US retail icon Macy’s soared Wednesday after a strong earnings report raised hopes for the important holiday-shopping season and helped lift the overall stock market to new records.
Macy’s closed up $4.35 (+9.4 percent) at $50.68 after third-quarter earnings came in at $177 million, up 22 percent from last-year. That translated into earnings of 47 cents a share, 8 cents above analyst expectations.
The company reported better same-store sales and notched improvements in women’s apparel and other key categories. Company officials said strong conditions continued into November after the quarter ended.
“Our business improved during the quarter, with particular strength in October, so we are entering the fourth quarter with confidence,” said chief executive Terry Lundgren.
The market took the report as a positive sign for the coming retail season, and other retail stocks pushed higher.
Nordstrom gained 2.5 percent, Target 2.2 percent, Williams-Sonoma 1.2 percent, Costco 0.6 percent and Wal-Mart 0.2 percent. Wal-Mart reports earnings Thursday.
Analysts said Macy’s profits and bullish holiday season outlook helped propel the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 to fresh records.
Still, an analyst note from Bank of America Merrill Lynch cautioned that Macy’s success may not necessarily be repeated throughout the sector, most of which has yet to report.
“While Macy’s is often viewed as a bellwether for the group, we do not think there is a read-across to the entire retail sector, as we think Macy’s benefited from strong execution of company-specific strategies,” it said.
Macy’s third-quarter boon came on the heels of a subpar second quarter, during which the company reported a rare decline in same-store sales.
It blamed tepid spending from budget consumers and announced plans to spruce up its marketing campaigns.
Macy’s chief financial officer Karen Hoguet told an analyst conference call that the better marketing had indeed attracted more customers back.
But she was cautious on whether lower-income customers upped their spending; she said she wanted to see how her competitors faired with this group before declaring victory.
“I think we did well with that customer in the quarter. But again, I have to wait and see how our competitors did,” Hoguet said.
Macy’s pointed to strong results in crucial retail categories, including traditional gifts, cold-weather goods and women’s apparel.
Macy’s is gearing up for a streamlined holiday season this year because there are six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas compared with last year.
“So the holiday season will be shorter and more intense,” Hoguet said. “We expect a heightened sense of urgency among customers, so it’s important that we be ready for her every day, every time and every way she shops.”
[Image via Agence France-Presse]