Shares of Ann Taylor
Ann Taylor said that same-store sales for the month of December edged up by 1.5%, compared to a 1.5% decrease in same-store sales this time last year. Total sales at Ann Taylor increased 11.6% to $267.7 million. Same-store sales at the Ann Taylor Loft division did better than those at the company's flagship Ann Taylor stores.
CEO Kay Krill admitted sales were "somewhat lower than expected," especially considering trends were looking up in November.
And there's the rub (or at the very least, part of it) -- Wall Street analysts had anticipated a 3% increase in the company's same-store sales. Meanwhile, Krill said that Ann Taylor may feel comfortable with its fourth-quarter earnings guidance but added, "We continue to carefully monitor the highly promotional retail environment."
We here at the Fool don't put too much stock in analysts' predictions. However, in Ann Taylor's case, it's easy to see why investors might be disappointed. After all, this is one of those retailers that has struggled to woo customers in recent history, while investors have been piling on waiting for the turnaround. The company's P/E ratio alone has implied that it's been a pricy strategy, especially when you consider that a turnaround appears to be coming later rather than sooner.
Not only does it appear to be missing some of the fashions that its customers are looking for, but also Ann Taylor still has plenty of competition from retailers such as Chico's
Back in November, investors seemed certain that signs that consumers were shopping again was a good reason to bid Ann Taylor shares up 6%. At the time, I thought that seemed a bit slaphappy, since the same sentiment seemed to be improving many retailers' stock prices right ahead of the holiday season. Today, Ann Taylor shares have lost about 6%, struck by the reality that the retailer's fashions don't seem to be on the runway yet.
Sure, there are plenty of things to like about Ann Taylor. But until it gets its style back customer-wise, it seems pretty certain that the stock will remain somewhat frumpy investorwise.
Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.