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Ascena's Holiday Comps Up 3%, Stock Down on Bleak Q2 View

Zacks Equity Research

Ascena Retail Group, Inc. ASNA reported robust sales numbers for the holiday period extending from Nov 17, 2018 through Jan 1, 2019. Despite stellar holiday results, loss per share widened in second-quarter fiscal 2019. This weighed on investor sentiments, sending shares down as much as 7% yesterday.

The company registered a 3% rise in comparable sales (comps) this holiday season against a 3% decline witnessed in the year-ago period. Comps growth was driven by continued momentum at Premium Fashion and impressive performance at the Value Fashion segment. The upside was somewhat offset by soft performance at Plus Fashion division.

At the Premium and the Value Fashion segments, comps rose 12% and 2%, respectively. Under the Premium Fashion segment, the metric grew 7% at Ann Taylor and 14% at LOFT. Meanwhile, comps at maurices and dressbarn increased a respective 2% and 3% under the Value segment.

Further, comps edged up 1% at Kids Fashion division, while the same at Plus Fashion decreased 8%. Under the Plus Fashion unit, comps fell 9% at Lane Bryant and 3% at Catherines. Although comps at the Kids segment improved 1%, the rate of growth decelerated from 4% in the year-ago period.

Management remains pleased with comps growth and margin expansion during the holiday season. Further, enterprise comps rose 3% so far in the quarter. As a result, comps are still anticipated to increase 2-4% for the impending quarter.

However, Ascena now envisions adjusted loss per share of 23-28 cents for the fiscal second quarter, wider than loss of 15-25 cents guided earlier.

In the past month, this Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) stock has gained approximately 20% compared with the industry’s 0.4% growth.

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