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Shift in Easter Timing Hurts Cato's March Comps

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Charlotte, NC-based retailer of apparel and accessories for women, The Cato Corporation reported a 5% decline in comparable-store sales (comps) for the five-week period ended Apr 5, 2014. Net sales for March were down 3% to $102.0 million from $105.6 million in the five weeks ended Apr 6, 2013. Following the announcement, the company’s share price plunged 6.1% in the yesterday’s trading session.

The company attributed a shift in the Easter timing to April this year, as compared with March last year, as responsible for its lower March sales. However, the Easter timing shift will have a positive impact on the company’s Apr 2014 sales.

Apart from Cato, comps of other store chain retailers such as The Gap, Inc. (GPS - Free Report) , L Brands, Inc. (LB - Free Report) and Zumiez Inc. were also negatively impacted by the shift in Easter timing as well a severe winter that restrained consumers from venturing outdoors to purchase spring merchandise. Comps for Gap, L Brands and Zumiez fell 6%, 1% and 2.9%, respectively.

The company’s net sales for the nine-week period ended Apr 5, 2014 fell 1% year over year to $188.9 million compared with $190.2 million in the nine-week period ended Apr 6, 2013. Comps for the year-to-date period registered a year-over-year decline of 2%.

Despite weak top-line performance in the year-to-date period, the company has maintained its previous earnings guidance range of 89 cents to 95 cents per share for the first quarter fiscal 2014. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the quarter is pegged at 92 cents per share.

In Mar 2014, the company opened 2 stores, one in Kalamazoo, MI and the other in Conyers, GA. As of Apr 6, 2014, this leading specialty retailer of women's fashions and accessories operated about 1,322 stores across 32 states.

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