Macy's Tumbles as Retailer Lowers Guidance (Update 1)

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Macy's ( M) was tumbling after the bellwether retailer reported lower than expected second-quarter earnings and cut its outlook for the remainder of 2013.

Shares were losing 4.2% to $46.46 on Wednesday.

Macy's reported a second-quarter profit of $281 million, or 72 cents a share. While per share earnings rose 7.5% from the second quarter of 2012, the consensus among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters was for EPS of 78 cents, which would have represented earnings growth of 16%.

Net sales were also softer for the 13-week period ending Aug. 3, 2013, slipping 0.8% to $6.06 billion as compared to the year-earlier quarter and below analysts' expectations of $6.26 billion.

For the first six months of 2013, net cash provided by operating activities was $664 million, up 4% compared to last year.

Given the disappointing quarter, Macy's lowered its full-year guidance. It now expects fiscal 2013 earnings to range between $3.80 to $3.90 per share compared to the previous range of $3.90 to $3.95.

The company expects comparable sales in the second half of 2013 to increase in a range of 2.5% to 4%, lowering full-year 2013 comparable sales growth to a range of 2% to 2.9%, down from its previous comparable sales growth forecast of 3.5%.

"We had planned our second quarter sales with a lower increase than the first quarter because of a shift in a major promotional event," Macy's Chairman, President and CEO Terry Lundgren said in the earnings release. "Even so, second quarter sales performance was softer than anticipated, and we are disappointed with the results. Our performance in the period, in part, reflects consumers' continuing uncertainty about spending on discretionary items in the current economic environment."

"After a cool spring, we have taken appropriate markdowns and customers are responding favorably. Also on the positive side, we have seen a strengthening of the sales trend in key elements of women's ready-to-wear, a category which has lagged over the past couple of years," Lundgren continued, adding that Bloomingdale's, the company's high-end department store saw sales rebound in the second quarter.

Still, Macy's says it's encouraged by early fall sales, even as industry observers cite concerns over the back-to-school selling season.

"Our management team is viewing the second quarter as a speed bump," CFO Karen Hoguet said during the Macy's earnings call. "We do not see this as a change in the momentum that we have accumulated over the past three years."

The company is encouraged by sales so far in the first two weeks of August. Consumers seem to be reacting to new products in stores, specifically in categories such as back-to-school as well as work apparel.

"This bodes very well for fall," Hoguet said.

Still Macy's first decline in comparable sales in three years could mean trouble ahead for earnings at other department stores.

"We expect the stock to be weak today, but retain our Buy rating, as we view this quarter as more of an isolated problem than a longer-term issue," Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst Lorraine Hutchinson wrote in a note. "Among the mid-tier department stores, we think M is best positioned for the second half, given its exposure to top national brands and high center core concentration."

Wells Fargo Securities analyst Paul Lejuez is particularly concerned about Kohl's ( KSS), which reports earnings on Thursday, along with Wal-Mart ( WMT) and Nordstrom ( JWN). Comparable sales at Kohl's trailed Macy's by 200 to 700 basis points over the past nine quarters, Lejuez wrote in a research note.

Wall Street is expecting Kohl's to post earnings per share of $1.05 a share on $4.29 billion of revenue.

Softer sales at Macy's could also mean more trouble for struggling retailer J.C. Penney ( JCP ), when it reports on Tuesday, Aug. 20.

Aside from its recent boardroom spat between activist investor Bill Ackman and chairman Thomas Engibous, J.C. Penney faces the giant task of not only re-energizing what seems to be a troubled brand, but doing so in an environment where consumers are already being picky about where they spend their dollars.

Wall Street is forecasting J.C Penney to report a loss of $1.06 per share on revenue of $2.78 billion.

Shares of Kohl's were 0.7% lower to $50.48. J.C. Penney slipped 0.2% to $12.66 and Wal-Mart fell 0.6% to $76.41.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

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