Big Lots 3Q Earnings Call Nugget: Black Friday and Business Lines

Big Lots, Inc. (NYSE:BIG) reported its third quarter earnings and in its conference call, they discussed the following topics that may be of interest.

Black Friday and Business Lines

Meredith Adler – Barclays Capital asked: Could you talk about Black Friday, that weekend and the categories and specific items that did particularly well? Some observers are concerned that from Black Friday, it’s pulling sales forward from what last year might have been at a later period. Do you have any concerns about that?

Steven S. Fishman – Chairman, CEO and President responded:  The answer is we’re conservative and I think our guidance is in line with us being cautious and intelligent about it.

I will tell you that since Thanksgiving, things have stayed decent for us. I think we’re concerned about weather going forward because we got hurt very badly as I’m sure lot of retailers did in December and January; however, overall, we think we’re prepared for the Christmas season.

We’ve got the right merchandise and they seem to be responding to value, which is no different than what we’ve seen for probably the last 18 to 24 months.

As far as the Black Friday weekend goes, it was pretty consistent with what we talked about all along. We said we were going to go after the electronics business, particularly two-fold: the tablet business which we’re very pleased with our performance and our ability to get inventory and offer that to the consumer because we’re not in the Apple business.

Then the accessory part of the business, which from an offset standpoint helps us from volume,  but more importantly, a margin perspective. The (barge) that’s out there in the store is really doing terrific. I know you’ve been in our stores and I know some of the other analysts have been in our stores and seen the earbuds, accessories, iPhone accessories, iPad accessories–all those things are doing quite well for us.

The food business continues to be good and the seasonal food business in particularly good.  Furniture continues to be strong going into the fourth quarter and we have a very pre-planned business there.

We continue to do unbelievably on Thanksgiving Day when it comes to the upholstery business, particularly the lounge chair business. That’s always one of the biggest days that we have on that item during the year, and the fireplace business which we really positioned ourselves to be aggressive with.

The last business that we really have worked hard on because we have an additional investment in square footage in seasonal trim-a-tree and in inventory; that really opened up Thanksgiving weekend–particular Black Friday–and hopefully continues to be strong as we go forward into December. This week and next are the biggest two weeks of the year.

We are certainly on track there so we feel really good about all those businesses.

On the downside, I will give it to you the (drape) business is proportionately planned down from a square footage standpoint and an inventory standpoint. I noticed there were some comments/concerns about it.

My response to that is I think we did a terrific job because most of the analyst perception is we look like we are really in the toy business. That’s great when you consider the inventory and the square footage cut downs that we have out there; we are very cautious about it.

And when I say toys,  I’m not talking about the toys that kids are playing with today because they a plug on them such as iPads,  iPhones and video cameras–kinds of things. We’re very well positioned in that business.