Ross Stores Earnings Call Nuggets: Category Trends and Promotional Environment

Ross Stores, Inc. (NASDAQ:ROST) recently reported its second quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Category Trends

Daniel Hofkin – William Blair: Just wanted to follow-up a little bit on some of the category trends and can you discuss – I know the home department has been a particular area of focus since last fall. Can you update us on how that’s been performing relative to your expectations, relative to the overall comp, for example, that would be my first question?

John G. Call – Group SVP, CFO and Corporate Secretary: We are pleased with the progress we have made in home plans performed in line with the total store for the quarter. So, we are happy with the progress we have made, we are right on-track.

Daniel Hofkin – William Blair: And in terms of the regional detail, can you just discuss quickly how, obviously, the West Coast is particularly important region for you, but how was that relative to your overall comp?

John G. Call – Group SVP, CFO and Corporate Secretary: The West Coast was pretty much in line with the chain comp. Actually, regionally; our comp performance is pretty broad based. I think in Michael’s comment he mentioned Florida and Texas as particularly strong, but frankly other regions did pretty well too…

Daniel Hofkin – William Blair: And then can you just I guess update us, in terms of the systems – kind of ongoing systems enhancements that you touched on, where do you feel like you are in that progression relative to – I mean is this just stuff that you see being having a long runway ahead or do you think – where do you stand in that?

John G. Call – Group SVP, CFO and Corporate Secretary: I think we are pretty far along in terms of the planning and allocation systems that we have in place. As you know we rolled out micro merchandizing across the chain about three years ago. But part of the benefit of planning and allocating at a more detailed level is that allows you to go after opportunities that you wouldn’t otherwise see. So, I think there are – I think we expect that over the next few years there are going to be opportunities down at individual classification levels or down at individual store or regional level, or even frankly, looking at different clusters of stores, different segments of store and spotting opportunities to turn faster and to drive margins and drive sales. So, I think we feel pretty good about where we are from a systems point of view. But I think we think there’s quite a lot of opportunities to use those systems to really drive the business.

Promotional Environment

David Mann – Johnson Rice: A question about the promotional environment. Most of the other major apparel retailers are talking about the fact that there was promotional pressure in the second quarter. Just curious if how you feel like there was any impact on you in the quarter and whether you think that what you’re looking at going into the rest of the year?

Michael Balmuth – Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer: We thought it was typically promotional, not unusually rugged, okay, but fairly typical. I think coming out of the second quarter where all the major department stores and discounters struggled in the second quarter, they have plenty of time to be preparing and ramping up for a more promotional fourth quarter than they did – that they were able to for the second quarter which is kind of I think quite a lot of people (off guard)…

David Mann – Johnson Rice: And then in terms of the merchandise margin, there was it looks like a little bit of an acceleration there. It was a nice gain relative to the last few quarters. Perhaps John you can talk a little bit about was that just better buying IMU or better sell-through and less markdowns?

John G. Call – Group SVP, CFO and Corporate Secretary: I think it was a bit of both, David. We saw a bit of both increase in the second quarter.

David Mann – Johnson Rice: And last question on the ticket gain be – or gain in average ticket driving same-store sales, are you seeing more units per transaction or just some average increase in price? How should we think about that in that going forward as well?

John G. Call – Group SVP, CFO and Corporate Secretary: Yes, (indiscernible) mix as well, so we had slightly March SKUs being purchased for a basket and also the AURs are up a little bit as well. And we are happy to see that actually traffic was positive as well.

A Closer Look: Ross Stores Earnings Cheat Sheet>>