Ulta Salon Wows Investors and Analysts With Updated Guidance

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Shares of Ulta Salon, Cosmetics & Fragrance Inc. (NASDAQ: ULTA) saw a handy gain on Thursday after the company raised its guidance for the third quarter and fiscal year in conjunction with its analyst and investor conference.

For the fiscal third quarter, Ulta now expects comparable sales, including e-commerce sales, to increase 14% to 15%, compared to previous guidance of 11% to 13%. The company reported a comparable sales increase of 12.8% in the third quarter of fiscal 2015.

At the same time, earnings per share (EPS) are estimated to be in the range of $1.35 to $1.38, compared to prior guidance of $1.25 to $1.30. Ulta reported $1.11 in EPS for the third quarter of last year.

The consensus estimates from Thomson Reuters had called for $1.30 in EPS and revenue of $1.09 billion for the third quarter.

The company is also confirming its outlook for the business to deliver EPS growth in the low 20s percentage range for fiscal 2017, 2018 and 2019, despite growing from a much larger base compared to initial expectations when the strategic plan was communicated in 2014. Ulta is raising its view of long-term comparable sales growth and now expects to drive strong 7% to 9% comparable sales growth for this period from 2017 to 2019, compared to previous guidance of 5% to 7% long-term comparable growth.

Highlights from the conference presentations included the following:

  • Details on the company’s updated consumer segmentation study, revealing a larger opportunity to target beauty enthusiasts who represent 77% of spending in the beauty products market.
  • Insights about how the Ultamate Rewards loyalty program, currently representing more than 90% of company sales, can grow share of wallet of existing members from a one third share today, reflecting significant market share opportunity.
  • Discussion of exciting recent brand launches including Origins, Dior, Estee Lauder, proactiv, and Shiseido in the skincare and cosmetics categories; Stash SJP fragrance; Honest Beauty haircare products; and Dyson hair dryers.
  • Unveiling of an updated real estate analysis that validates incremental new store potential in the U.S. and highlights key expansion opportunities, leading to a raised outlook for store expansion to a range of 1,400 to 1,700 in the U.S.
  • Updated views on the new store model including the cost to build a store and the sales ramp to maturity, reflecting higher new store productivity and higher sales per store of mature stores as a result of a stronger product portfolio, and higher brand awareness.

Even before Thursday’s move, Ulta has vastly outperformed the broad markets, with the stock up nearly 30% year to date. Over the past 52 weeks, the stock is up about 46%.

Shares of Ulta were last seen up 7% at $256.28, with a consensus analyst price target of $291.25 and a 52-week trading range of $146.77 to $278.63.