Big Lots (BIG) Q4 2011 Earnings Call March 02, 2012 8:00 am ET Executives Andy Regrut - Steven S. Fishman - Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President Timothy A. Johnson - Senior Vice President of Finance and Vice President of Strategic Planning & Investor Relations
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 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 of our U.S. operations and our Canadian business since acquisition or July 18, 2011. Our statements also include immaterial amounts of discontinued operations activity. All commentary today is focused on continuing operations.With that, I'll turn it over to Steve. Steven S. Fishman Thanks, Andy, and good morning, everyone. I'm pleased with the results we're reporting this morning. Our fourth quarter was a success as we executed our strategies extremely well over the holiday season, maybe better than we ever have before. And it generated strong financial results. Comps in the U.S. were up 3.4%. And operating profit in the U.S. and EPS were at record levels, and we continue to return significant amounts of cash to our shareholders through our share repurchase efforts. From a merchandising perspective in the United States, our Seasonal and Furniture businesses were particularly strong, each comping up in the low double digits. You may recall that our Seasonal Christmas assortment was allocated more floor space and inventory this holiday season, a result of our strategic decision to downsize our traditional Toys business. We offer great quality Seasonal product, all priced at extreme values, and the customers responded in a big way. In Furniture, all of our key classifications posted positive results. This year, our broader selection of decorative fireplaces appealed with the consumers. We experienced strength in Upholstery, which is often used to spruce up the house for the holidays, and our day-in and day-out Mattress business posted some of the strongest comps in the store. Consumables had another successful quarter, comping up mid-single digits. We made significant improvements in this business in 2011 with our merchandise, with planned events and our team and the changes have translated into meaningful sales growth. Our Food business, whether it was closeout, specialty or captive label, continues to drive Consumables. However, HBC, pet, chemicals and most every part of the category had positive comps for the quarter.
Our marketing, product presentation and in-store execution, including the wall of values that highlights the extreme value of our Consumables offerings, steadily improved as the year went along. The other big winner for the holidays was Electronics, which you may recall also benefited from our efforts to downsize Toys. Electronics are the Toys of the new age, toys with screens and memory cards. They're gadgets that fascinate a tech-savvy generation, have a broad appeal to consumers of all ages and create buzz in our stores and with our customers. What's most exciting about this strategy is that Electronics is not just a fourth quarter business but instead has growth opportunities throughout the year.From a Canadian perspective, we made progress over the last 90 days to its 3 key initiatives, which Joe will cover shortly. Having been in Canada and visited stores during Q4, I can tell you that the presentation shopping experience has significantly improved, and I believe we are on the right track. For the year in total, 2011 was one of significant milestones. We exceeded $5 billion in sales for the first time in our company's history. We delivered our fifth consecutive year of record earnings per share at $2.99 per share. We posted flat or positive annual comps for the 13th consecutive year. We completed a key strategic acquisition and expanded into Canada. We executed a successful IT rollout of a new merchandising systems, a multiyear, multimillion dollar cross-functional initiative that officially went live on January 29, without issues and on budget. We invested in our associates through a variety of training and development programs designed to increase our bench strength and prepare our workforce for future growth opportunities, both in the corporate offices and in the stores. And through all of this, our shareholders experienced meaningful financial gains as our share price increased 26%, which we believe was due to our performance and significant share repurchase efforts. I think it's safe to say we're pleased with the improvements we made this year, but we're not satisfied. Before I go on to 2012, let me turn the call over to TJ for additional details on the fourth quarter and full year results. Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com