Cost Plus (CPWM)

Q4 2011 Earnings Call

March 22, 2012 4:30 pm ET


Barry J. Feld - Chief Executive Officer, President and Director

Anne Mirante - Vice President of Finance and Treasurer

Jane L. Baughman - Chief Financial Officer, Executive Vice President and Corporate Secretary


Bradley B. Thomas - KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division

N. Richard Nelson - Stephens Inc., Research Division

Thomas J. McConville - Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division

Anthony C. Lebiedzinski - Sidoti & Company, LLC

Unknown Analyst

Eric M. Cohen - BB&T Capital Markets, Research Division

Edward Nishan Antoian - Chartwell Investment Partners

Braden Michael Leonard - BML Capital Management, LLC



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Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Fourth Quarter 2011 Cost Plus Earnings Call. My name is Melanie, and I'll be your coordinator today. [Operator Instructions] As a reminder, today's meeting will be recorded. I would now like to turn the call over to Mr. Barry Feld, CEO and President of Cost Plus. Please proceed.

Barry J. Feld

Thank you, operator. Good afternoon, and thank you for joining us to discuss our fourth quarter and fiscal year 2011 results. With me for this conference call are Jane Baughman, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; Anne Mirante, Vice President of Finance; and Charlie Miltner, Vice President and Controller. Following my opening remarks, Jane will discuss the fourth quarter and full year financial results in detail, after which, I will discuss our fiscal 2012 key growth initiatives. Then we'll open the call to questions.

Before beginning today's discussion, Anne Mirante will read the company's Safe Harbor statement.

Anne Mirante

Certain comments made during this call may contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. These forward-looking statements include statements regarding the company's future financial and operational performance, our goals and our strategies and can be identified by the use of words such as may, will, expect, anticipate, believe and other similar words and phrases. The company's actual results or future financial conditions may differ materially from those expressed in any such forward-looking statements as a result of many factors that may be outside the company's control.

Please refer to the company's current press release and SEC filings, including our annual report on Form 10-K for a complete discussion of the major risks and uncertainties that may affect our business. The forward-looking statements made today are as of the date of this call, and we do not undertake any obligation to update our forward-looking statements.

Barry J. Feld

Thank you, Anne. Fiscal 2011 marked another year of significant progress for Cost Plus World Market. We met or exceeded our sales and earnings guidance in all 4 quarters and have now delivered 8 consecutive quarters of same-store sales increases. The strategic pillars of the brand: home decorating, home entertaining and gift-giving, overlaid with our strong core competency and seasonal merchandise continue to provide our customers with unique, authentic and affordable solutions for all of their shopping needs.

Beginning with fall harvest and then continuing through Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's, the excitement and momentum builds in our stores with the constant flow of new and exclusively designed merchandise offered at attractive prices. Our deep international sourcing and trend design capabilities sets our product offering apart from the competition. Merchandise resets executed earlier in the year to showcase our unique gift cards, paper and create-a-gift assortments generated sales significantly ahead of their plans.

Also, within the home division, we experienced strong performance across the textiles, bath, framed art and lighting categories. As always, our consumables assortment drove customers into the store to purchase many unique and hard-to-find European holiday treats including chocolates, Storz and Marzipan, Ginger snacks and much more. From stocking stuffers to ornaments and gifts from around the world, our holiday offering has become a tradition for our loyal customers and a conversion pull for those visiting us for the first time.

Our marketing team continue to drive traffic by effectively layering print, electronic and social media augmented with the special offers for our World Market Explorer loyalty program. In the 2-plus years since its inception, we have over 6 million members enrolled in the loyalty program and our total customer database now has over 8 million customers. Our loyalty members shop more frequently and spend 50% more than nonmembers on each trip. We expect membership to continue to increase at a healthy pace in 2012 as we further optimize the program.

In January, we ran our annual furniture promotion and clearance event that sets the stage for the introduction of new merchandise and positions us to enter the upcoming fiscal year with clean inventories. We are pleased to report that the strong response to the furniture business we experienced in the third quarter continued into the fourth quarter and exceeded our expectations, benefiting our average ticket. Overall, in the fourth quarter, we were able to deliver improved sell-through of seasonal and promotional merchandise at a higher-margin rate than last year.

For the full year, our strong top line growth combined with improving gross margins and SG&A expense leverage resulted in more than a 3x increase in net income from continuing operations versus fiscal 2010. During the last few years, the company has retooled and rebalanced its merchandising mix to support the 4 brand pillars, and merchandise margins still have the ability to expand over time.

EBITDA in fiscal 2011 totaled $51.3 million, a 30% increase over fiscal 2010 and we generated $30 million of free cash flow. Importantly, we ended fiscal 2011 debt-free and are well positioned to resume the growth of the business by investing across multiple channels in fiscal 2012.

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