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Ross Stores (ROST) Expands Footprint, Unveils 30 Stores

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In a bid to expand the customer base and gain market share, Ross Stores, Inc. ROST inaugurated 22 Ross Dress for Less and eight dd's DISCOUNTS stores in 11 states across the United States. These stores became functional in the months of June and July and are part of the company’s store opening plan for fiscal 2021. Per the plan, it anticipated opening 60 new locations, including 40 Ross Dress for Less and 20 dd’s DISCOUNTS stores, for the fiscal year.

With the addition of these stores, Ross Stores expanded these two chains in some of its largest markets, including California, Florida and Texas, as well as new states such as Illinois, Ohio and West Virginia. Currently, it operates 1,611 Ross Dress for Less locations in 40 states along with 285 dd's DISCOUNTS in 21 states.

For fiscal 2022, the company plans to open about 100 new stores. Management is on track to open at least 2,400 Ross Dress for Less and 600 dd's DISCOUNTS locations in the long run.

What’s More?

Ross Stores is gaining from pent-up customer demand, accelerated vaccination, government stimulus payments and easing of COVID restrictions. This led to robust earnings and sales growth in first-quarter fiscal 2021 compared with the first quarter of fiscal 2019.

Comparable store sales (comps) rose 13% versus first-quarter fiscal 2019 on a higher average basket size. The company noted that sales trends improved significantly sequentially from the fourth quarter of fiscal 2020, driven by a significant acceleration in traffic trends.

For fiscal 2021, the company expects comps growth of 7-9% compared with fiscal 2019 levels, with sales expected to increase 11-13%. For the fiscal second quarter, the company anticipates comps to increase 5-7% versus second-quarter fiscal 2019. Sales are projected to increase 9-12% in the fiscal second quarter.

However, COVID-19 costs continue to act as a headwind for the company. During the fiscal first quarter, net COVID-19-related expenses incurred by the company were about 35 bps of sales. The majority of these expenses affected SG&A expenses, which deleveraged 25 bps, as a percentage of sales, compared with first-quarter fiscal 2019. Impacts on SG&A expenses mainly included higher operating expenses associated with the pandemic-related cleaning protocols and higher incentive costs.

Higher freight costs, driven by industry-wide supply-chain congestions, and increased wages also remain concerns. The company predicts these expenses to mar operating margin through the rest of fiscal 2021, relative to fiscal 2019.

Fiscal 2021 operating margin is anticipated to be 10.7-11.2% compared with 13.4% in fiscal 2019. Earnings per share for fiscal 2021 are expected to be $3.93-$4.20, indicating a decline from $4.60 in fiscal 2019.

Operating margin in the fiscal second quarter is anticipated to be 9.2-9.9% compared with 13.7% in second-quarter fiscal 2019. Earnings per share are expected to be 80-89 cents, suggesting a decline from $1.14 reported in second-quarter fiscal 2019.

Although the robust first-quarter fiscal 2021 performance raises optimism, continued impacts from COVID-related expenses and soft bottom-line outlook have led this Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) stock to decline 7.3% against the industry’s growth of 6.7%.

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Stocks in the Retail Space

Target Corp. TGT flaunts a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) and an expected long-term earnings growth rate of 13.3%. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Costco Wholesale Corp. COST currently has a long-term expected earnings growth rate of 9.1% and a Zacks Rank #2.

Dollar General Corp. DG, a Zacks Rank #2 stock, has an expected long-term earnings growth rate of 11.3%.

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