American Eagle Outfitters outlook soft

Wed Mar 6, 2013 11:52am EST

Pedestrians walk past an American Eagle Outfitters store in New York, June 23, 2009. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Pedestrians walk past an American Eagle Outfitters store in New York, June 23, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

(Reuters) - American Eagle Outfitters Inc (AEO.N) on Wednesday gave a profit forecast that fell short of Wall Street expectations and said same-store sales would fall in the current quarter, a setback for a company that has been winning market share from rivals.

Shares were down 10.2 percent to $20.26 in late morning trading.

The company, which outperformed Aeropostale Inc (ARO.N) and Abercrombie & Fitch Co (ANF.N) during the Christmas season, thanks to fewer markdowns and getting fresh merchandise more quickly into stores, expects same-store sales this quarter to fall by a mid-single-digit percentage rate, blaming the economy.

Retailers that cater to young shoppers on limited budgets, or those who depend on getting an allowance from parents, typically are among the first to feel any pullback from customers hit by a tough economic climate.

Many Americans are dealing with smaller take home pay because of higher payroll taxes as well as tax refunds that have come later this year than last.

"We are currently managing through a challenging macroeconomic environment," Chief Executive Robert Hanson told analysts on a call. A colleague of his added that traffic to malls was weak so far this quarter, which started in February.

Abercrombie last month also forecast a decline in quarterly same-store sales.

Still, American Eagle said it would open more stores in cities like Miami and Florida even as it closes others, and said it was paring locations in its aerie chain of lingerie stores for young women.

American Eagle forecast earnings of 16 cents to 19 cents per share, excluding special items, for the quarter that started last month, well below the 25 cents Wall Street analysts were projecting, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Net income for the fourth quarter ended February 2 rose to $94.8 million, or 47 cents per share, from $51.3 million, or 26 cents per share, a year earlier. Same-store sales rose 4 percent.

Overall revenue for the 14-week period rose 8.6 percent to $1.12 billion.

Gross profit rose 6 percentage points to 41.2 percent of sales, helped by lower cotton costs and fewer markdowns.

American Eagle said it was raising its quarterly dividend 14 percent to 12.5 cents per share.

(Reporting by Phil Wahba in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Andrew Hay)