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Big Lots Management Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

To give you a sense of magnitude, the month of April alone accounted for nearly 75% of the sales shortfall for the quarter. So our miss to plan was rather abrupt and the variance to plan widened in the higher volume weeks of April driving Q1 results below our guidance.

From a merchandise perspective, Furniture and Hardlines were the best performing categories, each comping up mid-single digits. Next was Lawn & Garden, which was up low-single digits. Actually, the department was trending to a stronger result pre-Easter, but did slow in the last 2 weeks of April. The balance of the Seasonal category was down slightly.

The Home category comps were essentially flat for Q1. The most -- 2 most challenging areas in Merchandising were Consumables and Electronics. Consumables was down low singles, and Electronics was slightly positive after a 20% comp in Q4. The combination of the miss in Consumables and the slowdown of Electronics trends contributed to nearly 3 points of the comp missed to our original forecast or said another way, was the large majority of our miss.

In a moment, Steve will go through more details of category earnings, adjustments and go-forward expectations.

For the first quarter of fiscal 2012, adjusted operating profit dollars for our U.S. operations were $80.6 million as our rate declined to 6.4% compared to 7% last year. As anticipated, our adjusted gross margin rate was down slightly at 40.1% compared to last year due to higher fuel costs and a higher markdown rate to turn inventory and stay fresh. These challenges were partially offset by a favorable merchandise mix and improving shrink results.

Total expense dollars were $426 million. In the first quarter, SG&A rate was 33.7%, up 50 basis points to last year. Expense deleveraged over a lower-than-expected sales base came from higher depreciation costs and higher occupancy-related costs along with an increase in advertising spend. Interest expense for U.S. operations was essentially unchanged to the prior year. Our U.S. tax rate of 37.3% was below last year's rate of 38.9%, with the lower rate related to settlement activity, which was planned and was included in our initial guidance.

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