Wrapping up a rocky year for the sporting goods chain, Hibbett Sports Inc. warned it expects earnings to slump between 28 and 30 percent in the fourth quarter, well below guidance.
Hibbett now expects EPS of 53 to 55 cents in the quarter. That’s down 28 to 30 percent from earnings of 76 cents a year ago. When it reported third-quarter earnings on November 18, the company guided earnings to be in the range of 64 to 70 cents a share.
On Tuesday, shares of Hibbett fell $3.90, or 11.7 percent,to $29.35 in over-the-counter trading.
Sales for the 13-week period ended January 28 increased 0.5 percent to $246.9 million compared. Same-store sales slid 2.2 percent versus a gain of 5.4 percent in the same quarter a year ago.
Jeff Rosenthal, president and chief executive officer, stated, “We were disappointed with sales in the fourth quarter. Weaker traffic during the holiday season and lower than expected sales in apparel and equipment led to a comparable store sales decline. We continued to experience strength in our footwear business, which was a direct result of our improved assortments and in-stocks by store types. As traffic declined and sales softened, we became more promotional in order to drive sales and manage inventory, which had a negative impact on gross margin.”
Hibbett faced continuing challenges throughout much of the year. First-quarter earnings slid 3.5 percent with comps off 0.9 percent. The blame was traced to weather-related closures, port delays and a shift in the timing of tax refunds that particularly pulled down February sales.
Second-quarter earnings were also down, but the company still managed to beat plan and lifted its guidance for the year to $2.93 to $3.02 from a target of $2.90 to $3.04 set at the year’s start.
Third-quarter comps came in lower than planned as sales softened in September and October as a warm fall early on clipped apparel sales.
On the company’s third-quarter conference call, Rosenthal admitted that it “actually seems to be significantly worse than last year” from a weather standpoint. He added that the company decided to become more aggressive this year in marking down cold-weather merchandise earlier, following the prior season’s fallout that led to high carryover inventories.
“We feel pretty confident that if the weather does come, we are in a good inventory position and we have opportunities to get more if we needed,” Rosenthal said at the time. “But the bigger risk we felt was to carry some of that inventory out of Q4 and into next year. We know we have opportunities from a productivity perspective and margin perspective that we would like to capitalize on.”
The Q4 update reduces guidance for the year to a range of $2.82 to $2.88 from $2.93 to $3.02. That’s down slightly from $2.92 earned in 2016.
The company also projected flat to down earnings for the current year, expecting earnings in the range of $2.65 to $2.85. The year will include continued investments in its ship-from-store capabilities and e-commerce initiatives and a positive impact of approximately 10 cents per share for the 53rd week. Comparable-store sales are expected to be in the flat to low-single-digit range.
Image courtesy Hibbett Sports