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Lands' End (LE 0.11%)
Q1 2021 Earnings Call
Jun 02, 2021, 8:30 a.m. ET


  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:


Good day, and thank you for standing by. Welcome to the Lands' End's first-quarter 2021 earnings conference call. [Operator instructions] After the speakers' presentation, there will be a question-and-answer session. [Operator instructions] I would now like to hand the conference over to your speaker today, Bernie McCracken, chief accounting officer.

Please go ahead.

Bernie McCracken -- Chief Accounting Officer

Good morning, and thank you for joining the Lands' End earnings call for a discussion of our first-quarter results, which we released this morning and can be found on our website, landsend.com. On the call today, you will hear from Jerome Griffith, our chief executive officer; and Jim Gooch, our president and chief financial officer. After the company's prepared remarks, we will conduct a question-and-answer session. Please also note that the information we're about to discuss includes forward-looking statements.

Such statements involve risks and uncertainties. The company's actual results could differ materially from those discussed on this call. Factors that could contribute to such differences include but are not limited to those items noted and included in the company's SEC filings, including our annual report on Form 10-K and quarterly reports on Form 10-Q. The forward-looking information that is provided by the company on this call represents the company's outlook as of today and we do not undertake any obligation to update forward-looking statements made by us.

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Subsequent events and developments may cause the company's outlook to change. Of note, in this respect, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have an impact on our business, and its duration could materially alter our outlook. During this call, we'll be referring to non-GAAP measures. These non-GAAP measures are not prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles.

A reconciliation of non-GAAP financial measures to the most directly comparable GAAP measures can be found in our earnings release issued earlier today. A copy of which is posted in the investor relations section of our website at landsend.com. With that, I will turn the call over to Jerome Griffith.

Jerome Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Bernie. Good morning, and thank you for joining us today for a discussion of our first-quarter results. We are extremely pleased with our first-quarter results across key financial metrics, with performance far exceeding our expectations. The momentum in our global e-commerce business is stronger than ever as we continued to execute our digitally led product and marketing strategies.

Our continued global e-commerce growth is underpinned by our best-in-class foundation and our continued advancements across our four strategic pillars of product, digital, unit channel distribution, as well as infrastructure and processes. For the first quarter, revenue grew 48% and global e-commerce increased 44% year over year, while adjusted EBITDA increased $34.1 million to $22.5 million from the first quarter of 2020. While the first-quarter 2020 performance was obviously impacted by COVID-19, compared to the first quarter of fiscal 2019, revenue increased 22%, global e-commerce revenue grew 26%, and adjusted EBITDA increased $19.5 million. Our results demonstrate the strength and momentum in our business that began pre-COVID and is continuing as we emerged from the pandemic.

Through our digitally led and data-driven focus, we increased global new customers by 71% in the first quarter. Our total global customer file expanded the first quarter by 27% from the prior year. Our digitally led strategy, as well as our product and marketing, enable us to achieve customer retention of more than 55%. These customers become more productive over time as they shop more with our brands.

Importantly, we are efficiently acquiring these customers who, on average, become profitable within the first year. These metrics illustrate the work we have done over the past three years to create a foundation to profitably grow our market share and the global e-commerce apparel business. We attribute our successful new customer acquisition and retention strategy to our enhanced marketing initiatives implemented over the past several years, specifically the significant shift toward digital marketing. In past earnings calls, we have discussed with you the search engine optimization techniques that we use to drive traffic and grow market share.

With digital marketing our primary focus, we accelerated our spending within paid social media during the quarter. The results so far have been great. Our paid social marketing was more productive than other digital marketing initiatives in the first quarter and was the primary driver of the strength in our new customer acquisition. Within our paid social initiatives in early stages and our strong data analytics capabilities, we see significant opportunity to continue to efficiently drive new customers to Land's End.

Our U.S. e-commerce sales were strong, increasing an impressive 47% during the first quarter. Beyond the U.S., we are also incredibly pleased with the performance of our e-commerce business in Europe, which was up 55% in the first quarter as we continue to benefit from the initiatives we implemented to drive market share gains. The strong acceptance of the Lands' End brand in this region furthers our confidence in the strong growth opportunity in front of us as we execute a similar playbook to what drove the strength in the U.S.

and advanced our market share position. I'd like to turn now to our product. We continued to emphasize our let's get comfy messaging this quarter as casual comfort remained a priority for our customers and led our global e-commerce business. Our strongest performing categories were focused on comfort and versatility, including swimwear, sleepwear, and knits.

Swimwear was a standout this quarter as customers began to make travel plans again. Within the category, swimwear performed across the entire family, with positive customer response to the versatility in our product assortment. Sleepwear and home continue to outperform, and we're expanding the offering to year-round in order to capitalize on this broader opportunity. Our knits business remains a top-performing category as we continue to update our colors and styles to meet our customers' lifestyle needs.

As an example, we combined cold-weather fabrics with warm-weather colors as we build upon our seasonal transitional offering. Our product is well-positioned to benefit from what we believe is a permanent shift to a more casual comfort aesthetic. We expect the changes that we began to see at the start of the pandemic are here to stay as many customers will continue to work from home or moved to a new hybrid of in-office and at-home work even as the economy fully reopens. And we see comfort playing a bigger role in wear-to-work.

As such, our khakis and woven businesses are attractively positioned to capitalize on the continued strength in the casual wardrobe, particularly as customers refresh their wardrobes in preparation for the office. Turning now to our third-party partnerships. We are pleased with our performance both at Kohl's and Amazon this quarter with -- which both exceeded expectations. These relationships have enabled us to expand our reach to consumers with similar attributes to the Lands' End customer.

As we look to future partnerships, we will continue to be targeted and thoughtful in our distribution. With a strong foundation and flexible operating model, we have been able to navigate this unprecedented period and positioned ourselves even stronger on the other side of this pandemic. Our performance over the last three years gives us confidence that we are well-positioned to drive long-term profitable growth as we continue to advance on proven strategies to capitalize on the shifts in consumer behavior, which I will speak to following Jim's discussion of our financial performance. With that, I will turn it over to Jim.

Jim Gooch -- President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Jerome, and good morning. We're very pleased with the strong results we delivered in the first quarter as we continue to build on our data-driven initiatives. Given the impact of COVID-19 last year, I'll make select comparisons to our first quarter of 2019 in my prepared remarks to help normalize our improving trends. For the first quarter, total revenue of $321.3 million.

That's an increase of 48% from 2020 and 22% from 2019. Our performance compared to our 2019 levels demonstrates the continued strength in our underlying business as we emerge from the pandemic. Our global e-commerce sales increased 44% from 2020 and 26% from 2019 as the momentum we had in our business heading into the pandemic is accelerating. The strength was led by impressive growth of 47% in our U.S.

e-commerce business and we also saw growth in our international business up 37%, driven by Europe increasing 55% from 2020. Our better-than-expected results were driven by strength across a number of our key categories including swimwear, sleepwear, and knits. This performance was supported by marketing strategies that continue the message of value and comfort in our product assortments. Revenue for our third-party business increased to $11.8 million, a $10.3 million improvement compared to last year.

This increase was driven primarily by the launch of our full product assortment on kohls.com and a curated assortment of our key items in 150 of their store locations. In our outfitters business, sales increased 28% with a faster-than-expected recovery in our national accounts and school uniform sales. We're seeing demand in our travel-related national accounts begin to ramp up as people return to planning trips. We now expect this recovery to accelerate throughout 2021 and into 2022.

School uniforms is also showing signs of recovery and we expect this business to normalize as schools reopen this fall. While small and medium-sized businesses have been slower to recover, we remain confident that the strategies we're putting forward will drive improvement for the business over the long term. Gross margin in the first quarter increased to 46%, approximately a 260-basis-point improvement from 2020. Gross margin expansion was led by our U.S.

e-commerce business with improved promotional strategies and continued use of data analytics for both our pricing and inventory management, helping to drive higher merchandising margin. This resulted in delivering the highest gross margin level in over four years. More importantly, we believe our merchandising margin improvements are sustainable given the enhanced data analytics capabilities and more disciplined inventory management strategies we've implemented over the past couple of years. This strength more than offsets the higher shipping costs, as well as the impact from sales mix in our growing lower-margin third-party business.

As a percentage of sales, SG&A improved at 39.1%. That's down approximately 970 basis points from 2020 and 540 basis points from 2019. The improvement was due to leveraging the higher sales and continued overall cost controls, slightly offset by higher digital marketing spending. Our better-than-anticipated results led to net income for the quarter of $2.6 million or $0.08 per share, compared to a net loss of $20.6 million or $0.64 per share in 2020 and a net loss of $6.8 million or $0.21 cents per share in 2019.

In addition to these GAAP measures, adjusted EBITDA is an important profitability measure that we use to manage our business internally. For the quarter, adjusted EBITDA it was $22.5 million, which was significantly above our expectations. Our EBITDA improved from a loss of $11.6 million in 2020 and earnings of $3 million in 2019. Turning to the balance sheet.

Inventories at the end of the quarter were $394.3 million, compared to $383.2 million a year ago. The strong sell-through of our global e-commerce business has positioned us with healthy and lean inventories as we head into the second quarter. Before providing our guidance, I'd like to share an update on our capex plans. Overall, we're still projecting capex to be approximately $26 million for 2021.

In addition to our spending on our customer-facing initiatives, we've started the development of our new warehouse management system focused on personal management while optimizing our third-party carrier rates. Now, I'd like to discuss our outlook for the second quarter and for the full year. As we think about the relative performance, our outlook reflects strong growth over pre-pandemic levels, particularly taking into account that 2021 will be a recovery period in our outfitters business. Beginning with the second quarter, we expect net revenue to be between $345 million and $355 million, driven by our momentum in our global e-commerce business.

We expect net income of $1.5 million to $4 million and diluted earnings per share to be between $0.05 and $0.12. We expect adjusted EBITDA to be in the range of $20 million to $23 million. For the full year, we are raising our estimates based on our strong performance thus far in 2021. We now expect net revenue to be between $1.61 billion and $1.65 billion, primarily driven by our momentum in our global e-commerce business and the continued recovery in our outfitters business.

We're raising our net income outlook to a range of 27.5 million to 34 million and diluted earnings per share to be between $0.84 and $1.04. We now expect adjusted EBITDA to be in the range of 114 million to 122 million. The assumptions in our guidance account for higher shipping costs and surcharges that we believe will continue throughout 2021. We expect our continued strength in merchandise margins will more than offset these headwinds.

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

Jerome Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Jim. We were extremely proud of our accomplishments this quarter, as well as over the past year despite a still challenging environment. Our strength and resilience was further demonstrated by the momentum in our business during the first quarter, with global e-commerce delivering 26% growth over our 2019 pre-pandemic trends. As we look ahead, we see significant opportunities for Lands' End.

Grounded in our four strategic pillars of getting the product right, being a digitally driven company, implementing a unit channel distribution strategy, and enhancing our infrastructure and processes to drive long-term profitable growth for our shareholders. Through the pandemic, the accelerated shift to online shopping and increased demand for comfort enabled us to leverage our business model to further advance our market share position. Importantly, with over 95% of our business transacted online, we continue to see ample opportunity in front of us as we believe the pandemic has changed customer shopping behavior, driving a significant increase in U.S. households willing to shop online, particularly within our target demographic.

As a result, we believe our total addressable market has nearly doubled, further expanding our runway for growth. In terms of our marketing initiatives, we continue to invest in our digital strategies, which now represent approximately half of our marketing spend. Our heightened focus on paid social media has been yielding strong results and driving profitable new customer acquisition, and we will continue to test new strategies in combination with refinements to search engine optimization and social media. At the same time, we continue to drive efficiencies in catalog spending to optimize profitability.

Through a combination of these successful marketing strategies and our data-driven initiatives, we see opportunity for continued growth and retention in new customers. Looking to our product assortment, we will continue to lead our let's get comfy campaign, emphasizing comfort, as well as versatility. We believe that comfort is here to stay, and we are well-positioned to meet the needs of consumers as they refresh their wardrobes in preparation for a return to the office, at least part-time, and to resume a more social lifestyle. We will also remain focused on Wear Now apparel with the introduction of seasonal colors and knits as we head into the summer.

As always, we will leverage our use of data analytics to inform product assortments, as we continue to adapt to our consumers' evolving needs. Turning to our third-party partnerships. With regards to Kohl's, we remain on track to expand distribution to 300 Kohl's stores in 2021 and look forward to continuing to grow this successful partnership. We are seeing assortments resonate with customers, both online and in stores.

Subsequent to quarter-end, we launched our second Draper James swimwear collection, which we are excited about, given the strength in our first collection. Building on this partnership, we also announced plans to launch sleepwear and home collections with Draper James, founded by Reese Witherspoon, this fall as we continue to see strong demand in these categories. We also remain pleased with the performance of our Lands' End marketplace. While it is still early and our marketplace represents a small portion of our business, we believe this is an opportunity to expand our reach by providing customers with complementary products that address additional needs.

We will continue to look for third-party brands to welcome to our site and expand our overall offering. Next, building on what Jim discussed in regard to the evolution of our outfitters business. The pace of recovery in our national and school uniform accounts is occurring faster than we had anticipated, furthering our optimism in this business. We remain focused on driving growth in our small and medium-sized customers, which is recovering at a slower pace.

Last quarter, we discussed steps that we are taking to advance our position as the authority in branded apparel and hard goods for small and medium-sized businesses. With the changes we are making to enhance our website and processes, combined with their test and react approach to marketing and pricing, we continue to believe that the small and medium-sized accounts of outfitters could grow to represent approximately half of the outfitters business over the long term. In conclusion, we're extremely pleased with our first-quarter results despite the many headwinds still facing the apparel industry. The momentum in our business supports the underlying strength, particularly in our global e-commerce business.

We will continue to execute our disciplined approach grounded in our four pillars to profitably grow our business for the long term. We believe we have a strong foundation in place and an expanding total addressable market, and I am extremely excited for our significant opportunities that lie ahead. We look forward to updating you on our progress in future quarters. With that, we will open it up for questions. 

Questions & Answers:


Thank you. [Operator instructions] Our first question comes from Alex Fuhrman with Craig-Hallum. Your line is now open. 

Alex Fuhrman -- Craig-Hallum Capital Group -- Analyst

Great. Thanks very much for taking my question and congratulations on a really incredible start to the year. You know, I wanted to ask about the big sort of reward droving opportunity ahead as people start to return to their workplaces. It sounds like your product assortment certainly resonated as people were working from home with comfortable clothes and, you know, similarly, sounds like a big opportunity, you know, to kind of be that comfortable wear to work brand as people start to get back to the office.

When did you start to see sort of a pickup in work apparel? And can you give us a sense of based on what you're seeing now, how long do you think this is going to continue for? Is this going to be, you know, throughout 2021? Is this going to be sort of a multiyear reward droving as people catch up from not having updated their work attire in the last year and a half?

Jerome Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

Hey, Alex, it's Jerome. Thanks a lot. We think that going forward, what you're seeing is almost a resurgence in the apparel industry. Over the last year, you've seen fewer people shopping in stores, more people shopping online.

In fact, the big increases in online shopping have come from Gen X and baby boomers. So what we think is really, going forward, you're going to see the continued interest in shopping online and continued interest in comfort. We've seen the same product categories resonate with customers recently as we have, over the course of 2020, everyone's looking for comfort. You know, it's cotton.

It's natural fibers that stretch, and our knitwear business, our loungewear businesses have been great, and we've seen that continue into 2022. A little bit more in dresses, a little bit more in bottoms but generally, our product assortment lends itself well to comfort and versatility. So we think that this is a trend going forward and it's not going to be a blip with something happening in 2021 and then fading away in '22.

Alex Fuhrman -- Craig-Hallum Capital Group -- Analyst

Great, thanks. That makes a lot of sense. And then, you know, we'd love to talk more about the gross margin. You mentioned that rising freight cost and the supply chain constraints, in general, are likely to continue throughout the year and yet gross margin has been up really nicely because of your merchandise margins.

Where is that coming from? With commodity costs rising, is it just been a reduction of markdowns or people buying more at full price? Would love to just hear a little bit more about how you think about managing gross margin throughout the rest of the year.

Jim Gooch -- President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, I think it's really coming from probably two places mainly, Alex. So the first is our sourcing team has been doing a great job with sourcing our products, which we've been seeing some nice reductions in our average unit cost. And then the second is what we're doing from our promotional perspective, and we've talked, I think, about the last few quarters about what we're doing from our dynamic promotion pricing and what we're doing from being able to be more promotional productive, overall reducing our level of promotions, I think allowing better shelters, more profitable shelters, and therefore, raising our gross margins.

Alex Fuhrman -- Craig-Hallum Capital Group -- Analyst

Great. That's really helpful. And then lastly, if I could just ask about the uniform business, you know, it sounds like you're starting to see a nice recovery there. What's the expectation out of how that's likely to play out over the next couple of quarters? You know, it sounds like back to school off to a strong start.

You know, when did that business really tend to reach its peak season in the calendar?

Jim Gooch -- President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, I think we still expect it to recover different places from the different industries or the different businesses. The school business, as you mentioned, very early stages there. So that's all anecdotal. What we're hearing in the markets is most of the schools are hoping to be back in-person living as -- learning.

So assuming that they're back in schools with in-person learning, we expect that business to normalized this year. The national accounts have really been a pleasant surprise for us going into this year. We anticipated a longer recovery there but led by some of this return to travel, specifically leisure travel. All signs are that we haven't seen that business travel recover but the numbers coming out of the industry are that leisure travel is returning close to pre-pandemic levels and therefore we're seeing that business recovery for us.

And then the sales right now is our small or medium size, I think, as markets and cities and counties and businesses go back, we are seeing a recovery but we still think that's probably a multiyear. So school normalizing this year, national accounts going into next year, and probably small and midsized also going into next year, which hopefully you see a fully normalized level of business.

Alex Fuhrman -- Craig-Hallum Capital Group -- Analyst

Great, that's really helpful. Thank you.


Thank you. Our next question comes from Steve Marotta with C.L. King. Your line is now open.

Steve Marotta -- C.L. King & Associates -- Analyst

Good morning, Jerome and Jim. Congratulations on the quarter. Just appealing, can you back one more layer on the back-to-school season and overlay that with potential shipping delays? Are there any issues from your in stocks regarding back to school, which would it be expected to start to occur, I assume, in about six weeks or so?

Jim Gooch -- President and Chief Financial Officer

I would say we're certainly seeing challenges like everybody else in the industry. We're doing what we can to expedite it. There are instances where we're doing things from some system shipping by air. We're doing things where we're expediting the ocean freight.

That's certainly adding a little bit of cost in but we're doing some of that from the key items at this point. Steve, I'd say we think it's manageable more. That's not to say that we're not going to have some worn-off issues like everybody else. But again, I think the team's doing a great job of trying to manage around it.

Steve Marotta -- C.L. King & Associates -- Analyst

That's great. That's very helpful. And did the results in the first quarter alter your longer-term outlook? I believe that was sales of 1.92 billion and high single-digit EBITDA margins.

Jim Gooch -- President and Chief Financial Officer

We haven't updated that yet. You know, I think there's a potential of certainly that these trends continue but at this point, we're going to stick with the 1.92 one.

Steve Marotta -- C.L. King & Associates -- Analyst

OK. And something on a more granular level, can you give an example of how your data analytics recognized something that you could alter your product assortment that you wouldn't have otherwise known just from a normal trajectory of sales returns if you will? And by sales returns, I mean, growth in the particular category.

Jerome Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

Sure. One of the things that we look at is, you know, how much development time we put in, how many styles we develop. What's the exact right amount of styles and colorways to put into the assortment. And if you look at the last several years since Jim and I have been here, we've cut the number of styles that we produce on an annual basis almost in half.

That's really helped us with the productivity of the line. And then, when you look at your optimal sales curve, our AI programs, well, look at what the optimal sales programs are -- our sales curves are for each individual style and colorway and can change pricing based upon demand in order to reach that optimal curve. So those things combined are really helping us very much with, you know, how many styles we're producing, how many colorways, how many prints, and then how we're managing selling through to maximize gross margin.

Steve Marotta -- C.L. King & Associates -- Analyst

Super helpful. Thank you very much. I'll take the rest of my questions offline. Thank you.

Jim Gooch -- President and Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Steve.


[Operator signoff]

Duration: 30 minutes

Call participants:

Bernie McCracken -- Chief Accounting Officer

Jerome Griffith -- Chief Executive Officer

Jim Gooch -- President and Chief Financial Officer

Alex Fuhrman -- Craig-Hallum Capital Group -- Analyst

Steve Marotta -- C.L. King & Associates -- Analyst

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