UPDATE 2-TJX sees holiday sales down from strong year ago

Tue Nov 16, 2010 12:39pm EST

* Q3 EPS 92 cents vs Street view 91 cents

* Raises full-year EPS forecast to $3.35 to $3.40

* Shares down 1.4 pct (Recasts; adds comments from analyst and CEO, earnings details, byline)

By Jon Lentz

NEW YORK, Nov 16 (Reuters) - TJX Cos Inc (TJX.N) forecast same-store sales in the holiday quarter would decline from a year earlier, when budget-conscious shoppers flocked to the off-price retailer for bargains.

Shares of TJX, whose stores include T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, fell 1.4 percent in afternoon trading as the weak forecast overshadowed a slightly better-than-expected third-quarter profit and a raised full-year forecast.

The retailer expects sales at stores open at least a year, or same-store sales, to fall by 1 to 3 percent in the current quarter. But it said the comparison is a tough one, given the 12 percent jump in last year's fourth quarter.

"In retail, last year's heroes are this year's bums," said Stifel Nicolaus analyst Richard Jaffe.

TJX was one of the biggest winners during the recession as it attracted shoppers seeking designer names at affordable prices. It lured customers away from department stores such as Macy's (M.N) and Saks Inc SKS.N.

But TJX, which also operates the Winners chain in Canada, has had to contend with a sharp rebound in sales at department stores as consumer regain their confidence.

In addition, department store have been tightly managing their inventories, which has challenged TJX's ability to source merchandise. To counter that, TJX has been recruiting more vendors to sell directly to it.

TJX said its third-quarter same-store sales rose 1 percent, compared with a 7 percent gain a year earlier.

Jaffe said the difficult comparison was no surprise and TJX prepared itself by cutting expenses and ramping up advertising, moves that helped it beat profit expectations.

"The off-price concept seems to be resonating very well with consumers, and TJX is executing it very well," he said.

Profit in the third quarter, ended Oct. 30, was $372.3 million, or 92 cents per share, up from $347.8 million, or 81 cents per share, a year earlier.

The average Wall Street forecast was 91 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Sales rose 5.4 percent to $5.53 billion.

The company said it expects full-year earnings per share of $3.35 to $3.40, up from a prior forecast of $3.28 to $3.38. It expects full-year same-store sales growth of 2 to 3 percent.

"Customer traffic continued to be up over large increases last year despite warm weather in September and October, which dampened demand for cold weather apparel," Chief Executive Carol Meyrowitz said in a statement. "With the weather cooling, November is off to a good start."

TJX shares fell 64 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $45.06 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The broader S&P Retail Index .RLX was off 0.6 percent. (Reporting by Jon Lentz; additional reporting by Phil Wahba; editing by John Wallace)