Ross Posts Q4 Comp Gains, Announces New Stores

After a fourth quarter when comps gained, Ross Stores, Inc. announced it would open one Ross Dress for Less store each in Missouri, Kentucky and Mississippi on March 8. Ross noted that the opening followed a planned March 1 three-store debut of its dd’s DISCOUNTS operations in California.

For the 13-week fourth quarter ended February 1, Ross Stores, Inc. posted earnings per share of $1.02 versus $1.07 for the 14 weeks ended February 2, 2013, with net earnings totaling $218 million versus $236.6 million in the year-earlier period. Sales were $2.74 billion versus $2.76 billion for the fiscal 2012 quarter. Comparable store sales gained 2% over last year’s period.

Ross earnings met a Zacks Consensus Estimate of financial analysts although sales trailed slightly.

For the full 52-week fiscal year ended February 1, 2014, earnings per share grew to $3.88, up from $3.53 for the 53 weeks ended February 2, 2013, as net earnings reached $837.3 million versus $786.8 million in the prior annum. Sales were $10.23 billion versus $9.72 billion in fiscal 2012, with comps up 3% year over year.

In announcing the financial results, Michael Balmuth, vice chairman and CEO, said, “Our fourth quarter sales performed in line with our guidance, with earnings that were slightly better-than-expected primarily due to above-plan merchandise gross margin. Despite a very promotional retail environment throughout the holiday season, customers responded favorably to the compelling bargains we offered on a wide assortment of fresh and exciting name brand fashions and gifts. For the 2013 fourth quarter, operating margin was 12.7% versus 13.7% in last year’s fourth quarter, which included an approximate 65 basis point benefit from the 53rd week.

For the 2013 fiscal year, our earnings per share rose a solid 13% on a 52 versus 52-week basis. This growth is especially noteworthy considering it was on top of robust EPS increases of 20%, 24% and 31% in 2012, 2011 and 2010, respectively. In addition, fiscal 2013 operating margin remained at a record 13.1%, despite the estimated 20 basis point benefit from the 53rd week in 2012.”

The new Ross Dress for Less stores bow in Phoenix Center II in Washington, MO, Hamburg Pavilion in Lexington, KY, and The Promenade in D’Iberville, MS. The openings are part of a 2014 expansion program, Ross maintained, that would total approximately 75 new locations.

The new dd’s stores operate in the Vineyard Valley Center in Fontana, Sherman Plaza in Winnetka and Flags on Mission in Oceanside, according to Ross. They are part of a 2014 Ross expansion initiative for the discount store chain that will roll out about 20 new locations. Including the latest group of new stores, dd’s DISCOUNTS operates over 130 locations in 10 states, with California being its biggest market with over 60 stores.

Together, Ross Dress for Less and dd’s DISCOUNTS represent about 1,300 off-price apparel and home fashion stores in 33 states, the District of Columbia and Guam, Ross related.