Youth-oriented retailer Aeropostale
Fourth-quarter net income increased 13% to $64.7 million, or $0.95 per share. Net sales jumped 16.7% to $591.3 million, and same-store sales jumped 9.2%. The retailer was able to increase gross profit a tad, to 37.8% of sales from 37.2% of sales this time last year.
In a note that bears watching, inventory jumped 35%. However, in the conference call, management reminded listeners that it had been expected to increase thanks to a calendar shift in when spring and summer merchandise arrived, and couched the change as positive, given factors like reduced shrinkage and the increased availability of key items. Still, it bears watching.
A few items ended up boosting Aeropostale's earnings a bit, and EPS came in at $0.93 per share on a pro forma basis. Still, Aeropostale beat analysts' estimates; the consensus had earnings of just $0.88 per share for the quarter. Meanwhile, Aeropostale said it will grow earnings by 18% this year.
Aeropostale also mentioned that it is planning a new concept that will build on its existing core competencies while targeting a younger customer. It plans a "controlled launch" in 2009, and related expenses this year are already figured into guidance.
It's understandable that many investors are nervous about retail stocks right now, given the tough consumer climate. There are some I'm not too excited about personally, such as Gap
Like American Eagle Outfitters
Last quarter, many investors jettisoned Aeropostale, but at that point the stock had had quite a climb rather quickly (it hit $28.01 in November before coming back down to Earth). And, of course, the short term might be difficult for many retailers as the stores vie for reluctant consumers, and inventory bears watching. For long-term investors, though, Aeropostale sounds like a solid stock to put on the watch list.