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Big Lots (BIG)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

May 23, 2012 8:00 am ET


Andy Regrut

Timothy A. Johnson - Senior Vice President of Finance

Joe R. Cooper - Chief Financial Officer, Principal Accounting Officer, Executive Vice President and President of Big Lots Canada

Steven S. Fishman - Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President


Laura A. Champine - Canaccord Genuity, Research Division

Matthew R. Boss - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division

Jeffrey S. Stein - Northcoast Research

David M. Mann - Johnson Rice & Company, L.L.C., Research Division

Peter J. Keith - Piper Jaffray Companies, Research Division

Daniel R. Wewer - Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division

Charles X. Grom - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division

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Patrick McKeever - MKM Partners LLC, Research Division



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Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Big Lots First Quarter 2012 Teleconference. This call is being recorded. [Operator Instructions] At this time, I would like to introduce today's first speaker, Senior Vice President of Finance, Tim Johnson. Please go ahead, sir.

Andy Regrut

Thanks, Chris, and thank you, everyone, for joining us for our first quarter conference call. With me here today in Columbus are Steve Fishman, our Chairman, CEO and President; Chuck Haubiel, Executive Vice President in Real Estate, Legal and General Counsel; Joe Cooper, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Big Lots and President of Big Lots Canada; and Tim Johnson, Senior Vice President of Finance.

Before we get started, I'd like to remind you that any forward-looking statements we make on today's call involve risks and uncertainties and are subject to our Safe Harbor provisions, as stated in our press release and SEC filings, and that actual results can differ materially from those described in our forward-looking statements.

Our consolidated financials include results from our U.S. operations and from our Canadian business that was acquired on July 18, 2011. Our statements also include immaterial amounts of discontinued operations activity. All commentary today is focused on adjusted non-GAAP results from continuing operations, that is excluding the nonrecurring, noncash, after-tax charge of $3.4 million or $0.05 per diluted share mentioned in today's press release. As a reminder, this charge relates to our previously announced change in accounting principle related to inventory valuation and was the direct result of our successful go live of a new merchandising system at the beginning of the fiscal year. A reconciliation of GAAP to non-GAAP adjusted earnings is available on today's press release.

Given our Annual Meeting of Shareholders begins at 9:00 a.m., our comments will be brief to allow for Q&A to be completed by 8:45. With that, I will turn it over to TJ.

Timothy A. Johnson

Thanks, Andy, and good morning, everyone. I'm going to briefly cover Q1 results and then turn it over to Joe to update you on our progress in Canada and also to speak to our forward guidance. After Joe, Steve will finish with his perspective on results and our merchandising efforts going forward.

Sales for U.S. operations were $1.262 billion, an increase of 2.8% compared to the $1.227 billion we reported for the first quarter of last year. Comparable store sales for stores opened at least 15 months decreased 0.8%, which was below our original guidance of 2% to 4% increase.

Comp trends to plan varied widely during the quarter. For the first half of the quarter, comps were positive, and sales dollars were essentially on plan. In the last half of the quarter, we expected to see higher comps against the softer comparison from Q1 of 2011. This trend did not unfold, and comps were actually down to the prior year.

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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