Business

Stage Stores key December sales figure declines

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HOUSTON (AP) — Stage Stores Inc. said Thursday that sales at stores open at least a year slipped in December, but beat expectations for a steeper drop, as performance in areas including footwear, juniors and outerwear improved.

Stage said the key sales figure fell 2.2 percent for the five-week December period.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected sales at stores open at least a year to tumble 4.9 percent.

This figure is a key indicator of retailer performance since it measures growth at existing stores rather than newly opened ones.

The Houston department-store operator said total sales for the period fell 1 percent to $255 million.

The company, with such stores as Bealls, Goodys, Palais Royal, Peebles and Stage, said it saw gains in footwear, intimates, juniors and outerwear, among other categories. All regions of the country had gains at stores open at least a year, except for the South Central and Southwest regions.

CEO Andy Hall said the company was pleased with the performance and expects fourth-quarter sales at stores open at least a year within its guidance for a drop of 4 to 7 percent.

He said based on gross margin results so far in the quarter, the company expects earnings per share at the higher end of its forecast range of 56 cents to 66 cents for the fourth quarter, and between 59 cents and 69 cents for the year.

According to Thomson Reuters, analysts predict earnings per share of 61 cents for the quarter ending in January, and 63 cents for the year.

For the year to date, sales at stores open at least a year dropped 7.7 percent, with total sales down 5.3 percent to $1.37 billion from $1.44 billion.

Stage Stores did not open any new stores in December, and plans to close one store in January. At the end of its fiscal year, Stage said it will have 758 stores, up from 739 the previous year.