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J. Crew Group (JCG)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

May 31, 2012 11:00 am ET


Allison C. Malkin - Senior Managing Director

James S. Scully - Chief Administration Officer and Executive Vice President

Stuart Haselden - Chief Financial Officer

Libby Wadle - Executive Vice President of Retail & Factory


William M. Reuter - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

Jordan Hughes - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Carla Casella - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division

Grant Jordan - Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division

Karru Martinson - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division

Emily E. Shanks - Barclays Capital, Research Division

Karen Eltrich - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

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Greetings, welcome to the J. Crew Inc. First Quarter Fiscal 2012 Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] As a reminder, this conference is being recorded. It is now my pleasure to introduce your host, Allison Malkin of ICR. Thank you, Ms. Malkin, you may begin.

Allison C. Malkin

Good morning. Thank you for joining us to review our first quarter 2012 results. With me today are Jim Scully, Chief Administrative Officer; Libby Wadle, Head of our J. Crew brand; Stuart Haselden, Chief Financial Officer; and other members of our management team.

Before we begin, I'd like to remind you of the company's Safe Harbor language, which I'm sure you're all familiar with. The statements contained in this conference call, which are not historical facts, may be deemed to constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Actual future results may differ materially from those projected in such statements due to a number of risks and uncertainties, all of which are described in the company's filings with the SEC and in the press release issued in connection with today's call.

As a result of the acquisition on March 7, 2011, by TPG Capital and Leonard Green & Partners, the company prepared financial statements last year for the predecessor period from January 30, 2011, through March 7, 2011, and the successor period from March 8, 2011 through April 30, 2011.

Additionally, we have prepared a pro forma statement of operations for the first quarter of 2011, giving effect to the acquisition as if it occurred on the first day of this fiscal year and eliminating all transaction-related nonrecurring expense, which can be found in Exhibit 2 of our press release. We refer you to the supplemental MD&A and other disclosures in our Form 10-Q for the first quarter of fiscal 2012.

During this call, we will refer to adjusted EBITDA, which adjusts for items such as noncash share-based compensation as well as the impact of purchase accounting resulting from the acquisition. You will find a reconciliation of adjusted EBITDA in Exhibit 4 of our press release.

With that, I would now like to turn the call over to Jim Scully.

James S. Scully

Thanks, Allison, and good morning. I will provide a brief overview of our first quarter results, and then Stuart will walk you through our financials in more detail. After which, we will open up the call to your questions.

For the first quarter, total revenues increased 23% with comparable company sales increasing 16% and direct sales increasing 19%. Our gross margin increased 290 basis points to 47.6%, driven by 150 basis points of merchandise margin expansion and 140 basis points of buying and occupancy leverage. Our adjusted EBITDA totaled $102 million or 20.2% of revenues in the first quarter versus $75 million or 18.3% of revenues last year.

We are very pleased with our first quarter results. Our customers responded very well to our spring product flows, and we saw a continued sequential improvement in our top line trend, particularly in our Women's business. Our Women's performance was driven by our strategy to narrow our assortments and invest behind our big ideas.

Before I turn the call over to Stuart, I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge and congratulate him on his appointment to CFO earlier this month. Stuart has been with J. Crew since 2006 and has been an integral part of driving our finance function and the growth of J. Crew.

With that, I would now like to turn the call over to Stuart to review our financial results in more detail and provide the outlook for CapEx for the year.

Stuart Haselden

Thanks, Jim. Turning into the details for the first quarter. Total revenues increased 23% to $504 million. Total comparable company sales, which include comp store sales, direct sales and shipping and handling revenues, increased 16%. Our store sales increased 26% to $354 million with net square footage growing 7% in the first quarter with 10 new store openings during the quarter.

Direct sales increased 19%, which includes our J. Crew factory and Madewell direct businesses. Gross profit for the first quarter was $240 million. Gross profit margin increased 290 basis points to 47.6%, driven by 150 basis points of merchandise margin expansion, coupled with 140 basis points of buying and occupancy leverage. Our merchandise margin improvement resulted from higher full price sell-throughs, driving lower markdowns versus last year.

Turning to SG&A expenses. SG&A increased 25% to $164 million. This represented a 60 basis point increase to last year on a rate basis at 32.6% of revenues. The first quarter includes a $6.7 million increase in share-based and incentive compensation. Adjusted EBITDA, as outlined in Exhibit 4 of our press release, for the quarter was $102 million as compared to $75 million last year with EBITDA rate increasing to 20.2% of revenues versus 18.3% last year. Net interest expense for the first quarter totaled $25 million, which compares to $26 million last year and is reflective of the debt incurred in connection with the acquisition.

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