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Weak Comps Trend Continues for Cato

M ROST JWN

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Following the disappointing holiday sales season, fashion retailer Cato Corporation again posted weak comparable-store sales results for the month of January.

The company reported total sales of $63.8 million for Jan 2013 (five-weeks ended Feb 2, 2013), up 26% from $50.5 million for the four-weeks ended Jan 28, 2012. However, on a 5-week comparable basis, the company’s sales for January declined 9%, while comps plunged 12% year over year.

Weak comps for the month were driven by gradually declining sales trend throughout January, which resulted from the effect of delays in tax refunds and higher payroll taxes on consumers.

Like other retailers, Cato’s sales results for Jan 2013, fourth quarter and fiscal 2012 included an additional 53rd week compared to the respective year-ago period results.

For the fourth quarter of fiscal 2012 (14-weeks period ended Feb 2, 2013), Cato’s sales rose 5% to $232.0 million compared with $221.5 million reported during  the fourth quarter of fiscal 2011 (13 weeks ended Jan 28, 2012). On a 14-week comparison, the company’s total sales dropped 4% over the prior-year 14-weeks period. Comps for the 14-weeks period slipped 7% from the year-ago 14-week period.

For fiscal 2012 (53-weeks ended Feb 2, 2013), net sales inched up 1% to $933.8 million compared with the prior-year’s 52-week period. On a 53-week comparable basis for both periods, the company’s sales declined 1%, while comps dipped 4%.

Cato is scheduled to release its fourth quarter and fiscal 2012 results on Mar 1, 2013. The company is expected to report fourth quarter earnings of 27 cents – 29 cents per share down from 35 cents per share reported last year. Further, the company projects fiscal 2012 earnings to be in the range of $2.11 – $2.13 per share down from $2.21 per share reported last year.

Concurrently, 3 other retailers – Ross Stores Inc. (ROST - Analyst Report), Macy’s Inc. (M - Analyst Report) and Nordstrom Inc. (JWN - Analyst Report) – reported same-store sales for the month of January. Comps growth at Ross Stores, Macy’s and Nordstrom were 4%, 11.7% and 11.4%, respectively.

Stores Update

In January, Cato inaugurated 3 new stores in New Albany, Miss.; Columbia, S.C. and Rosenberg, Texas; and shut down 4 existing stores. Store closures in the month comprised 1 It’s Fashion store, which will be replaced by a new It’s Fashion Metro outlet in the same market.

During the fourth quarter, the company opened 9 stores, relocated 2 stores and shuttered 5 stores, bringing total store openings, relocations and closures for the year to 34, 9 and 12, respectively. Total stores in operation as of Feb 2, 2013, grew to 1,310 in 31 states from 1,288 stores that operated as of Jan 28, 2012.

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