Children’s Place Retail Stores Earnings Call Nuggets: Inventory Outlook and Regional Trends

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

Inventory Outlook

Lorraine Hutchinson – Bank of America-Merrill Lynch: Just obviously the first quarter off to a bit of a difficult start, as you think about the second quarter and beyond, do you expect to have any of this inventory carrying over or should we start with the clear slate and look for earnings growth in each of the subsequent quarters?

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Michael Scarpa – EVP and CFO: From an inventory perspective, obviously with the negative 8% comp through the first part of first quarter, inventory will be littler heavier than what we have expected as we go into the second quarter. The good news about inventory though is that we bought our spring fashion actually down and put the investment behind the six-month seasonal spring basics in our replenishment twelve-month programs, so we feel as we go into the second quarter that we’re in fairly good shape from an inventory perspective.

Lorraine Hutchinson – Bank of America-Merrill Lynch: Mile you listed number of cost reduction issues, any way to put some dollar figures around your goals there?

Michael Scarpa – EVP and CFO: As I said we definitely want to in absolute terms spend less in SG&A than we did in the prior year. We spent about $507 million last year and our goal is to obviously get under that despite adding what I’ll say is approximately about $25 million of expense in terms of the new store openings. So, our goal is to come in lower than where we were a year ago. We see opportunities obviously in store payroll. We’ve done a good job over the last three months and expect to continue reducing overall hours in our store fleet as we go through the rest of 2013. Corporate expenses have gone under a microscope and we continue to reduce period-on-period. And then we’ve done some good things in our distribution center last year. As you remember we’ve consolidated our warehousing and our distribution centers are performing very well. We have one left in the United States and one in Canada, and the one in the United States is really performed very efficiently over the first couple of months of operations under a consolidated basis.

Regional Trends

Gabriella Coburn – Janney Capital: This is actually Gabriella Coburn calling in for Adrienne. I was just wondering, if you can share with us trends you are witnessing in different regions of the country. If you are seeing better sales trends in the regions having more favorable weather?

Jane Elfers – President and CEO: It’s Jane. February as we said week one was very tough and then we comped positive for the next four weeks. The last two weeks have been painful and this one has started off similar with all the snow storms across the country. We have 20 to 40 point comp swings month-to-date between our western and our south western markets and our Midwestern and our northeastern market and when you look at these comp swings, they are even significantly more pronounced within key item categories like short tank, sandals, flip flops, swims and sunglasses. For an example, just in our short category alone, we have a 95 point swing in comp short sales between the West and the Midwest and the comp swings are even more pronounced in Canada as the entire country has been cold, so there are extraordinarily significant changes from region to region.

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Gabriella Coburn – Janney Capital: My second question is regarding the baby business. On the last call I remember you speaking to, I’m keeping baby at about 30% of the business, but directing your focus more to key items such as like (knits and pulleys) and decreasing receipts on (dresses), is that something you did for Easter or is that something we’ll see more for holiday?

Jane Elfers – President and CEO: That’s something we did for Easter. As Mike had mentioned for inventory, we pulled back our fashion inventory in the spring season and really took our shots more on the key item basics.