Talbots (TLB) posted a breakeven fourth quarter and guided in line for the first quarter, though it warned that February same-store sales were "somewhat softer than anticipated."
The Hingham, Mass., apparel retailer made $17,000, or less than a penny a share, for the quarter ended Feb. 3, down from the year-ago $19.8 million, or 37 cents a share. Sales rose to $638 million from $486 million a year ago.
Analysts were looking for a breakeven quarter on sales of $579 million.
The company said it expects to make 36 cents to 43 cents a share for the first quarter, compared with a Thomson Financial analyst consensus estimate of 38 cents. Talbots' forecast reflects a Talbots brand profit of 53 to 58 cents a share, up from 51 cents a year ago, along with a 3-cent-to-5-cent loss at the recently acquired J. Jill and 12 cents worth of merger integration costs.
"Looking specifically at the first quarter, while we remain comfortable with our previously announced outlook for earnings per share, our Talbots brand February comparable store sales trends were somewhat softer than anticipated," CEO Arnold Zetcher said. "However, our major Spring 3 catalog, which was mailed to customers in the beginning of March, has so far received positive customer response and is off to a strong start.
"For the J. Jill brand, February comps were below our expectations, but we did see a pickup in trends during the latter part of the month, as we set our stores with new spring merchandise. We are hopeful for a continuation of improved selling trends in both of our brands throughout the remainder of the period and the year."
Talbots expects to make $1.05 to $1.15 a share for the year, reflecting Talbots earnings of $1.43 to $1.48 a share, J.Jill earnings of 2 to 7 cents a share and 40 cents a share in acquisition costs.