Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Conn's (CONN) Q3 2022 Earnings Call Transcript

By Motley Fool Transcribing – Dec 7, 2021 at 2:30PM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

CONN earnings call for the period ending September 30, 2021.

Logo of jester cap with thought bubble.

Image source: The Motley Fool.

Conn's (CONN -7.80%)
Q3 2022 Earnings Call
Dec 07, 2021, 11:00 a.m. ET


  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:


Good morning and thank you for holding. Welcome to Conn's, Inc. conference call to discuss earnings for the fiscal quarter ended October 31, 2021. My name is Melissa and I'll be the operator for today.

During the presentation, all participants will be in a listen-only mode. [Operator instructions] As a reminder this conference call is being recorded. The company's earnings release dated December 7, 2021, was distributed before the market open this morning and may be accessed to the company's investor relations website at During today's call, management will discuss among other financial performance measures, adjusted net income, and adjusted earnings per diluted share.

Please refer to the company's earnings release that was issued today for a reconciliation of the non-GAAP measures to their most comparable GAAP measures. I must remind you that some of their statements made in this call are forward-looking statements within the meaning of the federal securities laws. These forward-looking statements represent the company's present expectations or beliefs concerning future events. The company cautions that such statements are necessarily based on certain assumptions, which are subject to risks and uncertainties, which could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated today.

Your speakers today are Chandra Holt, the company's CEO, and George Bchara, the company's CFO. At this time, I'd like to turn the call over to Ms. Holt. Please go ahead.

Chandra Holt -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Good morning, and welcome to Conn's third quarter fiscal year 2022 earnings conference call. I'll start today's call with a review of the quarter and outlook for the remainder of our fiscal year, before turning the call over to George who will view our financial results. Since joining the company as CEO in August, my confidence in our differentiated business model has only increased. We had a great third quarter, which reinforces my excitement in the direction Conn's headed and my belief in the enormous potential of our expanding retail, digital, and payment offerings.

Overall, I'm proud of our impressive third quarter performance, especially in this very fluid business environment. During the third quarter, earnings per share increased to 140% over the prior year to $0.60 per diluted share driven by accelerating retail sales momentum. Triple-digit year-over-year e-commerce growth and favorable credit performance. On a year-to-date basis, total retail sales have increased 26.3% to $972.7 million and earnings have increased to $3.34 per diluted share.

10 stocks we like better than Conns
When our award-winning analyst team has a stock tip, it can pay to listen. After all, the newsletter they have run for over a decade, Motley Fool Stock Advisor, has tripled the market.* 

They just revealed what they believe are the ten best stocks for investors to buy right now... and Conns wasn't one of them! That's right -- they think these 10 stocks are even better buys.

See the 10 stocks

*Stock Advisor returns as of November 10, 2021

Our strong financial results are a testament to the hard work and commitment of our team members and the actions we are pursuing to create sustainable value for our shareholders. The third quarter same-store sales exceeded our expectations increasing 20.6% over the prior fiscal year and total sales were up 28.8%. On a two-year basis, same-store sales continue to accelerate in the third quarter increasing 9.7%, compared to 3.2% in the second quarter, and 1.8% in the first quarter. We have growth underway demonstrating the rapid expansion of our e-commerce business, increasing demand across our major product categories, and our success attracting a wider range of customers.

In fact, retail sales grew across all payment options even as we lapped the significant growth we experienced last fiscal year in non-Conn's finance sales. We are also benefiting from the assortment and supply chain decisions we made earlier this year to maintain a high level in stocks to support next-day delivery. At October 31, 2021, over 80% of the items we carry were available for next-day delivery even as sales increased at a faster pace than inventory. We believe our in-stock position and next-day availability was a competitive differentiator in the third quarter and enable us to attract new customers.

While global supply chain challenges are expected to continue into the new year, this year's results demonstrate that our teams are successfully managing these issues. We believe our proactive inventory strategies will continue benefiting our business and competitive position going forward. As expected, third quarter retail gross margins were pressured by higher international freight costs that elevated the cost of goods sold. Our team continues to do a great job managing this fluid environment and optimizing our domestic distribution assets.

Our nimble supply chain approach has also allowed us to reduce dependency on quad-core. We're also taking actions to support our margins by diversifying our sourcing base, flexing our assortments, reducing promotions, and selectively increasing prices. While we remain focused on providing customers with compelling value, we will continue to closely monitor market conditions and margins across our categories and expect to continue to prudently pass along price increases to mitigate higher costs. Looking at our third quarter retail sales and performance in more detail, we saw double-digit sales growth across our top product categories within our appliance category, sales remain strong and same-store sales increased 21.9% over the prior year.

Sales growth was driven by our assortment expansion, favorable in-stock position, and rapid e-commerce growth. Furniture and mattress same-store sales increased 18.8% over the prior year. More than any other category we have pivoted the furniture assortment to a creative sourcing action to maintain a consistent flow of products and ensure a broad range of next-day delivery options for our customers. In our mattress category, we continue to see strong growth from our reinvented assortment launched earlier this year, composed of leading national brands, and our first private label brand, Dreamspot.

Dreamspot continues to exceed our expectations and is our number one selling mattress brand in both units and dollars. In addition, our expanded mattress in a box assortment is driving our online growth in the category. The same-store sales within our consumer electronics category increased 28.2% over the prior year. This success was driven primarily by higher TV unit sales, as we leaned into the growth segments of premium picture quality and ultra-large screen sizes.

In addition, as a heavily penetrated category online, TVs are benefiting from our rapid e-commerce growth. Lastly, Black Friday TV pricing started in October and contributed to a strong end to the third quarter. From a channel perspective, we ended the quarter with a record $19.2 million in e-commerce sales with a 294.8% year-over-year increase in e-commerce sales, as a result of the investments we have been making to improve the functionality of our website and create a frictionless customer experience online while also leveraging our best-in-class next day White Glove delivery capabilities. We believe our long-term e-commerce growth opportunity is significant and we continue to invest heavily in our digital experience through increased customer conversion.

With year-to-date e-commerce sales of $47.2 million, we believe we are on track to grow e-commerce sales to approximately $70 million this fiscal year. We are in the early innings of our digital transformation and I believe we can significantly increase our e-commerce penetration in the coming years to be in line with other comparable omnichannel retailers. The performance of new stores is also contributing to our growth. Recently opened new stores added 8.2% to total retail sales growth for the quarter.

We ended the third quarter with 157 stores and we have opened 11 locations year-to-date primarily within the state of Florida. The performance of recently opened stores is encouraging and we anticipate accelerating our pace of store openings next fiscal year. Turning to our credit segment, we enter the third quarter with favorable underlying credit trends reflecting the successful actions we took beginning in March of 2020 to carefully manage risk throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of these prudent actions, we achieved a third quarter credit spread of 14.6% representing the highest spread in over 10 years.

As shown on Slide 12 of our investor presentation since optimizing our credit strategy, higher credit quality customers represent a greater percentage of Conn's in-house finance sales. This has occurred even as these in-house finance sales have increased. In addition, these new higher credit quality vintages are outperforming older vintages. The weighted average origination credit score of sales finance has averaged 616 over the past four quarters, compared to 608 for the fiscal year ended January 31, 2020.

Our disciplined approach to risk has helped proactively manage our 60-plus-day delinquency and related balances. Both indicators of portfolio health remain well below pre-COVID levels. As a percent of the portfolio, the 60-plus past to balance was 8.8%, compared to 11.5% for the same period last fiscal year. The balance of reage accounts as a percent of the portfolio was 18.3%, compared to 28.2% for the same period last fiscal year.

While we expect delinquency and charge-off trends to normalize in the coming quarter, we believe they will remain below pre-COVID levels based on our enhanced credit strategy and current economic outlook. As result, I believe we are well-positioned to target our credit spread of approximately 1,000 basis points going forward. As you can see Conn's emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic stronger and better positioned for sustainable growth. Our confidence and our credit segment reflect the transformation we made during the pandemic to refine our credit strategy and add a new lease on partners.

In addition, our expanded focus across a larger total addressable market of prime, near-prime, and subprime customers is driving continued retail growth throughout all payment options. This is especially encouraging as we have lapped significant growth in cash, credit card, and third-party finance sales over the prior fiscal year. In fact, cash, credit card, and third-party finance sales have increased 23.9% during the third quarter after increasing 32.7% in the third quarter last fiscal year. Overall, I believe Conn's is uniquely positioned to navigate the current macro environment and deliver strong retail and credit results next fiscal year.

We are entering the fourth quarter with the best credit performance in our recent history reflected by the highest credit spread in over 10 years, as well as favorable 60-plus-day delinquency and reage trends. In addition, our enhanced credit strategy, which relies more heavily on our third-party partners allows us to capture incremental customers regardless of where they fall on the credit spectrum to conclude in my prepared remarks, we are well-positioned heading into the fourth quarter because of our stable credit segment and growing retail business. Overall retail trends remain strong reflecting favorable consumer demand and the growth strategies we have put in place. In addition, providing flexible and affordable payment options is an important component of our value proposition.

We believe this creates a unique competitive advantage that helps our customers better navigate the current inflationary period. I believe our recent results demonstrate the powerful value proposition we have created and the strong position we are in to navigate the dynamic retail and credit environment. Our impressive third quarter and year-to-date performance, robust in-stock inventory levels, and growing e-commerce capabilities are encouraging. And we are on track to deliver significant revenue growth and record earnings this fiscal year.

As we remain focused on the future. I am confident we are headed in the right direction. I look forward to updating investors on our enhanced strategic growth plan and long-term financial outlook at an in-person Investor Day in Houston early next year. More details will be announced in the coming weeks and I look forward to sharing our exciting strategies aimed at creating significant value for our shareholders.

Finally, I want to use this opportunity to thank our team members for your steadfast commitment to Conn. Thank you for your continued support and service. Now let me turn the call over to George to review our financial performance.

George Bchara -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Chandra. I'm encouraged by the positive momentum underway in our business and our strong position heading into the fourth quarter. On a consolidated basis, total revenues were $405.5 million for the third quarter representing a 21.4% increase from the same period last fiscal year. We reported a strong third quarter net income of $0.60 per diluted share, compared to net income of $0.25 per diluted share for the same period last fiscal year.

Looking at our retail segment in more detail, total retail revenues for the third quarter were $334.8.A 28.8% increase from the same period last fiscal year. Higher retail revenue was driven by an increase in same-store sales of 20.6% and new store growth. During the third quarter, Conn's credit sales increased 31%, which we achieved by capturing a greater share of wallet and a larger amount of higher credit quality customers within our core demographic rather than by approving applicants further down the credit spectrum. Cash, credit card, and third-party finance sales grew 23.9% during the third quarter of the fiscal year 2022.

This increase was driven by a 64% increase in lease-to-own sales as we successfully leveraged our platform of integrated partners. We continue to believe we have opportunities to increase sales across all our financing options. Retail gross margin for the third quarter is a 36.8% decrease of 150 basis points from the same period last year. The year-over-year decrease in retail gross margin was primarily driven by the impact of increased production costs as a result of higher freight partially offset by an increase in sales of higher-margin products.

Higher retail sales helped leverage retail SG&A expense during the quarter. As a percent of retail sales SG&A expenses were 30.2% for the third quarter, compared to 32.4% for the same period last fiscal year. Retail segment operating income was $22.5 million, compared to $15.2 million for the same period last fiscal year due to higher retail sales and improved operating leverage partially offset by lower retail gross margin. Turning to our credit segment finance charges and other revenues were $70.6 million for the third quarter.

The 4.9% decline from the same period last fiscal year was primarily a result of the 15.2% reduction in the average balance of the customer's receivable portfolio. The credit quality of our portfolio has improved significantly due in part to the prudent derisking actions we began implementing in March 2020. Our strong credit results continue to show that our receivable portfolio is performing well. Annual net charge offs as a percent of the average portfolio balance was 8% at the end of the third quarter compared to 14.7% for the same period last year.

During the third quarter, the credit provision for bad debts was $26.5 million, compared to $27.4 million last fiscal year. The year-over-year decline was due to an improvement in credit quality, which resulted in lower charge offs during the quarter partially offset by a greater increase in the allowance. Credit segment income before taxes was $1.8 million, compared to a $2.7 million loss for the same period last fiscal year. Primarily due to lower interest expense, a lower provision for bad debts, and improvements in our credit performance.

I am pleased to report that this is the fourth consecutive quarter of profitable credit segment income before taxes. As our portfolio begins to grow, we will continue to focus on controlling risk, limiting portfolio volatility, and achieving approximately a thousand basis points of annual credit spread while supporting our long-term growth opportunity. Consolidated SG&A expenses for the third quarter were $138.1 million. The $15.9 million increase from the prior-year period was due to a higher variable operating expenses associated with sales growth, additional new stores, and an increase in advertising costs as we lapped prior year reductions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Turning now to our balance sheet and capital position. We ended the third quarter with a strong balance sheet and capital position as we continue to benefit from significant year-over-year growth in cash in third-party finance sales and robust cash collections on our customers' receivable portfolio. This has produced meaningful operating cash flow over the past seven quarters, which we have used to further reduce debt and strengthen our balance sheet. We ended the third quarter with $424.1 million in net debt, compared to $615.2 million at the end of the third quarter of last year.

In addition, net debt as a percent of the ending portfolio has declined to approximately 37.7%  at the end of the third quarter, compared to approximately 48.2% at the end of the third quarter of last year. In November, we close our 10th ABS transaction since reentering the ABS market in 2015. The terms of the 2021 A transaction reflect the highest advance rate of 85.75% and the lowest all-in cost of funds of approximately 3.9% since we reentered the ABS market. We believe completing this transaction, which resulted in net proceeds of $377.8 million further strengthens our liquidity position well into the next fiscal year.

In addition, our proven ABS platform continues to demonstrate our ability to access the capital markets. I am pleased with our success in strengthening the balance sheet, derisking the business, and executing our growth initiatives. These efforts have built underlying strength in our business and driven the strong sales momentum we have experienced so far this year. Before we open the call for questions, I want to review our expectations for the full year and fourth quarter and provide some initial thoughts on our business as we head into the next fiscal year.

Starting with retail sales. Early Black Friday pricing combined with concerns related to product availability caused an earlier start to the holiday season, which we believe pull forward some retail sales into the third quarter. We believe our marketing and promotions were well-positioned to capitalize on these trends and we continue to expect mid-teens same-store sales growth for the full year. For the current fiscal year, we expect finance charges and other revenues to be down year over year primarily due to a lower balance of customer receivables.

Given the ongoing issues related to the global supply chain, we now expect full-year retail gross margin to be down approximately 30 to 50 basis points resulting in retail gross margin being down approximately 100 to 150 basis points in the fourth quarter. We continue to believe SG&A expenses will be up on a two-year basis primarily driven by new stores as we anticipate continued investments in our growth strategies to be largely offset by tighter cost controls. The fourth quarter provision is expected to be up versus the prior year period driven primarily by portfolio growth. In addition, the provision in the fourth quarter of last fiscal year benefited from an approximately $20 million reduction in our allowance primarily driven by improved economic conditions as well as a reduction in the balance of accounts that received the COVID-19 deferral.

As we look into next year, we expect to produce positive same-store sales despite a fluid economic environment. We also anticipate accelerating our pace of new store openings in the fiscal year 2023 above the 12 stores we will open this fiscal year. Retail gross margins are expected to remain under pressure next year driven primarily by the ongoing impacts of the global supply chain. We anticipate our provision next year to increase primarily due to portfolio growth from higher sales of Conn's in-house financing and a smaller reduction in the economic reserve within our allowance.

We plan to provide more insight into next year's expectations. As well as our long-term financial and operating target at our Investor Day early next year. Overall we expect fiscal 2023 to be another strong year for Conn's and I'm excited by the direction we are headed. Finally, I want to share my thanks to all our team members for their continued hard work, service, and dedication.

So with this overview, Chandra and I are happy to take your questions. Operator, please open the call up to questions.

Questions & Answers:


Thank you. At this time we'll be conducting a question-and-answer session. [Operator instructions] Our first question comes from the line of Kyle Joseph with Jefferies. Please proceed with your question.

Kyle Joseph -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Hey. Good morning, guys. Thanks for having me on and taking my questions. I just have to around e-com, Chandra I think you talked about the growth opportunity there, but longer-term, can you give us any sort of sense or goalposts of how you think about the e-com as a percentage of sales for the consolidated business? And then, as a follow up to that, on e-com sales could you give us any sense of the financing mix? Does it mirror kind of the consolidated portfolio? Or do you see more, call it, prime or lease-to-own online?

Chandra Holt -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Yeah. Good morning, Kyle. Thanks for the question. We're very excited about our performance in e-commerce delivering almost 300% growth this quarter.

And we've invested and you can see that that growth happening. And we do believe there's an opportunity to continue to invest to further drive that business and we do believe that we can be in line from a penetration standpoint with other similar retailers within our categories. So, we do think there's a significant upside in the e-commerce business. From a payment standpoint and a financing standpoint what we see online is a mix that's fairly similar to what we see in stores.

We see a little bit higher from a cash standpoint and a little bit higher from a con standpoint with synchrony being a little bit smaller. But overall fairly similar to what we see in stores.

Kyle Joseph -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Got it. Very helpful. And then one follow-up for me, just in terms of the margin pressure and go with the supply chain issues I know there's a lot of uncertainty and it's hard to predict, but and any sort of visibility as to is the one you would expect those pressures? I know you talked about them continuing into 2022, but is there any sort of outlook as to when you would expect those pressures to ease?

Chandra Holt -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Yeah, we do. As we said in the prepared remarks, we do expect international freight rates to be a headwind for next year and continue into next year. We are starting to see it normalize. So, we're seeing an increase for quite a while and it's starting to normalize and seen a little bit of reduction, but we do anticipate it continuing to be a headwind for the foreseeable future and don't have a clear line of sight as to when that will come back down.

Kyle Joseph -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Great. Thank you very much for answering my questions. 

Chandra Holt -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Thanks, Kyle.


Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Rick Nelson with Stephens Inc. Please proceed with your question.

Rick Nelson -- Stephens Inc. -- Analyst

Thanks a lot. Good morning. Like to follow up on the provision guidance, in the 2Q call about 9 weeks ago, I believe you were guided to a lower provision in the second half. Now you're guiding to a higher provision for the fourth quarter.

I'm curious what the drivers are there?

George Bchara -- Chief Financial Officer

Good morning, Rick, this is George. So the provision was down year over year in the third quarter consistent with our expectation. But as we think about the fourth quarter, we're now expecting a greater increase in the portfolio, which is driving a greater increase in the allowance this year versus last year. I would also remind you that if you look at the -- as I mentioned in my prepared remarks if you look at the fourth quarter last year, we benefited from a fairly significant reduction in the allowance in the fourth quarter of last year that we don't expect to see this year.

Rick Nelson -- Stephens Inc. -- Analyst

Thank you for that. Also would like to give some perspective on the health of your credit customer. We've seen a customer seeing a lot of inflation with higher food, gas prices, and necessities rising to you have any concerns there from either a sales standpoint or a credit standpoint?

Chandra Holt -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Yeah. Good question. So right now credit is performing well and we continue to adapt our underwriting in anticipation of a normalized credit environment. If you look on Page 5 of the investor presentation, you can see that we're clearly underwriting to a higher quality credit customer, which reduces the volatility.

We're still underwriting to a 1,000 basis points of spread but it reduces the volatility because we're underwriting to a higher quality level. So we feel good about our strategy in credit. I think the other thing as it relates to sales, I'm excited about our Investor Day that we're gonna have at the beginning of next year. I think the one thing you'll see us focus on is running a very stable credit business and utilizing a more modern value proposition to drive the sales versus increasing risk within credit to drive the sales.

George Bchara -- Chief Financial Officer

The only thing I would add to that, Rick, is that if you look at the portfolio health today, we're in as good a position as we've been in a long time with reage percent down significantly year over year, TDR percentage down, and 60-day delinquencies. So heading into or heading out of the pandemic, we're positioned from a balance sheet standpoint and a really good position.

Rick Nelson -- Stephens Inc. -- Analyst

OK. Thanks for that. I also like to follow up on the quarter sales trend. You imagine some pull forward.

Can you talk about what the same-store sales are tracking here in the holiday quarter?

Chandra Holt -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Yeah. Demand remains strong into the fourth quarter. So, our value proposition continues to work and is strong in in-stock position has set us up for success in Q4 and our abilities to deliver our sales guidance for the full year, seems very much achievable and we feel confident that we'll deliver a good Q4.

Rick Nelson -- Stephens Inc. -- Analyst

OK. Very good. Thanks a lot and good luck.

George Bchara -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Rick.

Chandra Holt -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Thank you.


Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Brad Thomas with KeyBanc Capital Markets. Please proceed with your question.

Brad Thomas -- KeyBanc Capital Markets -- Analyst

Hi, Chandra and George, and good morning. I wanted to follow up on an earlier question that touched on e-commerce and Chandra just as you get more time under your belt with Conn. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about the investments that you think might be necessary to help accelerate e-commerce growth or if you feel like the business has that in place? And what that timeline might look like to help accelerate growth? Dovetailing off the strong momentum you have here in 3Q.

Chandra Holt -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Yeah. Yeah. Great question. So when I look at the e-commerce business I kind of carried upon partners two different segments.

So you've got the front end of the customer-facing website and then you've got the back end with a supply chain and the delivery. And when I look at our e-commerce business, we're already very strong from a back-end standpoint. We have next-day White Glove delivery, which is very unique to us. And our strong in-stock position that we have at the end of Q3 over 80% of the items that we have available to sell.

We could get customers the next day. And when you compare that competitively it was a big advantage for us in Q3. So, I feel really good about the supply chain component and our ability to continue to utilize and replicate our supply chain going forward. From a front-end standpoint as where we have work to do and we've invested in improving the functionality of our website, which is what's driving a lot of the growth right now.

And when you look at the website there's there are two -- there are really three components, it's traffic, conversion, and average order value. And the big opportunity that we're focusing on is conversion and that -- there are things that you do to invest in conversion are around site functionality. It's around the shipping speed we already have, shipping pricing our retail pricing -- so, we know all the things that we need to do to continue to drive that business and we'll continue to invest there. We are in the early stages of our transformation.

So we had over 5% penetration. So we have a ways to go, but a lot of upside for the future.

Brad Thomas -- KeyBanc Capital Markets -- Analyst

Really helpful, Chandra. Thank you. And George, if I could just follow up on Rick's question just about the fourth quarter if we take your comp guidance mathematically at face value to be it mid-teens comp for the year would imply that the fourth quarter decelerates pretty significantly and might be 9% to get you to a 16% growth for the full year. Is there anything you're seeing that would suggest you get that level of a slowdown in the fourth quarter and any more color that you'd be able to share about how things are tracking or how you're expecting them to play out?

George Bchara -- Chief Financial Officer

I mean, I think, as I mentioned in my prepared remarks, we positioned ourselves this year for an earlier holiday season and we certainly saw the benefits of that winning in October and that was reflected in the third quarter results. In November was strong. It was just slower than the trends for the third quarter and were anticipating that that along with December will result in a strong fourth quarter, but somewhat less strong than that than the third quarter from a sales standpoint

Brad Thomas -- KeyBanc Capital Markets -- Analyst

Yes. Sure. That's helpful. And then George the last one for me.

Just as we think about SG&A for 2020. Any broad strokes you could help us work with as we think about how growth may play out for next year.

George Bchara -- Chief Financial Officer

We didn't put out full guidance for next year. Brad. So, I mean, I think, we're continuing to focus on investing in new stores, investing in people in the right place. But we think that with the growth of the business next year we should be able to leverage SG&A and we've said that before.

Brad Thomas -- KeyBanc Capital Markets -- Analyst

Very helpful. Thank you all so much and good luck this holiday.

George Bchara -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Brad.


Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Brian Nagel with Oppenheimer and Company. Please proceed with your question.

Brian Nagel -- Oppenheimer and Company -- Analyst

Good morning. Thanks for taking my questions.

George Bchara -- Chief Financial Officer

Good morning.

Brian Nagel -- Oppenheimer and Company -- Analyst

So, the first question, just to follow up on Brad's question there is in the comments just with regard to the pull forward in holiday demand here. As you look across your store, your merchandise mix, you're recognizing there are certain categories are probably lend more to holiday purchases than others. Are you seeing -- as you try to size the impact of this pull forward are you seeing different trends within different categories depending on their nature relative to holiday demand?

Chandra Holt -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Yeah. So, overall if you look at what happened in Q3. So, we saw an acceleration through the quarter. So, in August we posted a 17.5% comp, September 18.6, in October with a 26.7.

So you saw the big lift in October. And when you look at the categories that drove that you're right that the categories that are more holiday sensitive did drive -- did have a larger acceleration than in some other categories specifically within consumer electronics TV Black Friday pricing went out in October, which it did last year a little bit later, but when earlier this year and the breadth of items that were on sale were far greater than what we saw last year. So overall we saw an acceleration in October across categories, but there were some more holiday-sensitive categories that we saw a greater increase in October than others.

Brian Nagel -- Oppenheimer and Company -- Analyst

Thanks, Chandra. That's helpful. Then the second question I have with regard to the freight costs. So a headwind once talked about this is obviously not unique to cost, but headwind to gross margins through Q3, and George you talked about being a continued headwind the fourth quarter.

The question is I guess how do you see this progressing and probably more importantly are there levers that Conn's can pull in the nearer term to help offset or manage some of these freight costs?

Chandra Holt -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Yeah. So, as we said, we believe that the freight -- the international freight costs will continue to be a headwind to margin, but the team is working very hard to mitigate as much as we can. So, both the utilization within our supply chain as well as sourcing activities as well as prudently passing on price increases as we feel that we can and given the market conditions. We're balancing all of that along with continuing to try to drive the growth.

So we can leverage SG&A and ultimately deliver operating margin leverage. So, there's a lot of puts and takes. It's a fluid environment, but I do believe that the team is keeping the customer at the center of their decisions as well as a shareholder and making good decisions for the business in the long run.

Brian Nagel -- Oppenheimer and Company -- Analyst

Thank you. I appreciate it.


Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen that concludes our question-and-answer session. I'll turn the floor back to Ms. Holt for any final comments.

Chandra Holt -- Chief Executive Officer and President

I just want to thank everyone for your time today and your interest in Conn's. I look forward to speaking with everyone at our Investor Day in Houston early next year. And lastly, I wanted to wish everyone a happy holiday season and a Happy New Year. Thank you.


[Operator signoff]

Duration: 41 minutes

Call participants:

Chandra Holt -- Chief Executive Officer and President

George Bchara -- Chief Financial Officer

Kyle Joseph -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Rick Nelson -- Stephens Inc. -- Analyst

Brad Thomas -- KeyBanc Capital Markets -- Analyst

Brian Nagel -- Oppenheimer and Company -- Analyst

More CONN analysis

All earnings call transcripts

This article is a transcript of this conference call produced for The Motley Fool. While we strive for our Foolish Best, there may be errors, omissions, or inaccuracies in this transcript. As with all our articles, The Motley Fool does not assume any responsibility for your use of this content, and we strongly encourage you to do your own research, including listening to the call yourself and reading the company's SEC filings. Please see our Terms and Conditions for additional details, including our Obligatory Capitalized Disclaimers of Liability.

The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.