Vera Bradley Drops, American Apparel Pops: Retail Roundup (Update 1)

This story has been updated from 12:35 P.M. with new information and closing stock prices.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Retail stocks ended Thursday on a mixed note, after two more specialty retailers reported disappointing earnings, and a handful of retailers issued generally positive May same-store sales numbers.

Vera Bradley ( VRA) shares plunged 7.8% to $20.70 following news that its longtime CEO was resigning as well as slow same-store sales in the first quarter.

Vera Bradley announced late Wednesday that CEO Michael Ray informed the board hat he plans to retire from his position. Ray will continue as CEO until a successor is in place, the company said.

The handbag and accessories company said first-quarter 2014 earnings fell 26% from the year-earlier quarter to 23 cents a share, yet still beat Wall Street's expectations of 21 cents a share. Net income for the quarter was $9.2 million compared with $12.6 million the year before.

Also see: Michael Kors Beat on Both Profit and Revenue

Also see: Urban Outfitters Drops on Lower-than-Expected Sales

Net revenue rose 5% to $123 million. Vera Bradley said that while store sales rose 34% in the quarter, the growth was from new stores opened. Comparable-store sales merely inched 0.9% higher, while online sales jumped 23% in the quarter.

On the other hand, total SG&A expenses were $55.2 million for the first quarter, roughly 45% of net revenue, up 460 basis points from the prior year, primarily due to "lower revenues in the indirect segment and full-price stores and annualization of employee-related expenses," the company said.

Vera Bradley's cash flow also declined by more than half from a year earlier to $14.9 million, related to increased inventory, it said.

The company narrowed its revenue and earnings forecast for the second quarter to a range of $123 million to $126 million, which essentially means little if any growth from the first quarter. Diluted earnings per share are expected to be in a range of 31 cents to 33 cents.

At least three analysts downgraded the stock following the earnings release and news of Ray's departure.

"In the near term, VRA's growth rate will likely be pressured as the company manages through challenges in the merchandise assortment and uncertainty at the executive level," Wells Fargo Securities analyst Evren Kopelman wrote in a note downgrading the stock to market perform.

"Looking out more medium term, we have less confidence in our forecasts as the visibility is low for a rebound in growth rates and recent earnings revisions have been downward. While the stock is already pricing in some of these challenges, we do not anticipate enough positive catalysts to move the stock meaningfully higher," Kopelman's note said.

Meanwhile, May same-store sales from the 11 companies that still report were generally positive, despite missing consensus estimates. According to the Thomson Reuters Same Store Sales Index, May store sales registered a positive 3.4%, below the estimate of 3.7% for the month.

Gap ( GPS) shares were rising in after-markets trading after the retailer said that May net sales rose 11% compared to last year to $1.22 billion.

The company's comparable sales for May 2013 jumped 7% year-over-year, compared to 2% for the May 2012 period and above analysts' expectation of a 4.1% rise in same-store sales. The company's Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy brands all experienced significant growth. May 2013 comparable sales were compared to the four-week period ended June 2, 2012.

"We are pleased with the positive customer response to summer product across our brands and the continued momentum in the business," CEO and chairman Glenn Murphy said in a release. The stock was down 0.24% to $40.88 in after-hours trading.

American Apparel ( APP) sales had the biggest upside surprise of 10%, according to Thomson, while Cato ( CATO) had the worst sales slide of 2%. Shares of American Apparel popped Thursday afternoon, closing up 7% to $2.13. Shares of Cato closed up 0.6% to $25.51.

On the flip side, L Brands ( LTD) fell 1.9% to $50.66 on Thursday after the parent company of Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works said May comparable store sales rose 3% compared to the year before, slightly below analysts' expectations of 3.2%.

Elsewhere, Ann Taylor ( ANN) shares were rising 1.7% to $31.59, despite declining profit at the women's specialty apparel company.

The company said Thursday that first-quarter 2013 earnings were 44 cents a share, beating Wall Street expectations of 42 cents a share, but 24% lower than the year before. Ann Taylor had previously announced weaker-than-expected first-quarter sales.

"As previously noted, our first quarter performance reflected the impact of unseasonably cold weather, which negatively affected sales of warm weather product, primarily at LOFT," CEO Kay Krill said in Thursday's earnings release. "As a result, we were more promotional than planned to clear through inventory in advance of second quarter deliveries."

However, "the onset of more seasonable weather in May resulted in positive comparable sales performance at both brands and in all channels for the month, and we are on track to achieve higher profitability and positive comp performance at both brands for the second quarter," Krill said. "Looking ahead, we are well-positioned to deliver another consecutive year of profitable growth for ANN INC., driven by the success of our strategic initiatives and strong performance at both brands."

Other retail stocks that gained on Thursday: Fifth & Pacific ( FNP ) shares rose 2.7% to $21.46 and Macy's ( M) rose 2.2% to $48.39.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to: Laurie.Kulikowski@thestreet.com.

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