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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Zale Corp Q4 Sales Up 9.4%, Comp Sales Up Nearly 10%; Losses Also Rise

A Zales jewelry store worker in San Bruno, Calif. examines watch inventory.  Photo credit: Paul Sakuma / AP

Jewelry retailer Zale Corp. said Wednesday that fourth quarter sales rose 9.4 percent year-over-year to $377 million. Same store sales for the period, ended July 31, increased 9.8 percent, compared to a decrease of 2.1 percent during the same period last year. At constant exchange rates, which exclude the effect of translating Canadian currency denominated sales into U.S. dollars, same store sales increased 8.4 percent for the quarter.

However, the Dallas-based company—whose brands include Zales Jewelers, Zales Outlet, Gordon's Jewelers, Peoples Jewellers, Mappins Jewellers and Piercing Pagoda—reported a loss of $32.6 million, or $1.02 a share, compared with $28.5 million, or 89 cents a share, a year earlier. The company said the main culprit was higher prices for gold, silver and diamonds.

“This quarter represents the third consecutive quarter of positive same store sales,” said Matt Appel, Zale Corp. chief administrative officer and chief financial officer. “Despite the headwinds imposed by volatility in commodity markets and the overall economy, our gross margin performance in the quarter and full year reflects the traction we are gaining in the marketplace.”

The company, which has 1,830 retail locations in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, said gross margin on sales increased 6.4 percent to $193 million for the fourth quarter. The company achieved gross margin on sales of 51.3 percent, compared to 52.7 percent in the comparable quarter last year. Excluding last-in, first-out inventory charges of $7.9 million and $2.9 million for the fourth quarter of 2011 and fourth quarter of 2010, respectively, gross margin would have been 53.4 percent and 53.5 percent for the 2011 and 2010 quarters, respectively. The $5 million increase in LIFO charges for the fourth quarter of 2011 was due to rising diamond, gold and silver commodity costs.

Selling, general and administrative expenses for the fourth quarter were $204 million, or 54.1 percent of revenues, compared to $197 million, or 57 percent of revenues, in the same period last year. The company's operating loss for the quarter was $24 million compared to an operating loss of $31 million in the prior year quarter. Operating margin improved 270 basis points, to negative 6.4 percent, for the fourth quarter, compared to negative 9.1 percent in the same period last year.

The company recorded an income tax benefit of $1 million, compared to a benefit of $6 million in the comparable quarter last year. The 2010 quarter included a $4 million tax benefit related to net operating loss carrybacks pursuant to the Business Assistance Act of 2009. The company said it does not foresee any further benefits from this Act.

Inventory at July 31, stood at $721 million, compared to $703 million in the same period last year. The company had outstanding debt for the period was $395 million, compared to $296 million in the fourth quarter of the prior year.

2011 Fiscal Year Report After Jump

Revenues for Zale Corp.’s 2011 fiscal year, ended July 31, increased 7.8 percent to $1.74 billion. Same store sales for the year increased 8.1 percent, compared to a decrease of 6.6 percent for fiscal year 2010. At constant exchange rates, which exclude the effect of translating Canadian currency denominated sales into U.S. dollars, comparable store sales increased 7.1 percent for 2011.

However, for the fiscal year, the company incurred a net loss from continuing operations of $112 million, or $3.49 per share, compared to a net loss from continuing operations of $96 million, or $2.99 per share, in fiscal year 2010, primarily due to a charge of $46 million to interest expense, partially offset by a $26 million net decrease in store impairment and closure charges.

The company said margin on sales was $880 million, an increase of 8.1 percent compared to $814 million in the same period last year. The Company achieved gross margin on sales of 50.5 percent, compared to 50.4 percent in the prior fiscal year.

Selling, general and administrative expenses were $860 million, or 49.3 percent of revenues, in the 2011 fiscal year, compared to $846 million, or 52.4 percent of revenues, in fiscal year 2010. The company's operating loss for fiscal year 2011 improved by $87 million to $28 million, compared to an operating loss of $115 million in the prior fiscal year. Operating margin improved 550 basis points, to negative 1.6 percent for the fiscal year, compared to negative 7.1 percent for fiscal year 2010.

For the year, the company recorded income tax expense of $2 million, compared to a benefit of $29 million in fiscal year 2010. The fiscal year 2010 benefit is primarily a result of tax benefits related to net operating loss carrybacks pursuant to the Business Assistance Act of 2009.

“In fiscal 2011, we made substantial progress in the multi-year initiative to return to profitability,” commented Theo Killion, Zale Corp. CEO. “The strength of our assortment, marketing and field organization position us well to navigate through the current economic environment.”

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