Teen retailer American Eagle (AEO) reported earnings today. Although the numbers themselves were not good on a comparable basis, they were enough to temporarily satisfy traders, as the stock popped up about 8% following the announcement of quarterly results.
Results, of course, were impacted by markdowns due to lower spending. This brought down gross margins, and the tepid pace of sales growth led to deleveraging in some expense categories that further dragged down operating margins. Net sales were up only 4.5% year-over-year, against a 10.65% increase in store count and a 12% increase in gross square footage.
The one bothersome thing I find after reviewing the numbers and the conference call is that this still seems like a very open-ended situation… I came away feeling a definite lack of resolution as to the status of merchandising issues. This is probably just a part of owning an apparel retailer – there is always a new fashion cycle playing out, or something, I wouldn't really know as I mostly just wear Red Sox t-shirts – and as I said, that bothers me slightly. I'm going to count it as another strike mark against owning a fashion-sensitive apparel company in the future, because constant vigilance as to the strength of a logo can become a bit wearing. When I own retail in the future, I think I'll stick to either general merchandise – i.e. Wal-Mart (WMT) – or hardline, such as Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY).
Guidance for next quarter was right in the middle of the current analyst range, so not much to be gleaned there… although I will note that stated plans call for adding 80 new aerie stores this year, up from the current 62 stores. While I'm always a bit wary of positive sentiments expressed on the conference call, American Eagle management is making a very large commitment of capital into building out aerie's presence, and I view that as a tangible sign that the segment is generating solid results… which brings me to one gripe I have with the management team – their refusal to break out and provide additional visibility on the growing number of segments in the business, i.e. the core AE brand, online, Martin + Osa, and aerie. Maybe I'm nitpicking, but I think that data is being obscured to keep M+O from undergoing too much scrutiny while it is significantly dilutive to the earnings power provided by the core brand.
I'm hoping to get some additional information from the company soon, but in the meanwhile, review the conference call transcript.