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UPDATE 2-Apparel retailer Francesca's cuts forecast as it clears stock pile-up
June 10, 2014 / 12:55 PM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 2-Apparel retailer Francesca's cuts forecast as it clears stock pile-up

* Raises full-year profit forecast to $1.05-$1.17/share

* Expects comparable sales to remain flat at best

* First-qtr comparable sales down 7 pct

* Shares down as much as 14 pct (Adds details from conference call, updates shares)

June 10 (Reuters) - Women’s apparel retailer Francesca’s Holdings Corp cut its full-year forecast after reporting lower-than-expected quarterly profit and sales due to a harsh winter and increased discounts to clear off an inventory pile-up.

The company’s shares fell as much as 14 percent to an all-time low of $13.15 on the Nasdaq on Tuesday morning.

Francesca’s said it expects its profit to improve in the second half of the year as comparable-store sales pick up, particularly in its high-margin jewelry business, where poor sales hurt first-quarter margins by about 50 basis points.

The company said it expects earnings of $1.05-$1.17 per share on revenue of $387-$399 million, assuming comparable-store sales would remain flat at best for the year ending Jan. 31.

It had previously forecast earnings of $1.16-$1.31 per share on revenue of $391-$409 million. It was expecting comparable sales to rise or fall in low single digits in percentage terms.

Francesca‘s, which sells clothing, shoes, bags and jewelry targeted at women aged 18 to 35, said it expects comparable sales to fall in the mid- to low-single digits in the current quarter based on May sales trends and as it sells slow-moving inventory at discounted rates.

“The retail environment has been challenging since the beginning of the calendar year with soft traffic trends and competitively aggressive promotions,” Chief Executive Neill Davis said on a conference call with analysts.

The company joins a number of apparel retailers including Express Inc, Guess Inc and Aeropostale Inc who are struggling to attract customers and drive profits as a revival in consumer spending takes longer.

Francesca’s first-quarter boutique sales were hurt by severe winter weather in February which resulted in full- and partial-day closing of more than 360 stores, particularly in the Gulf Coast, Mid-Atlantic, Northeast and New England areas, the company said.

The company’s shift to selling more metal-based and less colorful jewelry also proved unfavorable in the quarter, while it was unable to cash in on the demand for dresses as it stocked more tops, skirts and shorts based on February trends.

Francesca’s said there was significant traffic increase through its mobile website and will be relaunching its online and mobile websites, with larger images, a cleaner interface and user-generated content, over the summer.

The company, which has 513 boutiques, said net income fell to $8.6 million, or 20 cents per share, in the quarter ended May 3, from $10.9 million, or 24 cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenue rose 8 percent to $85.4 million, while comparable sales fell 7 percent.

Analysts on average had expected a profit of 23 cents per share on revenue of $88.1 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. (Reporting By Sruthi Ramakrishnan in Bangalore,; Editing by Don Sebastian and Maju Samuel)

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