Shares dropped roughly 8% in recent trading as Big Lots once again struggled to meet Wall Street's expectations. It posted a profit (excluding one-time charges associated with store closings) of $0.33 per share for the fourth quarter, well off consensus analyst estimates of $0.43. Revenue growth of 6.1% also fell shy of anticipated results.
Quite frankly, there is little to like about the company's latest performance. We could point out that comparable same-store sales (for units open at least two years) were higher by 2.5% for the quarter. While this is a positive, the concern is that Big Lots achieves growth in comps by raising prices -- at the expense of losing customers.
Potential investors should consider Big Lots a long-term project; anyone with an investment horizon of 12 months or less needs to look elsewhere. Big Lots is currently in a major reorganization, closing down an underperforming 8% of its store base, or 130 units in the fourth quarter. These closings cost the company $44 million, below its original projection of $60 million.
The store closings are just one part of Big Lots' overall restructuring strategy, dubbed "WIN." Other levels of this game plan include targeted store openings in states like California and New York (locations where the company has had the greatest success), a reduction of costs through workforce cuts at its headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, and improved efficiency at its stores.
After examining management remarks in the recent conference call, the leadership clearly has a well-thought-out strategy to get Big Lots and its shareholders back on the winning side. But since this strategy has yet to be proven, I would reiterate that an investment in this company should be accompanied with caution and a three- to five-year horizon.
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Fool contributor Jeremy MacNealy does not own shares of any companies mentioned.