UPDATE 2-Kohl's expects sales gains, but profit forecast misses

Thu Feb 23, 2012 7:56am EST

* Kohl's sees sales gains this fiscal year

* Shoppers bargain hunted in holiday quarter

Feb 23 (Reuters) - Mid-tier department store chain Kohl's Corp said it expects its sales to rise again this fiscal year, but gave a profit forecast that missed analysts' forecasts.

Kohl's, which operates 1,127 stores, on Thursday forecast that sales at its stores open at least a year, or same-store sales, would rise 2 percent with profit per share of $4.75 for the year ending in January 2013. That includes 60 cents per share in the current quarter.

That is below the $4.95 per share Wall Street analysts were expecting, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Despite an overall better shopping environment during the holidays, Kohl's has had to contend with people wanting bargains.

Kohl's gross margin, a gauge of the profitability of goods sold, fell 2 percentage points to 36.2 percent during what Chief Executive Kevin Mansell called "a difficult holiday sales season."

Mid-tier chains such as Kohl's and its most direct rival J.C. Penney Co Inc found themselves squeezed between higher-end department stores including Macy's Inc, which drew shoppers who felt better about their finances, and chains such as Target and Wal-Mart Stores, which attracted shoppers on a budget.

Macy's expects its same-store sales to be up 3.5 percent this year.

Kohl's, whose same-store sales fell 2.1 percent during the crucial holiday quarter, said fourth-quarter profit fell 7.9 percent to $455 million, or $1.81 per share, from $494 million, or $1.66 per share. Kohl's beat analyst projections by a penny.

Kohl's also raised its quarterly dividend 28 percent to 32 cents per share.