Ulta Beauty, Inc. (ULTA - Free Report) reported first-quarter fiscal 2019 results, wherein earnings outpaced the Zacks Consensus Estimate while sales matched the same. Both the top and the bottom line improved on a year-over-year basis.
Notably, robust traffic and ticket growth along with double-digit comparable sales (comps) increase in mass cosmetics, skin care and fragrance aided the company’s quarterly performance. Moreover, management decided to make Ulta Beauty a strong global brand. To this end, the company will launch operations in Canada.
Ulta Beauty’s adjusted earnings grew 17.1% to $3.08 per share and also outpaced the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $3.06. Including tax gains of about 18 cents, the company’s earnings rose 20.7% to $3.26.
Net sales of this cosmetics retailer grew 12.9% year over year to $1,743 million and came almost in line with the Zacks Consensus Estimate. Comps — including stores and e-commerce — climbed 7%, down from 8.1% growth recorded in the prior-year quarter. Increase in traffic and ticket along with higher store productivity led to comps growth. During the fiscal first quarter, the company registered a transaction increase of 4.3% while average ticket was up 2.7%.
Further, retail comps were balanced between transaction and ticket improvement. Meanwhile, e-commerce growth was fueled by traffic growth and came in line with the company’s expectations.
Gross profit increased nearly 15% year over year to $644.8 million, with gross margin expansion of 70 basis points (bps) to 37%. Gross margin expansion was mainly backed by higher merchandise margins stemming from impressive marketing and merchandising strategies as well as leveraged fixed store expenses. The improvement was somewhat offset by deleveraging owing to investments in salon services and supply chain.
Further, operating income increased 13.2% year over year to $237.5 million. However, operating margin remained flat at 13.6% as higher gross margin was offset by a 70 bps rise in SG&A expenses (as a percentage of sales). Pre-opening expenses declined 19.2% to $4.2 million.
Ulta Beauty ended the quarter with cash and cash equivalents, and short-term investments of $521.8 million, and total stockholders’ equity of $1,941.6 million. Merchandise inventories, net, summed $1,250 million as of May 4, 2019, marking an increase of almost 10% from the year-ago period. Also, average inventory per store grew 1.8% year over year.
Net cash provided by operating activities was roughly $271.7 million at the end of first-quarter fiscal 2019.
Management bought back 318,431 shares for $107.4 million in the reported quarter. With this, the company had nearly $788.2 million outstanding as of May 4, 2019, under its $875-million share repurchase plan announced in March 2019.
In the fiscal first quarter, Ulta Beauty opened 22 stores while shuttered none. As of May 4, 2019, it operated 1,196 stores, increasing its total square footage by 8% year over year.
In fiscal 2019, the company plans to open nearly 80 stores as well as remodel 12 and relocate 8 outlets. Also, it intends to complete roughly 270 store refreshes.
For fiscal 2019, management projects total sales to grow in the low double-digits percentage range. Comps are expected to increase nearly 6-7%, down from 8.1% growth registered in fiscal 2018. Comps growth guidance includes e-commerce improvement of 20-30%.
Further, the company expects operating margin leverage of 10-20 bps for fiscal 2019. Earnings per share are now envisioned to be $12.83-$13.03. Earlier, the company projected earnings in a range of $12.65-$12.85, inclusive of tax gains of 18 cents in the reported quarter. In fiscal 2018, the company recorded adjusted earnings of $10.85.
Markedly, Ulta Beauty’s earnings guidance includes the impact of share repurchases worth roughly $700 million and an effective tax rate of 24%.
Excluding the tax gains in first-quarter fiscal 2019, Ulta Beauty expects earnings per share growth in low teens and modest deleverage in the operating margin for the first half of the fiscal year. Further, it anticipates earnings to improve in high teens and modest leverage in the operating margin during the second half of the year.
The company plans to spend about $380-$400 million as capital expenditures in fiscal 2019 compared with $319 million incurred last year. Also, it expects to incur depreciation and amortization charges of $315 million.
Shares of this Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) stock have gained 36.9% year to date, outperforming the industryy's 16.8% rally.
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