Chico's FAS Rises After Narrowed Loss; Holder Seeks Changes

Fashion retailer Chico's FAS rose after it reported a narrower loss. A holder is calling for steps to boost the stock price.
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Shares of Chico's FAS  (CHS) - Get Report climbed on Tuesday after the fashion retailer reported a narrower fiscal-first-quarter loss on 38% higher revenue.

The Fort Myers, Fla., chain also heard from a holder, the New York investor Barington Capital, which wants the company to take a number of steps to improve its stock price.

These steps include naming new directors and examining strategic alternatives for the company and its brands.

For the quarter ended May 1, Chico's FAS reported a loss of 8 cents a share compared with a loss of $1.55 a share in the year-earlier quarter. Revenue reached $388 million from $280.3 million.

The stock recently traded up 5.6% at $6.07. It has traded on Tuesday up as much as 8.3% at a 52-week high $6.23.

Companywide comparable sales in the quarter were down 21.7%. But the company's Soma brand saw same-store sales up 39.3%.

Gross margin overall was 32.7% in the first quarter. That compared with a negative 4% in the year-earlier quarter, which reflected a number of non-cash charges.

Selling, general and administrative expense fell to 34.6% of net sales from 46.4%.

Chico's FAS reduced inventory at the end of the first quarter by 21% overall.

Cash and marketable securities at the end of the first quarter totaled $102.4 million against $117.6 million a year earlier. Total debt was flat at $149 million.

For the full fiscal year, the company expects net sales to rise 28% to 34% from a year earlier.

Barington Capital said that it represented a group that holds about 2% of Chico's FAS.

The investment firm said in a statement that "the operating struggles at the company's fashion clothing brands, Chico's and White House Black Market, have long overshadowed the positive contributions from Soma, the company's intimate apparel and loungewear brand. ...

"Soma has been performing strongly due to its compelling product assortments and inclusive message. Based on recent peer valuations, Barington believes Soma's value could exceed the company's enterprise value of $640 million."

Barington said it saw promise in the operating plan of Chief Executive Molly Langenstein. A veteran of more than 30 years in fashion retailing, Langenstein a year ago took over as president and CEO of Chico's FAS.

And after Chico's cut costs last year, "Barington expects to see a return to profitability in fiscal year 2021."

Chico's responded to Barington, saying that it "is making tremendous progress in its turnaround strategy to become a digital-first, customer-led company. ... 

"We look forward to continuing to engage with all of our shareholders, including Barington. ... We are committed to taking all appropriate actions to improve performance and drive shareholder value."