With its third-quarter sales up slightly, Big Lots is expecting further sales growth the fourth quarter, company officials reported.
Sales for the quarter ended October 31 were $1,035.3 million, up 1.3% from sales in the comparable quarter the previous year. Comparable store sales for stores open at least two years at the beginning of the company’s fiscal year decreased 0.2% for the quarter.
Operating profit for the third quarter of fiscal 2009 was $34.6 million, or 3.3% of sales, compared to last year’s operating profit of $20.1 million, or 2.0% of sales. The 72% improvement in operating profit dollars was the result of improvement in the company’s gross margin rate and lower overall expense dollars compared to last year.
For the fourth quarter of fiscal 2009, the company anticipates comparable store sales will increase in a range of 1.5% to 2.5%. At this level of comp sales performance, Big Lots officials expect the company’s gross margin rate will be up to last year and expenses as a percent of sales will be down slightly to last year.
In addition, the company opened 52 stores this year compared to its prior estimate of 50 new stores, and expects to close a total of only 30 locations this year, down from the company’s prior estimate of 40 store closings. Based on these assumptions, Big Lots will be operating 1,361 stores as of the end of fiscal 2009, a 2% increase in store count compared to the end of fiscal 2008.