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Bon-Ton Stores Inc. (BONT) reported a 0.7% upside in same-store sales for the four-week period ended February 25, 2012. This compared favorably with a 0.5% decline in the year-ago period, benefiting from a promotional event called Community Day. However, in 2012, the Community Day event will take place in April.
Total sales inched up 0.9% to $199.4 million during the four-week period ended February 25, 2012 from $197.7 million in the comparable period ended February, 2011.
February comps were particularly driven by strong performance in categories like shoes; hard home; furniture; ladies’ better sportswear; and cosmetics, particularly fragrances, which recorded higher revenue on account of Valentine’s Day. However, the demand for coats remained weak due to unexpected warm weather conditions.
Same-store sales at Bon-Ton’s rival, Kohl’s Corporation (KSS - Analyst Report) fell 0.8% in the four-week period ended, February 26, 2012. Total sales rose 1.1% for the period.
Bon-Ton is slated to release its fourth quarter 2011 results on March 7, 2012. For the upcoming fourth quarter of 2011, the company forecasts EBITDA in the range of $170 million - $175 million, earnings per share between a loss of $1.30 per share and $1.00 per share and cash in the range of $5 million to $10 million.
Bon-Ton, headquartered in York, Pennsylvania and Milwaukee, Wisconsin continues to make efforts to drive traffic and improve margins by controlling cost and closing underperforming stores. The company plans to close 5 stores, out of which 4 will be shut down in 2012 and one in 2014.
However, Bon-Ton continues to face cost inflation due to higher cotton prices and wages of Chinese labor and expects commodity pressure to persist till mid 2012. Moreover, with lower consumer spending owing to the tough economic environment, we believe the upside in comps remains challenging.
In January, the department store chain operator also announced the retirement of Bud Bergen from the position of CEO and president and the appointment of Brendan L. Hoffman as its new CEO and president.
We reiterate our long-term Neutral recommendation on Bon-Ton.