Children’s Place Retail Stores Earnings Call Insights: Girls & Boys Performance, Fall Season Outlook

Children’s Place Retail Stores (NASDAQ:PLCE) recently reported its first quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Girls & Boys Performance

Dorothy Lakner – Topeka Capital Markets: Congrats on the great quarter here. I wondered if, one, Jane, you could speak to the girls and boys performance in the quarter. Girls spend obviously such a bright spot for you. Then just if you could give us a little bit of color on how you’ve worked to improve the baby and the newborn business? Then secondly, just if Mike could update us on planning and allocation and what we should expect going forward there?

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Jane Elfers – President and CEO: Sure. Well, Dorothy as we said in the opening remarks, in Place all divisions comps negatively and underperformed for Q1 due to certainly the weather impact through the first nine weeks of the quarter. Having said that, the laggard in Q1 was baby girl. The big girl business and the big boy business were better overall, but as I’ve said, still negative. From a turning the corner your baby question, we started to see in April when we delivered our Summer 2 deliveries, we started to see a nice improvement in the baby business, particularly the baby girl business, which has been the biggest struggle for us, and we are continuing to see that through May. I think the merchandising difference versus last year’s April and May deliveries, it’s much more mix and match, it’s much more knit-driven than woven-driven. I think that some of the colors and some of the art are a lot better than we had last year. So the merchants see that continuing now. I think Natalie believes that we’ve really turned the corner there and that we should see that baby business and the newborn business continue to improve sequentially through the balance of the year. As far as – I know you asked about planning and allocation as well. Jason and his team have made some pretty significant improvements on our ownership since last year by size and by classification. When you look at just the pure inventory content that’s on the floor right now and that we’re delivering for back-to-school, we are in a much better place than we were a year ago as it relates to the ownership of key categories and key basics heading into back-to-school. With respect to allocation, they’ve developed tools; even though working within the system constraints we currently have, that really much more accurately place inventory by store grade and by store attributes. So they really have made a significant difference in the past year and we’re really looking forward to seeing that come to life through the balance of the second quarter and into back-to-school.

Fall Season Outlook

Lorraine Hutchinson – Bank of America-Merrill Lynch: As you approach the fall season, can you talk about some of the lessons learned from the dressy assortment and how you are changing things this year to try to capitalize on that preholiday opportunity?

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Jane Elfers – President and CEO: That’s a great question. On back-to-school, I think what the biggest lesson that we learned last year from back-to-school, we had a terrific August and even within that very strong August, we had a lot of issues on out of stocks. August is really built around four key classifications. You have uniform, you have backpacks, you have graphic tees and you have denim. Then in the girl’s side over the last year or so, jegging has really come on as a competitor to the denim, so you could really maybe add in a fourth classification. We did well with those classifications last year during back-to-school but we had some significant out of stocks and some significant misses in sizes last year, and that kind of goes back to what I was talking about with Jason and his team. They have really worked very hard since last year to put us in a good position into those basics. Going into September last year, we set up holiday in mid-September and I think the hindsight from that was that it was too much of the floor set and too much of the floor space and what we really should have done is we should have stayed in a back-to-school mode much longer into the month of September than we did. So this year when you look at the floor sets post Labor Day, you’ll still see holiday product coming in because picture taking in early holidays, the customer need is there but from a level in the month of September and a floor placement in the month of September, it won’t take up the square footage that it did last year and you’ll see us continue through the month of September to really play a back-to-school.

A Closer Look: Children’s Place Retail Stores Earnings Cheat Sheet>>