Not all retailers have bright neon signage, emaciated sales staffs, or music in the stores that's loud enough to rattle your dental fillings. Nor do all retailers have their eyes set on global domination or on selling seemingly every consumer product in the world under one roof. BurlingtonCoat Factory
For the company's first fiscal quarter, total revenue rose about 13% on the back of a pretty strong 8.9% comparable-store sales increase. Nevertheless, the first quarter is traditionally one in which the company loses money, and this was no exception. That said, the company did do relatively better. The operating loss shrank from more than $28 million to about $24 million.
Inventory looks to be in order; comp-store levels are up only about 1.2% from last year. This will probably end up sounding like a pretty far-out theory, but maybe Burlington will see a better-than-average fall/winter season for outerwear sales. After all, high natural gas prices are going to mean much higher heating bills this winter, and maybe people will look to bundle up in sweaters or coats and shave a few degrees off the thermostat to save money.
I'd really like to say more about the company's balance sheet and cash flow position, but management chooses not to make that information available in its release. So, while I do respect the company's conservative management approach, it still irks me when I see a company withhold this very important operational information from its co-owners.
Shareholder relations may not be an issue much longer, though. The company has put out the boilerplate "exploring strategic alternatives" announcement and has retained Goldman Sachs to handle those alternatives. The founding family still owns almost 60% of the business, and I hope that that would ultimately lead to a more fair deal for all shareholders if a sale comes.
Even if the sale doesn't materialize, I still think there are reasons to like Burlington. If the economy hits a soft patch, I would expect some shoppers to move more toward lower-priced retailers like Burlington, Wal-Mart
I do appreciate pragmatic management, and it seems as though these folks are realistic about making improvements to operations targeted toward improving sales and/or margins. Many retailers have failed by forgetting who they really are, and management's ownership stake may be part of why that isn't happening at Burlington. It's certainly not the most scintillating retailer out there, but with management apparently in tune with the notion of driving better shareholder value, that could spell opportunity for investors.
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).