The corporate parent of off-price retailers Marshall's and T.J. Maxx, among other stores, reported bottom-line results of $238.7 million, $0.47 per share, compared to $154.3 million, or $0.29 per share, from the year before. That's a gain of more than 55% in the most important quarter of the year for retailers. For 2004, TJX forecasts that its earnings will be in the range of $1.35 to $1.45.
For the full fiscal year, TJX's net income rose 14% to $658.4 million, or $1.28 a share, substantially higher than its $578.4 million, or $1.08 a share, results for fiscal 2003. Sales rose 11% to $13.33 billion from $11.98 billion, though results were assisted by an extra week in fiscal 2004 and benefits from currency translations from its overseas stores.
As I mentioned in Stocks Fools Love two weeks ago, TJX is the largest in its market by a factor of five. But it dropped a bombshell in its conference call (courtesy of CCBN StreetEvents) that it intends to double its total number of stores, from its current 2,000 up to 4,000. Though much of its growth will come from increases in its smaller franchises, including U.K.-based TKMaxx and Canada-based Winners, it also intends to double its reach of T.J. Maxx and Marshall's stores. This next year alone, the company intends to increase its square footage at its HomeGoods franchise by 20% in the year.
TJX repurchased substantial amounts of its own shares in 2003 -- spending a total of $515 million to retire 27 million shares at an average price of $19.07, compared to the present price of $23. The company intends to keep repurchasing this year and plans to deploy another $550 million for buybacks.
The biggest worry I saw in the entire report was the fact that TJX's inventories increased by more than 24% to $1.9 billion. This rate of increase is substantially higher than the level of sales gains. It could be that this is simply a function of its gearing up newer stores that have yet to reach a full sales cycle, but $370 million in marginal inventory, or nearly 8% of total turnover in 2003, seems like a massive amount to add. It's something that rates a mention and deserves watching, but it's more like a small scratch on a Ferrari than a smashed-in door on an old junker.
Have an opinion on TJX? Come sound off on its discussion board.
Bill Mann owns none of the companies mentioned in this article.