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Edited Transcript of TLYS earnings conference call or presentation 29-May-19 8:30pm GMT

Q1 2019 Tillys Inc Earnings Call

Irvine May 31, 2019 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Tillys Inc earnings conference call or presentation Wednesday, May 29, 2019 at 8:30:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* Edmond S. Thomas

Tilly's, Inc. - President, CEO & Director

* Michael L. Henry

Tilly's, Inc. - CFO & Corporate Secretary

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Conference Call Participants

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* David Loughran Buckley

BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - Analyst

* David Michael King

Roth Capital Partners, LLC, Research Division - MD & Senior Research Analyst

* Janet Joseph Kloppenburg

JJK Research Associates, Inc. - President

* Jeffrey Wallin Van Sinderen

B. Riley FBR, Inc., Research Division - Senior Analyst

* Mitchel John Kummetz

Pivotal Research Group LLC - Senior Analyst of Footwear, Apparel Vendors and Retailers

* Sharon Zackfia

William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division - Partner & Group Head of Consumer

* Gar Jackson

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Ladies and gentlemen, greetings, and welcome to Tilly's, Inc. First Quarter 2019 Earnings Results Conference Call. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder, this program is being recorded.

It is now my pleasure to introduce your host, Gar Jackson of Investor Relations. Thank you. You may begin.

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Gar Jackson, [2]

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Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the Tilly's Fiscal 2019 First Quarter Earnings Call. Ed Thomas, President and CEO; and Michael Henry, CFO, will discuss the company's results and then host the Q&A session.

For a copy of Tilly's earnings press release, please visit the Investor Relations section of the company's website at tillys.com. From the same section, shortly after the conclusion of the call, you will also be able to find a recorded replay of this call for the next 30 days.

Certain forward-looking statements will be made during this call that reflect Tilly's judgment and analysis only as of today, May 29, 2019, and actual results may differ materially from current expectations based on a number of factors affecting Tilly's business. Accordingly, you should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements. For a more thorough discussion of the risk and uncertainties associated with any forward-looking statements, please see the disclaimer regarding forward-looking statements that is included in our fiscal 2019 first quarter earnings release, which was furnished to the SEC today on Form 8-K, as well as our other filings with the SEC referenced in that disclaimer.

Today's call will be limited to 1 hour and will include a Q&A session after our prepared remarks.

I now turn the call over to Ed.

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Edmond S. Thomas, Tilly's, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [3]

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Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining us today.

Both our top line and bottom line results for the first quarter of fiscal 2019 were on the highest side of our outlook ranges. After a slow start to the quarter due to unseasonably poor weather and the late Easter shift this year, our business rebounded during April to produce a positive 2.4% total comp and earnings per share of $0.02 for the quarter.

Footwear was again our strongest performer with a low double-digit percentage comp sales increase over last year. Men's, accessories and boys were all up low single digits. Growth in women's were down mid- to high single digits with weakness in fashion tops and dresses. Fashion bottoms and swim were also weak within women's.

Turning to real estate. We opened one new full-size store in Chico, California, and closed our original RSQ pop-up store in Dallas upon lease expiration during the first quarter. In the second quarter, we will open one new full-size store in Natick, Massachusetts, in mid-June and have just closed our Cerritos, California, RSQ pop-up store due to landlord recapture. We currently expect to open up 5 new full-size stores during the third quarter and up to 6 during the fourth quarter, bringing the total number of new store openings for the year up to 13. Five of these 13 new stores have fully executed leases as of today. Given that we expect to open full-size stores in both King of Prussia and Del Amo later this year, our remaining 2 RSQ stores will close upon the opening of the new full-size stores in those properties.

We have also completed negotiations for just over 1/4 of the nearly 80 lease action decisions to be made this year which we anticipate will continue to improve our occupancy cost structure going forward. At this time, we have no additional known store closures, although a few may still occur as we finalize negotiations on our various lease actions.

Despite the expected closure of our initial 4 RSQ pop-ups, we have learned a lot from them and are actively working on establishing RSQ as a permanent concept. We do not have any signed leases as of today, but we have received meaningful interest from certain members of the retail landlord community about adding RSQ stores to their properties. We believe that this can be a growth vehicle for us to complement our traditional full-size stores while also strengthening our proprietary brand recognition.

Next, I'd like to discuss our continued focus on customer engagement, brand awareness and driving store traffic. We formally announced our new partnership with the High School Esports League in mid-April. This league is the largest e-sports league at the high school level in the country, encompassing approximately 1,500 schools nationwide. We're excited about the opportunities this partnership may provide to bring step -- to bring new eyes to Tilly's and inspire creative, fun experience for our customers to help drive in-store traffic. Additionally, we are working on several other promising efforts to improve brand awareness and customer engagement for the remainder of the year. While we are not ready to go into detail on any of these items at this time, all are aimed at continuing to improve consumer engagement and brand awareness for our company.

Turning to technology. We expect to launch an expanded loyalty program and enhanced mobile app during the second quarter. We also expect to be able to go live with a buy-now, pay-later program during the second half of the year, likely in between back-to-school and holiday season -- holiday shopping seasons. We remain committed to investing in our customer-facing technologies to further strengthen customer engagement and provide convenience to drive sales.

Turning to the second quarter. We are off to a slow start across almost all geographies and all spring/summer products. Total comp sales are down 6.6% through Memorial Day weekend, consistent with store traffic thus far. We believe this deceleration is mostly weather-related given the cool and wet weather patterns we have experienced across much of the country, particularly here in California where 95 of our 228 stores reside. It is essentially the same assortment that produced a positive 2.4% comp in the first quarter that has suddenly decelerated in May. In Florida and in the Northeast where weather turned quite warm last week, we've posted positive comps. This gives us some confidence that our results will improve from where they are currently by the time the quarter is complete, assuming more normal weather patterns occur from here.

Mike will now provide details of our first quarter operating performance and introduce our second quarter earnings outlook. Mike?

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Michael L. Henry, Tilly's, Inc. - CFO & Corporate Secretary [4]

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Thanks, Ed. Good afternoon, everyone.

Our fiscal 2019 first quarter operating results compared to last year's first quarter were as follows: Total net sales of $130.3 million increased by $6.7 million or 5.4% from $123.6 million last year. Total comparable store net sales, including e-commerce, increased 2.4% on top of last year's 0.1% total comp sales increase. E-comm net sales increased 29.6% and represented approximately 15.1% of our total net sales this year compared to a decrease of 7.2% and a 12.2% share of our total net sales last year. Store comps decreased 1.4% and represented approximately 84.9% of our total net sales this year compared to an increase of 1.2% and an 87.8% share of our total net sales last year. We ended the first quarter with 229 total stores compared to 222 total stores last year, both inclusive of 3 RSQ-branded pop-up stores.

Gross profit, including buying, distribution and occupancy expenses, was $35.7 million or 27.4% of net sales compared to $35.0 million or 28.3% of net sales last year. The 90 basis point decline in gross margin was primarily attributable to an 80 basis point increase in e-comm shipping costs associated with e-comm net sales growth and a 70 basis point decline in product margins, primarily due to higher markdowns. These variances were partially offset by 60 basis points of improved leverage of occupancy and buying costs as a percentage of net sales.

Regarding the legal settlement coupons we issued last September, less than 2% have been redeemed to date, resulting in no material impact on our business. All such coupons will expire on September 4 of this year. While there can be no guarantee that redemptions will remain immaterial during the upcoming back-to-school season, we are not expecting any meaningful impacts on our business during the final 3 months of the redemption period based on the redemption results thus far.

Total SG&A expenses were $35.5 million or 27.3% of net sales compared to $33.6 million or 27.2% of net sales last year. SG&A increased by approximately $1.9 million, primarily due to higher store payroll costs of approximately $1 million arising from minimum wage and annual merit increases, together with higher e-comm marketing and fulfillment expenses of approximately $0.8 million associated with e-comm net sales growth.

Operating income was $0.1 million or 0.1% of net sales compared to $1.3 million or 1.1% of net sales last year. This decline in operating results was largely attributable to the increased costs associated with e-comm net sales growth and the minimum wage impact on store payroll noted earlier, partially offset by the positive impact of improved comp sales results.

Other income increased to $0.8 million from $0.4 million last year, primarily due to higher interest rates on our cash and marketable securities investment portfolio compared to last year.

Income tax expense was $0.3 million or 30.6% of pretax income compared to $0.5 million or 28.6% of pretax income last year. This year's income tax rate includes approximately $39,000 of discrete items relating to employee stock-based compensation. We continue to expect our effective income tax rate to be approximately 27% on a quarterly basis for the remainder of fiscal 2019, absent discrete items.

Net income was $0.7 million or $0.02 per diluted share compared to $1.2 million or $0.04 per diluted share last year. Weighted average diluted shares for the quarter were $29.8 million versus $29.4 million last year.

Turning to our balance sheet. We ended the first quarter with cash and marketable securities totaling $109.8 million and no debt compared to $105 million and no debt last year. In February 2019, we paid a special dividend to stockholders for the third consecutive year. This year's special dividend totaled approximately $29.5 million in the aggregate or $1 per share. We ended the quarter with inventories up 1.8% below our comp sales increase of 2.4% and with a more current inventory aging compared to last year. Total capital expenditures were $3.1 million compared to $2.9 million last year.

Now turning to our outlook for the second quarter of fiscal 2019. As Ed noted earlier, the second quarter is off to a slow start with total comps down 6.6% through Memorial Day weekend. However, we believe our results were improved -- will improve over the remainder of the quarter, assuming more normal weather patterns occur. Accordingly, based on current and historical trends, we expect total net sales to range from approximately $154 million to approximately $159 million based on a decrease of 1% to 4% in comparable store net sales for the quarter, operating income to range from approximately $6.5 million to approximately $8.5 million and earnings per diluted share to range from $0.17 to $0.23. This outlook assumes no noncash store asset impairment charges, an effective income tax rate of approximately 27% and weighted average diluted shares of approximately 30 million. We expect inventories per square foot to remain consistent with our comp sales performance.

Operator, we'll now go to Q&A.

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions) Our first question comes from the line of Dave King with Roth Capital.

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David Michael King, Roth Capital Partners, LLC, Research Division - MD & Senior Research Analyst [2]

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I guess, first, on the quarter-to-date performance in Q2, how did e-commerce perform versus the down 6.6%? And more importantly, what's embedded in your guidance for the full quarter?

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Michael L. Henry, Tilly's, Inc. - CFO & Corporate Secretary [3]

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So both stores and e-comm decelerated from the performance of the first quarter. Stores were down high single digits through Memorial Day weekend, and e-comm was up high single digits. So it had decelerated quite meaningfully from that up nearly 30% that it was in Q1. So both sides, whether stores or e-comm, slowed down.

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David Michael King, Roth Capital Partners, LLC, Research Division - MD & Senior Research Analyst [4]

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Okay. But I think e-comm had a little bit more difficult compare, right, that may have affected that...

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Michael L. Henry, Tilly's, Inc. - CFO & Corporate Secretary [5]

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At this time last year, we were just starting to get back into positive territory after cleaning up some of the issues that we had upon system transitions back in the Q4 of the year prior.

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Edmond S. Thomas, Tilly's, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [6]

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Yes. And category performance on both channels were pretty similar. So where we saw -- the summer/spring goods was more challenging on both channels.

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David Michael King, Roth Capital Partners, LLC, Research Division - MD & Senior Research Analyst [7]

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Okay, okay. That helps. Then maybe sticking with the guidance a bit. How should we be thinking about -- I think last year, there was a shift in some back-to-school days in the Q2 from Q3. Are those shifting back into Q3? And then is that weighing at all on the guide?

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Michael L. Henry, Tilly's, Inc. - CFO & Corporate Secretary [8]

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No. It should be much more consistent this year in that regard in terms of the dates from what we've seen thus far. Really, what we're contemplating going forward to get -- I'll just be abundantly clear. To get to the higher end of our guidance, we'd basically need to be flat in the total business the rest of the way. On the lower end of the guidance, we need to be down about 3% to get to the lower end of guidance the rest of the way.

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David Michael King, Roth Capital Partners, LLC, Research Division - MD & Senior Research Analyst [9]

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Okay, okay. That helps. And then in terms of thinking about the impact then on operating income, can you, Mike, maybe just talk a little bit about the puts and takes there in terms of the outlook between merch margin, shipping costs, rents, SG&A leverage, et cetera?

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Michael L. Henry, Tilly's, Inc. - CFO & Corporate Secretary [10]

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Sure. So with a negative comp, we'd expect product margins to be down on either end of our guidance range. We're going to continue to be disciplined about inventory management. We're not going to let problems build up, so we'll take whatever pain we have to, to keep inventory clean. So I think our product margins were down 70 basis point in Q1. They could be down up to that much in Q2, maybe not down quite that much on the better end of the guidance range.

Buying, distribution, occupancy cost, as a bucket, are going to deleverage if we're in negative comp territory. It could be anywhere from plus or minus 100 basis points, 80 to 120 basis points on either end. And then, of course, SG&A is going to deleverage on a negative comp as well, could be up to as much as 100 basis points. And the nature of the costs are no different than they have been the last 2 quarters. If e-comm is leading the comp, that is more expensive for us. That comes with e-comm shipping within the distribution component of the BDO costs and it comes with the e-comm marketing and fulfillment costs there within the SG&A line, and then we're going to continue to have the impact of minimum wage increases just as we've called out, I think, 3 quarters ago now that this sort of thing would happen this year.

So nothing new in terms of different costs or unexpected variances other than we certainly weren't planning on having a negative comp this quarter coming in. We were planning for a positive comp for Q2 and have just been really surprised and disappointed in how May has kicked off. We were positive comp each of the last 5 weeks of Q1. And then as soon as we flipped over to Q2, traffic fell off several points. Traffic has been down about 5% and change each week so far for the first 3 weeks of May, and comps have fallen accordingly. And it's been across the board in terms of departments, and it's been very largely across geographies.

So again, as Ed noted in the prepared remarks, it's the same assortment. So we didn't go through any kind of assortment transition that would have caused some sort of fashion risk to cause this kind of deceleration. We really do think it has an awful lot to do with local weather here in California, in particular, but really across the country. And we are where we are, unfortunately.

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Operator [11]

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Our next question comes from the line of Jeff Van Sinderen from B. Riley.

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Jeffrey Wallin Van Sinderen, B. Riley FBR, Inc., Research Division - Senior Analyst [12]

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Just looking at the business in May in California, can you give us more on what you're seeing -- what you saw in May in California versus other regions? I'm also curious about how e-comm has been doing on California, again just specific to California, how that's been trending in May versus brick-and-mortar? Any color there would be helpful.

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Michael L. Henry, Tilly's, Inc. - CFO & Corporate Secretary [13]

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Yes. Jeff, I don't have e-comm comps by state, so I can't answer that definitively. But every significant geographic area where we have at least 10 stores decelerated by several points between how we finished Q1 and early May. So Northern California so far has been down 10%. Southern California has been down 8%. There are other areas in the Midwest that have been down 10% or more. The Northeast, up until just this past week, was down in the teens, so it's been pronounced. And again, we think it has an awful lot to do with what we've been reading every single day.

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Edmond S. Thomas, Tilly's, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [14]

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Yes. I mean, as Mike called out earlier, where we've seen the weather be warm, we've seen that -- a turnaround on the comps, right? That gives us a lot of confidence that it's not an assortment problem. It's mostly weather-related.

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Jeffrey Wallin Van Sinderen, B. Riley FBR, Inc., Research Division - Senior Analyst [15]

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Okay, weather. So for example, if I think about some place like Florida, how should we think about the trend there?

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Edmond S. Thomas, Tilly's, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [16]

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It's better.

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Michael L. Henry, Tilly's, Inc. - CFO & Corporate Secretary [17]

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Yes. It's actually improved from what we wanted. It's the only area that's positive comp right now out there with e-comm.

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Edmond S. Thomas, Tilly's, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [18]

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Yes. It's better.

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Jeffrey Wallin Van Sinderen, B. Riley FBR, Inc., Research Division - Senior Analyst [19]

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Okay. So just kind of following up on that. Aside from the weather, what else do you think is driving the sequential slowdown from Q1? And I guess what else kind of underpins your thinking of it and whether that you're going to see trends improve?

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Edmond S. Thomas, Tilly's, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [20]

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Well, I mean, the softness we've seen in -- by category, we still continue to see good momentum in shoes and pretty much across the board in most men's categories. Women's has been softer than what we had planned, and we think we have a pretty good handle on the reasons why, but then you take seasonal categories in women's like shorts, and that has followed the weather pattern. So...

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Michael L. Henry, Tilly's, Inc. - CFO & Corporate Secretary [21]

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That's been true regardless of women's.

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Edmond S. Thomas, Tilly's, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [22]

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That's right. Men's, women's, yes.

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Michael L. Henry, Tilly's, Inc. - CFO & Corporate Secretary [23]

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Doesn't matter. Shorts, swim or sandals, they were all meaningfully down.

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Edmond S. Thomas, Tilly's, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [24]

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Yes. The one thing I would call out is we think in the women's, we had too many crop tops as part of our assortment. That's been corrected for now going forward. And so that -- we just -- we identified a few mix challenges where we've corrected that. And we'll be in good shape for back-to-school.

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Jeffrey Wallin Van Sinderen, B. Riley FBR, Inc., Research Division - Senior Analyst [25]

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Okay. So if I remember, I think Q1 started pretty slowly as well, and it sounds like we could see -- even though we don't really have a calendar shift, we could see a similar progression in Q2 given that, in the warmer weather regions, your business is actually improving. As the weather improves, we should see -- knock on wood, we should see business improve in California and other places that have been colder. Is that a fair way to look at it?

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Michael L. Henry, Tilly's, Inc. - CFO & Corporate Secretary [26]

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That's what we're expecting, yes.

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Edmond S. Thomas, Tilly's, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [27]

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Yes. We're expecting that.

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Operator [28]

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Our next question comes from the line of Janet Kloppenburg from JJK Research.

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Janet Joseph Kloppenburg, JJK Research Associates, Inc. - President [29]

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I just wanted to ask on May, most companies that I've been talking to they say that it's the smallest month of the quarter and that it's the toughest comparison from last year. Would you say -- of second quarter's comp last year, May was the most challenging comparison. Would you say that those -- that you're in a similar position?

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Michael L. Henry, Tilly's, Inc. - CFO & Corporate Secretary [30]

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May is the smallest month of the quarter, yes. It's roughly about -- we're about 20%, maybe a little over 20% of the way into the quarter so far. And then for us, we were pretty consistent each month last year, although May was the strongest comp, but just barely. So all 3 months of the quarter were within about a point of each other, maybe just barely over a point.

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Janet Joseph Kloppenburg, JJK Research Associates, Inc. - President [31]

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Okay. And the markdowns in the first quarter, Mike, they related to the fact that the quarter got off to a slow start. You had to just move through the inventory, and that's probably going to be a similar situation here on the second quarter?

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Michael L. Henry, Tilly's, Inc. - CFO & Corporate Secretary [32]

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Yes, just addressing slow sellers, addressing issues that we see. We're not sitting on any issues. We're going to continue to act to keep inventory disciplined.

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Edmond S. Thomas, Tilly's, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [33]

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The inventory is as clean as it's ever been right now, so that's a good thing. So despite the challenges of top line, I feel pretty good about the composition of the inventory right down the...

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Janet Joseph Kloppenburg, JJK Research Associates, Inc. - President [34]

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And what about the women's business at -- with some softness here in the first quarter and maybe overexposure right now to the, call, crop top, et cetera, and bottoms being weak, what's the outlook there for improvement? What's implied in your guidance?

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Edmond S. Thomas, Tilly's, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [35]

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Well, we're expecting the women's business to turn positive in terms of comps. And again, we've identified a couple of categories where we know, even though we were not that far off from the rest of the industry and what the mix was like, we know that there are certain things that we could have done a little differently. We've made those adjustments and gives us confidence that women's will improve during the quarter going into back-to-school.

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Janet Joseph Kloppenburg, JJK Research Associates, Inc. - President [36]

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Okay. So you think that, that gets better?

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Edmond S. Thomas, Tilly's, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [37]

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Yes.

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Janet Joseph Kloppenburg, JJK Research Associates, Inc. - President [38]

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Okay. And on the footwear business, is the -- what's being implied in your guidance? I know it's been robust and likely better than expected. Do you think that, that category will slow as we move forward? I know you're up against challenging back half comparison.

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Edmond S. Thomas, Tilly's, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [39]

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We're not expecting it to slow in any meaningful way, and it remains -- it still remains a solid performance for us. And I'm expecting that will continue, maybe not as strong as it has been, but certainly should be positive.

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Janet Joseph Kloppenburg, JJK Research Associates, Inc. - President [40]

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Okay. And just last question. In terms of the digital channel and the impact of that channel's growth on your gross margin, is there some crossover point where it gets to a certain volume level that would allow that pressure to diminish? Or will it continue to have that kind of impact on the gross margin?

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Edmond S. Thomas, Tilly's, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [41]

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Yes. I don't think the volume growth alone is going to solve that challenge. Really, with free shipping being as prevalent as it is throughout the industry, that's our biggest challenge. And to be competitive, you almost have to offer free shipping more often than what we historically have been. So that's a challenge for everybody, but I don't think -- we have our own fulfillment center, as you know, so we operate pretty -- we're not the most efficient, but certainly we operate pretty efficiently because we run our own show throughout.

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Janet Joseph Kloppenburg, JJK Research Associates, Inc. - President [42]

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Okay. But what's the operating income look like, the weight for that channel versus the brick-and-mortar channel?

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Michael L. Henry, Tilly's, Inc. - CFO & Corporate Secretary [43]

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Yes. It's significantly lower than stores. E-comm is in single digit in terms of kind of full-in, all-in, 4-wall profitability, and stores are in the high-teens average, so a big disparity.

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Edmond S. Thomas, Tilly's, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [44]

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Yes. One of the causes of -- major cause of that, we've talked about this before, is we sell a lot of clearance through e-comm versus stores. So that brings the merchandise margins down lower than stores. So therefore, operating -- it falls through the operating income.

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Michael L. Henry, Tilly's, Inc. - CFO & Corporate Secretary [45]

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But then all the shipping costs and all the fulfillment costs added on top just further that, yes.

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Janet Joseph Kloppenburg, JJK Research Associates, Inc. - President [46]

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Okay, okay. And did you say that the West Coast has turned positive on comp now, Mike? Or did I get that wrong?

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Michael L. Henry, Tilly's, Inc. - CFO & Corporate Secretary [47]

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No, it has not. We said Florida in the Northeast last week turned positive.

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Operator [48]

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Our next question comes from the line of Mitch Kummetz with Pivotal Research.

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Mitchel John Kummetz, Pivotal Research Group LLC - Senior Analyst of Footwear, Apparel Vendors and Retailers [49]

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Yes. So Ed, Mike, on the first quarter, so you mentioned there was a rebound in April. Is it possible to give us the comps by month for the first quarter?

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Michael L. Henry, Tilly's, Inc. - CFO & Corporate Secretary [50]

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Give me just a second. I'll find something that has that on it. We were down 5% in February, down 4% in March and then up 18% in April. And again, that's...

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Mitchel John Kummetz, Pivotal Research Group LLC - Senior Analyst of Footwear, Apparel Vendors and Retailers [51]

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So do you have a sense -- I mean, obviously, with the April -- with the Easter shift, do you have a blended March, April number, too?

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Michael L. Henry, Tilly's, Inc. - CFO & Corporate Secretary [52]

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Not in front of me, no -- or wait. Hang on. I think I do. Blended March, April was up 5%.

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Mitchel John Kummetz, Pivotal Research Group LLC - Senior Analyst of Footwear, Apparel Vendors and Retailers [53]

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Okay, so plus 5%. I know that when you guys reported Q4, you talked about the slow start to the first quarter, and you also mentioned the weather. So I'm guessing that the weather turned in March and April, and that got you the positive 5% comp for the last few months combined. I guess what I'm trying to understand is, Mike, it sounds like what you said earlier, to get to the high end of your comp outlook, you're basically assuming you say a flat -- whatever you're saying, a flat comp? Is that right?

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Michael L. Henry, Tilly's, Inc. - CFO & Corporate Secretary [54]

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Total company needs to be flat the rest of the way.

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Mitchel John Kummetz, Pivotal Research Group LLC - Senior Analyst of Footwear, Apparel Vendors and Retailers [55]

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So last time you guys started slow, a lot having to do with the weather, and then you ended up doing a plus 5% in the last couple of months. Now you've gotten off to an even slower start, but the high end of the range is only a flat comp. I'm just trying to understand the difference. Is there something else happening this quarter versus last quarter that you wouldn't think you could get back as much as you got back last quarter? Do you see where I'm going with that?

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Michael L. Henry, Tilly's, Inc. - CFO & Corporate Secretary [56]

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Well, we don't have an Easter shift coming in our favor in Q2.

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Mitchel John Kummetz, Pivotal Research Group LLC - Senior Analyst of Footwear, Apparel Vendors and Retailers [57]

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Yes. But March, April combined were plus 5%. You know what I mean? You went from a minus 5% to a plus 5% from February to March, April. And now you're at a minus 6% or a minus 7%. And the high end of the range only assumes flat. I guess I'm just wondering if there's something else at play in June and July that gives you pause to be more aggressive with your outlook for the balance of the quarter.

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Michael L. Henry, Tilly's, Inc. - CFO & Corporate Secretary [58]

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Yes. The slower start and the fact that all spring and summer categories are down very meaningfully, double-digit down. So that's where we've started. And we're -- quite frankly, we're starting in a hole that we have to dig out of. And I don't have an Easter shift to count on for the back part of the quarter. So we think things are going to get better with more consistent weather, but we also can't predict the weather either. So there's a lot of unknowns about the rest of the way, but we've studied it every which way with all of our historical data, and this is what we think is realistic.

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Mitchel John Kummetz, Pivotal Research Group LLC - Senior Analyst of Footwear, Apparel Vendors and Retailers [59]

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Got it. And then as far as your inventory goes, I mean, is there any way to say what percent is seasonal? I'm trying think about how you're thinking about that seasonal inventory. Like when do things need to start to turn before you get nervous about that seasonal inventory and have to kind of cut bait and get more aggressive on the pricing. If you got like 5 or 10 days of really good weather, does that kind of straighten everything out? Or at what point is there sort of a drop-dead date in your minds where you got to start to move the stuff?

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Edmond S. Thomas, Tilly's, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [60]

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Yes. I don't think there's a big risk there at all. I mean, a lot of our stores are in warmer weather climates year-round. So obviously, there's some extreme seasonal categories like swim that would have an impact, but I don't see any risk to that at all. I mean, it's -- we're expecting with the soft -- I know that reading about everybody else's results, we're not alone in terms of the seasonal performance of categories. We're expecting it to get pretty promotional in some categories, but I don't see us having a major exposure there.

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Operator [61]

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Our next question comes from the line of David Buckley from Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

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David Loughran Buckley, BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - Analyst [62]

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I just want to focus on e-comm for a second. How should we think about growth for the remainder of the year, comparisons getting more challenging? And then as the business becomes -- as the channel becomes a larger percentage of sales, how do you transition e-comm to being margin-accretive over long term?

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Michael L. Henry, Tilly's, Inc. - CFO & Corporate Secretary [63]

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Well, e-comm is going to go up against tougher compares going forward. So we're not expecting it, it is going to stay at the plus 50% that it was in fourth quarter and maybe not the plus 30% that it was in Q1, but still expecting it to be a meaningful growth contributor to top line.

Look, the biggest issue for our business isn't e-comm. It's stores. Stores need to have positive comps to drive better profitability in this business.

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Edmond S. Thomas, Tilly's, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [64]

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Yes. And then although e-comm's operating margins are not as good as stores right now, they're still pretty decent. It's a profitable business for us. So -- and as it grows, I would expect it can get more profitable, for sure, but it will take some time, for sure.

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Operator [65]

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Our next question comes from the line of Sharon Zackfia from William Blair.

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Sharon Zackfia, William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division - Partner & Group Head of Consumer [66]

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I just wanted to kind of switch over to the negotiated rent deals that you've been working on. Can you give us any color on kind of what you're seeing there as you're making your way through those, I think it's 80 that you're working on right now? Where that's taking your breakeven comps at those stores? Or any kind of context would be helpful and how that influences potentially your expansion plans going forward.

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Edmond S. Thomas, Tilly's, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [67]

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We've had pretty good cooperation with our landlords, both off-mall and REITs, major REITs. We're making pretty good progress there. And I can't disclose what the specific economic improvement is because of the confidentiality of what we're dealing with, with landlords, but we're pretty -- and we've been very disciplined about making sure that if we have a lease coming up for renewal and the economics are not right, we will not renew that lease. So there's only been a handful of situations in the past since Mike and I joined where we've actually had to walk away or we felt it was proper to walk away. So we haven't seen a lot of that, and I wouldn't expect that to change.

The environment, as you know, continues to be very difficult. There's a lot of vacancy, but still, we haven't seen the end of store closures. And so we expect the economics that we get to be adjusted for what the environment is like. And so far, so good.

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Sharon Zackfia, William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division - Partner & Group Head of Consumer [68]

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And when you go through those negotiations, do you simultaneously work on new potential unit openings? I mean, is that part of the carrot with the landlords?

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Edmond S. Thomas, Tilly's, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [69]

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Well, I wouldn't say it's part of the carrot. But certainly, we have several -- we have several deals under negotiation at any one point in time, both off-mall and mall. And we -- again, a lot of it's -- we have good relationships with the landlord, and no landlord want you to close, especially in this environment. So it helps us. We have leverage in our leases and that we have a lot of our leases, if not all, have kick-out clauses, so that helps. But we generally try to make it work with the existing landlord. It doesn't -- unless the property itself has deteriorated to a point where it's not worth for us staying there.

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Sharon Zackfia, William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division - Partner & Group Head of Consumer [70]

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Okay. And then just one final question. I know historically you've talked a lot about driving better traffic in the malls and off-mall than your peers. Do you have any context for May? And I know May has kind of been difficult across the board, but do you think Tilly's has been outperforming general mall traffic during the month of May? Is that something that we could kind of hang our hats on in terms of the relevance of the concept?

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Edmond S. Thomas, Tilly's, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [71]

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Yes. Even though -- as you know, our traffic -- we've outperformed the industry for several months, and that wasn't until recently we've seen some declines in our traffic. And from what we've seen, even though the declines might be slight or whatever, we're still outperforming what we see as published inventory -- traffic information for the industry. So we still feel pretty good about that. And we're continuing to do events and types of things like that. We still are maintaining our discipline of not driving traffic by giving the store away. It's more through relationships.

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Michael L. Henry, Tilly's, Inc. - CFO & Corporate Secretary [72]

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Yes. And I'd just add, our store traffic have actually been up year-over-year, store traffic, for 9 quarters in a row.

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Edmond S. Thomas, Tilly's, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [73]

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That's right.

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Michael L. Henry, Tilly's, Inc. - CFO & Corporate Secretary [74]

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In Q1, it was down just slightly, just below flat. I think it was down 0.3%, which is still far better than any industry reports we see. And then in the first 3 weeks of May, it's fallen, as we mentioned earlier, to about minus 5%. So we've read an awful lot that there's been a deceleration from a number of our fellow retailers out there, [sometimes over the long haul].

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Operator [75]

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Ladies and gentlemen, we have no further questions in queue at this time. I'd like to turn the floor back over to management for closing.

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Edmond S. Thomas, Tilly's, Inc. - President, CEO & Director [76]

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Well, thank you, everybody, for joining us today. We look forward to discussing our second quarter results with you in late August. Have a good evening, everyone.

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Operator [77]

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Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. This does conclude our teleconference for today. You may now disconnect your line at this time. Thank you for your participation, and have a wonderful day.