(By Balachander) Children's Place Retail Stores Inc. (NASDAQ:PLCE) reported a narrower-than-expected quarterly loss amid sales growth and the company updated its 2012 earnings forecast.
The company said "lower apparel costs in the back half coupled with strengthening conversion, transactions and average transaction value, will result in positive comp sales and operating margin expansion in fiscal 2012."
PLCE expects gross margin to strengthen in the third quarter and to expand for the full year due to more favorable product costs for the back-to-school and holiday product lines.
The Secaucus, New Jersey-based pure-play children's specialty apparel retailer posted a wider loss for the second quarter as margins contracted due to increase in costs for spring and summer merchandise.
For the second quarter, adjusted loss per share was 62 cents, wider than 38 cents in the same period last year, yet came in narrower than consensus estimate of a loss of 66 cents. GAAP loss widened to $17.9 million from $9.8 million.
Net sales rose 5 percent to $360.8 million, topping analysts' projections of a growth of 2.8 percent. Comparable retail sales increased 3.4 percent.
Gross margin shrank to 31.7 percent from 33.6 percent.
Looking ahead for the third quarter, PLCE sees non-GAAP earnings per share between $1.53 and $1.58, trailing analysts' expectations of $1.63 a share. The guidance assumes positive low-single digit comparable retail sales.
For the full year, the company now expects non-GAAP EPS in the range of $3.20 to $3.30 from prior expectations of $3.15 to $3.30. It forecasts positive low-single digit comparable retail sales. Analysts expect EPS of $3.23 for the year.
PLCE also announced its plan to close its Northeast distribution center located in Dayton, New Jersey effective December 31, 2012, resulting in annual savings in excess of $4 million.
PLCE shares ended Wednesday's regular trading session at $51.57. The stock has been trading in the 52-week range between $37.50 and $57.55.