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Apparel, accessory retailers top profit view

By Nivedita Bhattacharjee
/ Source: Reuters

By Nivedita Bhattacharjee

Lower costs and better inventory management helped several apparel and accessory retailers posted better-than-expected results on Thursday, while some companies forecast a stronger finish to the year.

Dick's Sporting Goods Inc , Buckle Inc and Children's Place Retail Stores Inc all beat market estimates for the second quarter.

However, Children's Place shares fell as much as 7 percent to a low of $29.56 as the company forecast a dip of 50 to 100 basis points in its gross margins for the year.

"I think investors are also probably disappointed by the lack of commentary on August sales so far," Betty Chen, analyst at Wedbush Morgan Securities, said by phone.

The Secaucus, New Jersey-based company, which said it was ahead of schedule with its savings plans and expects SG&A dollar spending for fiscal 2009 to be at least $10 million lower than in fiscal 2008, posted a loss of 42 cents a share.

Analysts were looking for a loss of 44 cents a share, according to Reuters Estimates.

On Wednesday, rival Gymboree Corp too had posted a better-than-expected second-quarter profit, helped by promotions and lower costs.

Total sales at Children's Place fell 7 percent to $315.7 million, while department store Bon-Ton Stores Inc saw sales drop 10 percent to $609.2 million.

Bon-Ton said it cut selling, general and administrative expenses by $23.5 million during the quarter.

The company, which operates the Elder-Beerman, Boston Store and Carson Pirie Scott chains, also narrowed its loss view for the year, and its shares jumped almost 27 percent to their year-high of $5.70.

Dick's Sporting raised its earnings view for the current year and said on a conference call with analysts that it sees higher profit in 2010.

Barclays analyst Michael Lasser said the sporting goods retailer has set conservative expectations, as he feels that the company faces much easier gross margin comparisons in the second half.

Revenue rose at both Dick's Sporting and Buckle, driven in part by online sales.

Buckle, which has been posting positive comparable sales for more than a year, posted earnings of $25.0 million, or 54 cents a share, up from the $22.3 million, or 48 cents a share, it had earned in the year-ago period.

But its shares fell nearly 4 percent.

FBR Capital Market analyst Adrienne Tennant said the company is heading toward very difficult comparisons in the second half.

"We believe that much of the sales increase has been coming from a continuing ability to increase prices. Without this boost, the company's sales upticks look significantly weaker," Tennant said in a note.

Off-price retailer Ross Stores Inc posted a higher quarterly profit and raised its same-store sales outlook for the rest of the year.