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Weak 4Q Comps for Bebe Stores

Zacks Equity Research

Headquartered in Brisbane, California, Bebe Stores Inc. (BEBE) recently reported weak same store (comps) as well as retail sales results for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2012 ending on June 30, 2012. The company will announce its total sales figure with its fourth-quarter earnings release, which will include wholesale as well as other sales.

The company stated that total retail sales of $119.1 million for the reported quarter, inched down 2.5% from $122.4 million in the prior-year quarter ending on July 2, 2011. Comps declined 2.5% year over year for the quarter compared with an increase of 7.5% in the year-ago period, missing its guidance of low-single-digit growth. The decline in retail sales and comps were primarily due to lower traffic at the company’s stores.

However, Bebe’s total retail sales for fiscal 2012 increased 5.2% to $484.2 million from $460.1 million reported in the prior-year period. Moreover, during the period, the company also registered a 5.3% growth in its comps compared with a rise of 0.6% achieved in fiscal 2011. As of June 30, 2012, the company registered a 2% growth in average inventory per square foot compared with 1% increase in fiscal 2011.

The company is aggressively focusing on developing multi-channel retail format by enhancing its e-commerce capabilities. Moreover, during third-quarter of fiscal 2012 Bebe purchased a distribution facility in Benicia, California, which reflects its long-term strategy of managing store distribution and online customer.

Further, in a drive to expand its international business, Bebe is aggressively increasing its sales points in different countries. Till the end of third quarter, the company possessed 110 sales points in 19 countries compared with 57 sales points in 15 countries as of the end of the third quarter of fiscal 2011. We believe these expansion strategies will certainly facilitate Bebe in improvising its top line.

Bebe competes with other upper segment apparel retailers, such as Nordstrom Inc. (JWN) and Guess’ Inc. (GES). Currently, the company has a Zacks #4 Rank, which translates to a short-term Sell rating. However, we are maintaining a long-term Neutral recommendation on the stock.

Bebe stores engage in the design, development, and production of women's apparel and accessories. The company’s products include a wide range of separates, tops, dresses, active wear, and accessories in career, evening, casual, and active lifestyle categories. The company markets its products under the bebe, BEBE SPORT, bbsp, and 2b bebe brand names targeting 21 to 34-year-old woman. As of June 30, 2012, it operated 247 retail stores including 200 bebe stores and 47 2b bebe stores.

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