Systems Group. As I commented at the start, we're very happy with the progress that BSG made this quarter. The combination of our innovation pipeline and a new emphasis on retail fundamentals within our stores all helped to deliver a positive comp, as well as better execution within the full-service channel and led to the highest quarterly revenue ever at BSG. In addition, we recently renewed our exclusive three-year contract with the Coty organization, giving them and us certainty on our relationship going forward.

During the quarter, Beauty Systems Group launched Maria Nila's expanded care and styling line, further supporting our emphasis on clean, natural, and vegan products. We also expanded distribution of Olaplex No. 6 and No. 7 critical hair treatment lines and expanded our men's barbering assortment.

We will continue this innovation push with the ikoo launching later in the year as well, a new natural line from Europe. BSG will also be rolling out its new store concept model to additional territories based on learnings from the successful Las Vegas test in 2019. The rollout will start in the second quarter in Cincinnati, followed by Charlotte, and then the rest of Ohio in the back half of the year. We continue to work down our path to launch a new loyalty program at BSG via our partnership with Alliance Data to launch a private label credit card program.

Given our X-Store efforts, testing will now begin in select stores during the third quarter, with a national rollout to follow in the fourth quarter. Finally, BSG will also look for acquisition opportunities that could expand its distribution rights and add additional brands to its portfolio. Now I will turn it over to Aaron to discuss a couple of topics in more detail.

Aaron Alt -- President of Sally Beauty Supply and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Chris. Good morning. I want to start my comments today by providing some color on our transformation efforts. We have a detailed transformation plan that is tied to our fiscal '20 strategies and to our operating plan.

We are seeing significant progress versus where we were in fiscal '19. We've been quite open with the scale of the transformation agenda. Our fast-paced stretch to become an omnichannel retailer, leveraging both our stores and our digital capabilities, require significant work. The first quarter and indeed the second and third quarters are the fulcrum points of much of our transformation, as multiple interdependencies across stores, supply chain, technology, and retail fundamentals come together and we turn dials to optimize our efforts.

Notwithstanding the first quarter, we've got this. Stick with us. There is no doubt that the first quarter was a tough quarter and below our expectations. The impact of the challenges we face is quantifiable.

On the top line, sales declined $9.2 million versus the same quarter prior year. At its simplest, this is driven by fewer net stores, a modestly lower comp of same-store sales and the impact of FX. However, the Sally U.S. and Canada business and the BSG business were driving positive comp coming out of Q4.

So at a high level, if you ask me what impacted sales from the trend you were on, I would offer the following directional context. The primary drivers of the change to trend were, a, the impact of our technology disruptions on pricing and promotion and rewards; b, the traffic issues that the retail business encountered; and, c, the impact of nonrecurring benefits that we lapped from prior years that were expected to be offset by marketing and other initiatives that we dialed back in the face of technology issues. Each of these issues had a similar financial impact, with all of them partially offset by continued improvement at BSG and a turnaround in Europe's trend. On the bottom line, our miss to prior year was driven by four factors.

First, the technology impact on pricing and promotional rewards. Second, by the resulting profit from impact from lower traffic. Third, by increased investments against wages and marketing across the portfolio. And lastly, by a combination of factors such as increased digital shipping costs and lapping prior-year benefits.

Each of these four factors had approximately the same impact, with all of them partially offset by increased volume at BSG, positive pricing at both Sally and BSG and aggressive actions that we took in the quarter. We have already taken aggressive steps to fix the underlying issues, which will make us better in the medium and long term. We have centralized our technology and key product efforts under the leadership of our new chief transformation officer, Mary Beth Edwards. Cross-functional teams are revisiting every interdependency, and we've added new expert support around key initiatives such as JDA.

Our technology teams are working around the clock to advance the ball on key implementations. We have been quite aggressive as a management team in taking steps to shore up our profit plans for the year with no stone unturned. Notwithstanding the quarter, we've got this. Stick with us.

Finally, while one month does not make a trend, we have seen continued improvements in traffic trends and sales to both the retail business and the wholesale business in the U.S. and Canada since Christmas. With all that as context, let's discuss our financial results. First-quarter consolidated same-store sales decreased by 0.3%.

Consolidated revenue was $980.2 million, down $9.2 million to the prior year, driven by the factors I just described. We are pleased to report that our global e-commerce business grew by 27.6% versus the prior year. On the top line, broadly, our Beauty Systems Group delivered positive comps and positive revenue growth, reaching its highest revenue mark ever in a quarter, and Europe delivered positive same-store sales as elements of our transformation started to take effect. However, in contrast to trends in recent quarters, we experienced headwinds in the quarter from Sally U.S.

and Canada. Consolidated gross margin for the quarter was 48.4%, which was a 20-basis-point decrease compared to the prior year. Beauty Systems Group and our European operations both saw increases in gross margin, offset by a modest decline in Sally Beauty U.S. and Canada and our Latin American businesses.

After excluding charges related to the company's transformation efforts in both years, selling, general and administration expenses, including depreciation and amortization expense, were $377.9 million in the quarter. An increase of $10.9 million or 3% from the prior year. As a percentage of sales, reported selling, general and administrative expenses increased 150 basis points to 38.6% compared to the prior year. The increase in SG&A expenses, mostly the expected and planned increase in salaried and hourly wage costs, plus a modest increase in marketing spending.

We did dial back our investments as the challenges in the quarter became visible to us. GAAP operating earnings and operating margin in the first quarter were $94.4 million and 9.6%, respectively, compared to $109.7 million and 11.1%, respectively, in the prior year. Adjusted operating earnings and operating margin were $96.9 million and 9.9%, respectively, compared to $113.7 million and 11.5%, respectively, in the prior year. GAAP diluted earnings per share in the first quarter were $0.45, compared to $0.54 in the prior year, a decrease of 17%, driven primarily by lower revenue, increased operating expenses, but lower interest expense.

Adjusted diluted earnings per share, excluding charges related to the company's transformation efforts in both years were $0.47 in the first quarter, compared to $0.57 in the prior year. A decrease of 17.5%. Our company continues to generate good cash flow from operations, which was $62.3 million in the quarter. An increase of 24% to prior year.

Net payments for capital expenditures in the quarter totaled $40.9 million. The capital spend was primarily driven by information technology projects related to the Oracle-based point-of-sale system, the JDA merchandising and supply chain platform and our e-commerce platforms, as well as store remodels and maintenance. Free cash flow was $21.4 million in the quarter, down $5.1 million or 19% as compared to the prior year, largely due to higher capex investments versus prior year. We used free cash flow in the first quarter to reduce our debt levels by $16.2 million.

The ABL credit facility had a zero balance at the end of the quarter. Importantly, in total, we have reduced our debt levels by over $200 million since the beginning of fiscal year 2019. The company's leverage ratio, as defined by our credit agreements, was 2.68 times with incremental debt reduction offset by a modest decline in EBITDA. In addition, we repurchased 766,000 shares at a total cost of $11.4 million early in the quarter.

Turning to segment performance. For the first quarter, Global Sally Beauty same-store sales decreased by 1.1%, driven by a decrease in same-store sales in the U.S. and Canada of 1.4%. Europe delivered positive same-store sales as a result of progress against Project Surge.

The Sally Beauty business in the U.S. and Canada represented 77% of the segment sales for the quarter. The Sally segment generated consolidated revenue of $569.1 million in the quarter, a decrease of 2% compared to the prior year, with 36 fewer stores, six fewer holiday selling days in the U.S. and Canadian retail calendar in the quarter, the unfavorable impact of foreign currency translation of approximately 20 basis points, and the technology and consumer traffic issues at Sally U.S.

and Canada highlighted earlier. We continue to make meaningful progress with Sally's U.S. and Canadian e-commerce business in the quarter, which helped drive e-commerce revenue growth of 31.8% for the segment. Gross margin for the segment declined by 30 basis points in the quarter to 54.3%, with contraction in the U.S.

and Canada territories of 20 basis points and contraction in LatAm, partially offset by margin improvement in Europe. Segment operating earnings were $74.2 million in the quarter. A decrease of 17.5% versus the prior year, driven by lower sales and declines in gross margin, as well as expected SG&A increases. Segment operating margin deteriorated by 250 basis points to 13% compared to the prior year.

Now turning to the Beauty Systems Group segment. Same-store sales increased by 1.2% in the first quarter. Net sales for the segment were $411.1 million in the quarter, an increase of 0.5% compared to the prior year. Foreign currency translation had no impact on the segment's revenue growth in the quarter.

Additionally, BSG's e-commerce platform grew 23.7% in the quarter. BSG's gross margin was 40.3% in the quarter, an increase of 30 basis points from the prior year. This represents continued progress for BSG with more work to do. Our efforts will continue in coming quarters.

Segment operating for BSG were $62.4 million, approximately flat to the prior year, driven by an increase in same-store sales, gross margin expansion, but higher SG&A expenses, driven primarily by personnel inflation. Segment operating margin was flat to prior year at 15.2%. Now a quick update on our supply chain modernization. In a small part of BSG's business in the west, we are testing JDA's demand forecasting purchase order and store replenishment modules.

Recall that we have said that we will very carefully manage this project with full testing of JDA slowly rolling out to other territories and parts of the business only when we are ready. We are not yet satisfied that the JDA demand and store replenishment algorithms are responding appropriately to our business. So we are going to take further time before rolling this effort to its next location, our new North Texas Alliance distribution center. While the facility will be ready for operation early in the third quarter, we anticipate start-up toward the end of the third quarter, given the need to test JDA further before deploying the systems to our new facility.

Our start of the facility will be focused on the Beauty Systems Group e-commerce, full service, and Armstrong McCall businesses. Eventually, this distribution center will also service both Sally and counter prop stores and Sally's e-commerce platform. That expansion will come in future quarters. Separately, we are on track with respect to the European supply chain changes that we called out last quarter.

Now turning to our full-year financial guidance for fiscal year 2020. We are holding our top line guidance of revenue up 1.2% and same-store sales up 0.5% to 1.5%. Out of an abundance of caution, notwithstanding many steps we are taking to offset the Q1 impact, we think it's prudent and transparent to modify our guidance on adjusted operating earnings to be approximately flat to prior years. We are taking this step to ensure that if we need to invest further during the year, and for the transformation, we have the room.

However, even with that step, when combined with the benefits of the debt reduction and share repurchases to date, we are holding our EPS guidance for the year that were at the lower end of our guidance. Thank you for your time this morning. Now I'd like to turn the call back over to the operator for Chris and I to take your questions.

Questions & Answers:


Operator

Thank you. [Operator instructions] And our first question we will go to the line of Karru Martinson with Jefferies. Please go ahead with your question.

Karru Martinson -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Just wondering if we could dig into the Charlotte market remodels and kind of look at what has been different in those stores where you have put the money and put a lot of the learnings into it versus the rest of it? And how can we take those learnings and move them out to the national chain.

Chris Brickman -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Great question. We're quite excited by the remodel cycles that we have under way, both in Las Vegas and in Charlotte, and now in each store that we remodel or the new stores that we have popping up across the country. We have been quite focused on the assortments, really leading with our differentiated core with color and care, with color and vivid color in particular being at the front of the store with the technology integration whether it's on the app or on the kiosks relative to ColorView. And then just better retail fundamentals around sidelines, guidance through the store, wayfinding, if you will, and focusing more on other elements of the portfolio like nail and men's, etc.

The Charlotte market is an iteration off of what we're doing in Las Vegas as we continue to improve. And while we have all but three or four of the stores in that market now remodeled, we of course are going to continue to learn and evolve as we carry forward.

Karru Martinson -- Jefferies -- Analyst

And then how are those stores comping relative to the national chain? Are they seeing greater e-commerce penetration? Where do they stand today?

Chris Brickman -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I'll answer the question in connection with the Las Vegas market, because it's too soon on Charlotte for me to have a statistically significant answer for you, and they are comping positive to the control group that we're measuring it against, and we are seeing good lift relative to other parts of the portfolio, e-commerce, etc. That said, we still have things we need to improve around some of the cosmetic categories, as well as some of our inventory positions, but we're quite pleased with the results so far.

Karru Martinson -- Jefferies -- Analyst

OK.And just on professional brands, the three-year contract with Coty, I mean, have you thought about M&A on your own side? Are there brands that you would like to add to your portfolio of own brands or exclusives?

Chris Brickman -- President and Chief Executive Officer

We always look at brands as they come available. But in general, we've been mostly focused on acquiring regional distribution rights, and we have some more of those that we're working on now. But the reality is they tend to be smaller acquisitions of distributors who have exclusive rights, and we acquire those rights and add those to our existing stores, which drives same-store sales.

Aaron Alt -- President of Sally Beauty Supply and Chief Financial Officer

I would add, one of the benefits of the organization we have is a robust pipeline of own brand technology and own brand product for the Sally part of the portfolio. We're very careful how that translates to BSG, given our partnerships, but we have significant capabilities from own brand development in-house.

Karru Martinson -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Thank you very much, guys. Really appreciate it.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question will come from the line of Oliver Chen with Cowen and Company. Please go ahead with your question.

Ross Collins -- Cowen and Company -- Analyst

Hey, good morning. This is Ross, on for Oliver. I just had a question on the affirmed guidance versus the first-quarter results. Could you speak a bit to the investment plans, how they might evolve through the balance of the year just versus your original plan? You mentioned in the first quarter you kind of tempered on the marketing spend given the top line, so I just wanted to hear your thoughts on how you're thinking about the rest of the year? Thanks.

Aaron Alt -- President of Sally Beauty Supply and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, happy to. I think if you go back to our last earnings call, while we don't issue quarterly guidance, I went out of my way to talk about the fact that the investment profile for us, whether on the supply chain side or on the marketing investment side, was particularly heavy in Q2, but also heavier in Q1. And so with much of our brand investment in Sally launching January 6 and with much of our capability investments spread Q1, Q2 and a little bit into Q3, our expectations for growth were more back-end loaded. And I think I was clear on that, both from a sales perspective and from a profit perspective.

No escaping the fact that we had some challenges in Q1, but we're able to reaffirm the guidance based on what we believe the impact of those investments to be.

Ross Collins -- Cowen and Company -- Analyst

Great. Thank you. And then, Chris, just following up on your remarks on the BSG looking to add either capabilities or brands. Could you just elaborate a bit more on what you might be looking for there, the timing around that potentially? And then how it just ties into the broader capital allocation strategy moving forward with the debt and the repurchases? Thanks so much.

Chris Brickman -- President and Chief Executive Officer

As I said, I think the reality is, and you've seen this in past years, we have consistently found one or two acquisitions a year within BSG that are good regional fits where we acquire distribution rights to brands, perhaps some stores, and then we layer that brand distribution rights on to our existing footprint. So we continue to look for that. We have opportunities in the pipeline. I can't give timing on those at this point in time, but we'll continue to work on those, and I expect there'll be some this year.

Aaron Alt -- President of Sally Beauty Supply and Chief Financial Officer

I believe the last acquisition we did for BSG was late 2017, early 2018. And so like you said, we're back in the hunt, and this has been part of the business model for BSG. As it relates to capital allocation, our view has not changed. And again, if you go back to what I said last quarter and I assume the quarters before that as well, the first priority is invest in the business.

And the practical reality is, is we have plenty on our plate and investing further dollars against that, we will land the year where we expected to from a capital perspective and where we have predicted. We are going to get our debt down to 2.5. I've been clear that that's our target as well. And we'll only look at share repurchase after we've taken advantage of investing in the business where we need to, where we've found opportunities to bring our debt down, and if the market presents us with an opportunity.

Ross Collins -- Cowen and Company -- Analyst

Great. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Next we will go to the line of Simeon Gutman with Morgan Stanley. Your line is open.

Unknown speaker

Hi. This is Josh, on for Simeon Gutman. Thanks for taking our questions. There are a lot of positive things going on in the transformation, but the initiatives are on a range of different timelines.

Can you maybe talk about when you expect to see positive comps in both segments at the same time and what needs to occur for that to happen?

Chris Brickman -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So we guided to positive comps for this year, and we continue to maintain that guidance. So we expect that to happen pretty quickly, as you can imagine. I'm not going to give specific times and quarters and numbers. But, listen, we're disappointed with what happened in Q1.

There were a lot of things that contributed to that. And we feel, obviously, with our revised guidance that we still feel positive about the year overall. We do feel like we've fixed a number of the issues that contributed to the Q1 performance, and now we've got to go deliver.

Aaron Alt -- President of Sally Beauty Supply and Chief Financial Officer

I think it's important to add that one of the benefits we have, we are increasingly getting at SBH is the combination of the work that Pam Kohn is doing across our merchandising organization in support of the greater whole, the work that Mark Spinks is doing with the BSG team, the work that the Sally team is driving as well. It's additive to each other versus being in silos. And while there's more work to do, part of what gives me confidence in the guidance that we've issued, reissued today is that, you're right, the timing is a little different in different places, but it will all come together and it will be in service of the greater portfolio.

Unknown speaker

All right. Thank you. And then just as a quick follow-up, we've seen some other POS transition issues as recently as 2018. I know some of the headwinds in this quarter were a little bit for different reasons.

But can you maybe talk about how you reevaluated technology investments and the timelines following the issue and whether you identified any other risks around the transformation for 2020?

Chris Brickman -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, let me start by saying, I think there's always risk around technology transformations, especially when you're touching as many pieces of the platform as we are at the same time. We experienced that, to a large degree, in Q1. And, again, I believe we've fixed the majority of those. We are working very hard to try and consolidate -- to make sure that we're looking at all interdependencies, and that's very much the reason why we put together a chief transformation office, and that we're putting the resources against it and creating headroom in our P&L to make sure we have the resources against addressing issues as they come up and avoiding issues wherever we can.

So I think we're well-positioned to execute the projects. That being said, I won't claim that there's no risk. But at the same time, I think we're putting the appropriate level of resources in it to make sure that we're looking for interdependencies and addressing them proactively. And obviously, Q1 was a wake-up call that we're working hard on.

Unknown speaker

All right. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Next we'll go to the line of Olivia Tong with Bank of America. Please go ahead.

Olivia Tong -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

If you could provide a little bit more color on the disruption, because your gross margin, actually, while it came in light of our expectations, the decline was more pronounced or the delta was more pronounced in SG&A. Yet it sounds like the big surprise to you was incorrectly priced promotions, which presumably would have had a bigger impact on gross margin. So just would appreciate your help on -- if I'm missing something there. And then specifically to Sally Beauty, I know that traffic was down because of the shortened holiday, but how about ticket? Because I always thought of Sally Beauty as sort of a little bit less exposed to holiday, given the stable like nature of hair maintenance.

So was the weakness disproportionately tied to like appliances? And do you now have a lot of like durables inventory to work down? Thank you.

Aaron Alt -- President of Sally Beauty Supply and Chief Financial Officer

That was a lot.

Olivia Tong -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

I'm sorry.

Aaron Alt -- President of Sally Beauty Supply and Chief Financial Officer

Let me attempt to unpack, and Chris will keep me honest as far as what pieces of the question that I may have missed as we carry forward. As it relates to your question on gross margin and SG&A, the answer is the following. Let me start from the reverse. Our SG&A was up versus prior year, but we had expected it to be up.

And we had expected to be up in connection with the wage and personnel inflation that we knew that was coming our way, given the position within our team portfolio. We had expected to be up with modest investments, more modest investments in marketing, as well as some of the opex components of the implementations we have under way. Fact of reality is, while it was up, it wasn't as up as much as we had planned for it to be, because as we got into November, we realized we had a problem and we started optimizing to attempt to mitigate the impact. On the gross margin line, you're right, the impact versus last year was lower than SG&A versus the prior year.

But what's important to understand is from what we were targeting or what we were after perspective, we were expecting higher sales growth, same-store sales growth, as well as increased gross margins, which was what was impacted by the factors that I called out. The POS issues, the integration issues, we had pricing dropping, which -- unexpectedly, which was a direct hit to our top line. Right? Similarly, with some of the elements of the promotional strategy and the reward redemption, that was a direct impact to the top line and to the gross margin as well.

Chris Brickman -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Let me just step in for a moment, and I can kick it back to Aaron. So as Aaron articulates, right, we had expected gross margin to be up more as part of what we were planning on investing more in the business, which we did do. The reality is, it's a testament to the durability of our business that despite all these disruption issues and pricing issues, gross margin actually held up. It just didn't increase as much as we expected it to.

And so I think the reality is now we've got most of those issues fixed and we are expecting gross margin to expand and we continue to expect to need to invest in the business, which we articulated at the beginning of the year. I'm going to let Aaron answer the issue around our traffic issues relative to the quarter and how that affected specific categories in ticket.

Aaron Alt -- President of Sally Beauty Supply and Chief Financial Officer

I think what I would say is this, we do have a lot of inventory. Right? It's one of our key issues internally of how are we going to bring our inventory down. We've seen more progress there at Sally in the U.S. and Canada than we have in Europe and in BSG, and those businesses are well aware and are working hard on their plans.

I wouldn't call our inventory position to be tied directly to the traffic issues. I think we did a better job than prior years of managing our inventory. And, frankly, the businesses were better prepared for the calendar fourth quarter than they've ever been. We just ran into a couple of things along the way, which were distracting as we carry forward.

And so in the context of our portfolio, in the context of our business, we will work on resolving the inventory, dealing with the inventory that we have.

Chris Brickman -- President and Chief Executive Officer

The only issue was ticket. Did we see a decline in tickets in the quarter?

Aaron Alt -- President of Sally Beauty Supply and Chief Financial Officer

Not really. No.

Chris Brickman -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I didn't think so.

Olivia Tong -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Thank you. That's really helpful. And then just lastly, any sense on whether the sort of price promo issues may have driven some potential pantry loading by consumers? And could that potentially impact future quarters as they kind of capitalize on lower-than-expected prices? And then, I'm sorry, one other thing, does the leap year provide any benefit to, specifically, the next quarter. Sorry that's it for me.

Chris Brickman -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So let me start with the first one. I think it's unlikely it did much pantry loading. In many cases, the customer received the benefit as they got to the register and were checking out and ended up paying less than they expected. So I don't think we're going to see much in the way of pantry loading, and we haven't seen it affect our sales post-Christmas.

So I don't think we're going to see much from that. As for leap year, I don't know, Aaron, if you have any thoughts on that?

Aaron Alt -- President of Sally Beauty Supply and Chief Financial Officer

It won't have a material impact.

Chris Brickman -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah.

Olivia Tong -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Thank you so much.

Operator

Thank you. Next we'll go to the line of Lauren Frasch with Wells Fargo. Your line is open.

Lauren Frasch -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

Good morning, everyone. Thanks for taking my question. I want to dig a little deeper into Europe. That region has been a meaningful drag on Sally results last year, but it seemed like there was a pretty solid inflection in the first quarter.

Could you detail some of the initiatives of your strategy out there? And how confident are you that performance has reached more of a stable level now? Thank you.

Chris Brickman -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, listen, I think we would say we have more work to do, but we're pleased with the progress thus far. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, this Project Surge cuts around multiple platforms. So a lot of progress is being made, especially in the U.K. on store and store ops.

We're excited about that. The team is obviously working on some of their customer marketing and direct marketing activities and getting crisper in terms of how we communicate with our customers. They're working on product assortment. They've made good progress on adding to their product assortment issues, which I think will help.

And we've got more innovation coming, as I mentioned, with the launch of Redken color coming in the latter half of the year. And obviously, we've had some disruption there with technology they've been working on and made a lot of progress stabilizing their IT platform. So I think the team feels good about where they're at. They've got lots of work left, but it was nice to see the progress in the quarter and we expect to see more as we move through the year.

Aaron Alt -- President of Sally Beauty Supply and Chief Financial Officer

I want to go back to a point that I made earlier. One of the reasons why I have confidence in where we're going, where this is taking us is the teams, the leaders are working better together than they ever have before, with Olivier's leadership in Europe and with the benefit of some of the learnings we've already had in the U.S. on the retail side, particularly around store operations, first in the U.K. and increasing on the continent as well.

We're really starting to get back to the -- to get the expertise and retail fundamentals that we need to succeed as we carry forward. So good progress, but more work to do.

Lauren Frasch -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

All right. Thank you so much.

Operator

Thank you. Next we'll go to line of Carla Casella with JP Morgan. Your line is open.

Carla Casella -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Hi. I'm wondering, you talked about the Coty agreement. Which brands is that related to? And was it similar to your past agreement?

Chris Brickman -- President and Chief Executive Officer

It was, and it covers all of the professional brands that sell through BSG. So all of the Wella color line, I believe, Kadus, as well as their other lighting lines and Sebastian product. So it's all the professional products that flow through BSG.

Carla Casella -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

OK. Would that preclude you from buying those brands if they are for sale? Or could that change if the buyer buys them?

Chris Brickman -- President and Chief Executive Officer

No, it does not and nor does it preclude us from buying them either.

Aaron Alt -- President of Sally Beauty Supply and Chief Financial Officer

Well, I guess, the further layer I'd put on that, well, of course, we don't comment on any M&A. Anyone who does buy that business will inherit the contract with us. And so that's our comment on our script was, it provides us with certainty as we carry forward. It gives them the certainty that one of their largest customers is in hand.

It gives us the certainty that we don't have to worry about key brands like that in our portfolio for a three-year period.

Carla Casella -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

OK. Great. That's really helpful. And then you mentioned inventory being a little heavy post-holiday.

How long do you think it will take to bring that down? And is there any inventory in there that you have a risk of aging that you need to mark down and move more quickly?

Aaron Alt -- President of Sally Beauty Supply and Chief Financial Officer

I guess here's how I'd answer the question. The team here is very clear that inventory has an impact on cash, right? And the team here is increasingly clear that we need to ensure that we are managing the business, both to the income statement and to the cash flow. And so we are going to do everything we can to bring the inventory down without impacting our business to maximize our cash and without having to take a hit to the gross margin line that we want to avoid. And so I am not here today to call out an impact to guidance of our inventory.

I don't want to overstate the concern. But based on our earlier answer, we view it as something we just have to manage through every day as a retailer.

Carla Casella -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

OK. And then just one last one. Amazon earlier had announced they want to go into that beauty business. It seemed to say, they have not heard much about it lately.

Is there any update from what you're seeing from a competitive standpoint? Any changes in that professional beauty competitive landscape?

Chris Brickman -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I haven't seen much. I mean, we watch it constantly, as you can imagine. As we look at the website, it looks the same as it did when it originally launched. Most of the brands that are carried on there actually sold through resellers.

And our view is, obviously, we're continuing to sign agreements such as the Coty agreement that are exclusive agreements with our vendors. So in our mind, it continues to be about the same. And our view is, we're going to continue to execute. Again, I would go back to the point, which is from our vendors' perspective, it doesn't bring anything incremental to the business.

In terms of helping them recruit new stylists to a color line, they need personal contact and training to accomplish that. So all Amazon would do would be transfer a customer from an existing channel to another channel as opposed to help them recruit new customers. So our job is to add the right digital and service capabilities to our existing business and help them build their brands. And, obviously, we continue to do that.

And I think that's why you're seeing our customers renew their contracts.

Carla Casella -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

That's Great. OK. Thank you so much.

Operator

Thank you. Next we go to the line of William Reuter with Bank of America. Your line is open.

William Reuter -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Hi. Just a couple. With regard to your exclusive brands or private label, however you described them, are there any that have grown to the point where you started to distribute them in other channels? Or do you just view those as, I guess, ways to drive traffic to your own retail stores?

Aaron Alt -- President of Sally Beauty Supply and Chief Financial Officer

We view the own brands at Sally, which is about 45% of our portfolio, and our exclusive brands at BSG, which is about 53% of our portfolio, as being key points of differentiation to us why they need to come to Sally or to BSG. In connection with the digital business, there are places, as we are participating in marketplaces, where we are participating in the marketplaces, leading with our own brands, because they stay within our control in that way. As we sit here today, our focus has been on taking advantage of the technology, the brand in-house that we have across our businesses and so leveraging Europe and the U.S. and U.S.

and the Europe, for instance, and not on driving sales of those own brands through other channels beyond our own digital efforts.

William Reuter -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

OK.

Chris Brickman -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I would just comment, and Aaron has it exactly right that we continue to use these as a way to drive traffic to our existing stores and businesses. The Ion brand in Sally has become a major and significant brand as a global brand, and we sell it only through our outlets. But it is of a scale that is quite large, and I think it's an underappreciated part of Sally.

William Reuter -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Would you ever consider acquisitions of brands that would be so large that it would probably not make sense to have them be largely exclusive to your brick-and-mortar stores as opposed to being in other brick-and-mortar stores?

Chris Brickman -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I think that's hard. I'm not saying we would never consider it, but it's hard to do, because in most cases, those brands have global footprints that extend well beyond our footprint, and it would be very hard for us to sustain the brand. So I think that would be tough to do, but we will always look at them as they come available.

William Reuter -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

OK. And then just lastly, you talked about the traffic challenges in the first three weeks of November, as well as December. Do you view those as being somewhat unique to the holiday period and that, that will be a continued challenge during that period of the year? Or do you think this is something which could be a challenge in the other kind of timing quarters of the year as well?

Chris Brickman -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, I guess I would answer it this way. I observed earlier in my remarks that following Christmas, we saw traffic revert to the more positive trends that we had been calling out on early earnings calls. And so it is our hope, without being with a certainty, that with everything we have going on with the impact on marketing, with the impact on better operations, the retail fundamentals that indeed traffic that Q4 or rather Q1 financially for us was a unique set of circumstances, and that we aren't repeating that.

William Reuter -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

All right. That make sense. Thanks a lot.

Operator

Thank you. And we will go to the line of Jenna Giannelli with Goldman Sachs. Your line is open.

Jenna Giannelli -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Great. Thanks so much. I appreciate you squeezing me in. I just wanted to follow up a little bit more on the technology and the POS implementation issues.

Is there any way you could maybe quantify, specifically, the sales and the gross margin impact? And I guess, would the comps have been positive if we didn't have these issues? But gross margins have expanded. I guess you called out a number of times that the results were below our expectations. I guess, excluding the tech issues, would they really have been more in line with your expectations? Thanks.

Aaron Alt -- President of Sally Beauty Supply and Chief Financial Officer

You know I'm not going to put a dollar figure on each of the impacts for the quarter, although if you review my comments pretty carefully, you may be able to do the math around where we landed versus where we expected to be. The three or four factors I called were roughly equal in significance. I believe it was three on the top line and four on the bottom line. And you can get some good assumptions around that.

Jenna Giannelli -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

OK. That's helpful. And then I just -- I know you reaffirmed or mentioned the 2.5 times leverage target. But what is your thinking about acquisitions? I guess, how high would you be willing to take the leverage in the interim really for such an acquisition? Just to kind of give us a sense of the size and scale that you're thinking about or would be open to.

Chris Brickman -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Look, I think I would leave you with this. We are not here today to announce an acquisition. We're not. And our operating plans put us in a place where we get back to the 2.5.

Right? And so someday, if we have something to announce, which has a material impact on our leverage plans, of course, we'll talk about that. But as we sit here today, we are focused on investing in our business, bringing our debt down and then again if the market presents with an opportunity buying back some shares. The good news is we have plenty to do from an investment or business perspective, and the teams are head down focused on getting us through our transformation with everything under way. OK?

Jenna Giannelli -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Thanks so much.

Operator

Thank you. I'm showing no further questions at this time. Please continue.

Chris Brickman -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, then, thank you for your questions today. To summarize, while a challenging quarter, we continue to make progress against our transformation efforts and we are focused on landing the year consistent with the revised guidance we have provided. I want to leave you with this, notwithstanding the first quarter, we got this, and we will deliver on our transformation objectives. Thank you for joining us today.

Duration: 61 minutes

Call participants:

Jeff Harkins -- Investor Relations and Strategic Planning

Chris Brickman -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Aaron Alt -- President of Sally Beauty Supply and Chief Financial Officer

Karru Martinson -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Ross Collins -- Cowen and Company -- Analyst

Unknown speaker

Olivia Tong -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Lauren Frasch -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

Carla Casella -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

William Reuter -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Jenna Giannelli -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

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