Burlington Stores Conference Call Highlights; Executives Optimistic

Benzinga

Shares of Burlington Stores (NYSE: BURL) traded up five percent following its first quarter earnings release on Tuesday. Shares are down seven percent year-to-date.

Below are some highlights and key takeaways from its conference call:

Growth, Sales and Expansion (CEO):

• I'm extremely pleased with our performance in the first quarter, as our momentum from 2013 continued with a solid start to 2014.
• Delivered a strong performance on both our top and bottom line.
• Executed all three of its growth strategies, driving comparable store sales growth, continuing to grow our store base and expanding operating margins.
• 2.7 percent increase in the comparable store sales.
• Strong growth in adjusted EPS is a direct result of the continued improvement in the execution of our off-price model.
• Continues to be a challenging retail environment.
• Opened two new stores bringing our total store count to 523.
• We entered the second quarter with significant open to buy liquidity to take advantage of the great buying opportunities we see in the marketplace.
• Our strong comparable store sales growth for the quarter was on top of a 3.4 percent increase in the prior year.
• Experienced strong performances in key businesses that cater to our core female customer such as Missy Sportswear, dresses and suits, and lady shoes.
• The continued growth in the quality and quantity of our vendor base has helped fuel the strong performance.
• We continue to increase our better and best receipt unit penetration with increases coming from most businesses.
• We continue to make progress in terms of tailoring our assortments across brands, lifestyles, sizes and climate.
• We improved the timing of our seasonal product deliveries by region, allowing us to improve in getting the right products to the right locations at the right time.
• We remain confident in our plans to open approximately 25 stores in 2014 and beyond.
• One thousand stores over the long term.
• We continue to believe that we will deliver two percent to three percent increases in comparable store sales in each quarter of 2014
• We'll open 25 net new stores; and have an adjusted EBITDA expansion of 10 basis points to 20 basis points 

CFO Comments with Financials:

• Total sales increase of 5.9 percent.
• Our gross margin rate was 38.1 percent.
• This is directly correlated with the lower level of aged inventory that we began this year with versus last year.
• Our adjusted income tax expense was $12.5 million, compared to $4 million last year.
• The adjusted effective tax rate was 40.2 percent versus 39.6 percent last year.
• We had $70 million in cash, no borrowings on our ABL and have availability in excess of $500 million.
• Our debt totaled $1.367 billion.
• We expect that our gross margin rate will be somewhat higher than last year for the full year.
• We will continue to utilize free cash flow to pay down debt when available.
• We continue to expect depreciation and amortization expense to be approximately a $145 million for the full year.
• The expectations are for a first half comp sales increase of two percent to three percent.

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