Why Express May Have Had One of Its Worst Quarters Ever

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Express Inc. (NYSE: EXPR) reported its fiscal second-quarter financial results before the markets opened on Wednesday. Overall, this was perhaps the single worst quarter that Express has seen in a while, or at least shares are behaving that way. Not only did the company miss estimates, but guidance was weak, and comparable sales were continuing on the decline. There appears to be no real upside from anything in this report.

The company said that it had $0.13 in earnings per share (EPS) on $504.8 million in revenue. Thomson Reuters consensus estimates had called for $0.17 in EPS on revenue of $520.95 million. The same period of last year reportedly had EPS of $0.25 and $535.6 million in revenue.

During the most recent quarter, comparable sales (including e-commerce sales) decreased 8%, compared to a 7% increase in the second quarter of 2015. E-commerce sales for this quarter also declined 7% to a total of $70.1 million.

In terms of guidance for the fiscal third quarter, the company expects to have EPS in the range of $0.09 to $0.15, as well as comparable sales in the negative high-single to low-double digits. The consensus estimates predict $0.32 in EPS on $538.24 million in revenue for the coming quarter.

David Kornberg, president and CEO of Express, commented:

I am disappointed with our second quarter performance as sales and earnings were below our guidance, reflecting challenging store traffic. This was compounded by a lack of clarity across the assortment. We believe we have identified the necessary actions to position Express to regain momentum and we are moving on them. Our fall assortment is more cohesive across our wearing occasions, clearly identifying the important trends, and we are aggressively pursuing several marketing initiatives focused on driving new customer acquisition and retention. In addition, we are pleased with our overall inventory position as we begin the fall season. Our overarching priorities remain unchanged: presenting our customers with a strong assortment, increasing customer acquisition and brand loyalty, enhancing gross margin as we benefit from our IT initiatives, and maintaining inventory discipline while reducing expenses. We expect to deliver incremental progress toward our priorities in 2016 and firmly believe our strategy will move us toward our double digit operating margin goal.

On the books, Express cash and cash equivalents totaled $119.6 million at the end of the quarter, versus $155.6 million in the same period from last year.

Shares of Express closed Tuesday up 1.8% at $16.03, with a consensus analyst price target of $18.18 and a 52-week trading range of $15.50 to $16.38. Following the release of the earnings report, the stock was actually down about 21% at $12.68 in early trading indications Wednesday.