The retailer, which targets women ages 35 to 55 as customers, said that its first-quarter net income jumped 52.6% to $36 million, or $0.40 per share. Sales jumped 52% to $257 million, while same-store sales rocketed by 20.1%. In its conference call (transcript courtesy CCBN StreetEvents), Chico's management implied that May is showing that the trends, so far, are continuing into the second quarter.
Chico's improved its operating margins to 22.3% from 22.1%, due to higher initial margins on its clothing, and a low rate of markdowns. That's been the case with many of the more popular retailers recently -- customers' willingness to pay full price for garments.
It's been a tough struggle for other women's retailers that cater to the same demographic. For example, J. Jill
Although we here at the Fool tend to fault a company for not including a statement of cash flows with its press announcement, Chico's gets off the hook because it files its SEC Form 10-Q on the same day as it releases its earnings announcement. So, among the things we're able to determine is that Chico's grew its free cash flow to $47 million from $19 million in the same quarter last year, which is pretty exciting, considering its free cash flow figure is higher than its earnings figure.
What's there to look forward to? In the third quarter, Chico's plans to launch Soma, its intimate apparel stores. Meanwhile, its recent White House/Black Market acquisition continues to add to earnings. (For those who don't know, the concept provides only black and white clothing, for any ladies out there who have been struggling with this spring's emphasis on pink and pastel apparel.)
Chico's stock price didn't do much in this morning's trading. Despite the company's consistent popularity with shoppers, its stock price has doubled over the last year, which of course starts to spook investors. Today, you'd pay 28 times forward earnings for Chico's shares, which may sound pricey to those who think Talbot's forward P/E of 17 sounds like a relative bargain.
On the other hand, Chico's continues to excel, its proving ground was during a period when its rivals struggled mightily, and it's still showing signs that it will continue on its growth trajectory. While it may sound expensive, Chico's certainly deserves a watchful eye and due consideration.
Chat it up with other Fools on the Chico's discussion board.
Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.
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