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Macy's shares plunge after huge earnings, sales miss; shows recovery a long way off

  • Macy's reported adjusted EPS of 24 cents vs. an estimate of 35 cents, according to Thomson Reuters.
  • Revenue came in at $5.34 billion for the first quarter, missing an estimate of $5.47 billion, according to analysts.
  • Same-store sales fell 4.6 percent, more than the forecast 2.7 percent drop, according to FactSet.

Macy's first-quarter earnings miss shows just how far the retailer has to go before it can turn things around.

Here's what the company reported before the bell Thursday vs. what the Street was expecting:

  • Earnings per share: 24 cents adjusted vs. estimate of 35 cents, Thomson Reuters analysts said.
  • Revenue: $5.34 billion vs. estimate of $5.47 billion, according analysts.
  • Same-store sales: decline of 4.6 percent, versus a forecast of a 2.7 percent drop, according to FactSet.

Shares of the stock fell more than 17 percent Thursday following the disappointing report, which showed further deterioration over recent quarters. At one point, the stock fell below $26 for the first time in more than 5½ years before regaining some of the lost ground. Volume of shares changing hands was heavy.

Thursday's earnings report added "to the sense that Macy's is on a slippery slope," Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, said in an email.

Macy's reported a 39 percent drop in quarterly profit, hurt by a decline in sales and higher inventory, which weighed on its margins. Net income fell to $71 million in the first quarter ended April 29, from $116 million a year earlier.

The department store operator said same-store sales — a metric closely watched for retail stocks by Wall Street — fell 4.6 percent for the quarter, including sales in departments licensed to third parties. The loss was deeper than analysts' estimates of a 2.7 percent decline, according to FactSet.

Still, Macy's new management sounded positive tones saying that the performance was "consistent with our expectations" as it reiterated its 2017 forecast.

Macy's expects 2017 comparable sales — on an owned plus licensed basis — to fall 2 to 3 percent. Total sales are still expected to be down 3.2 to 4.3 percent, while adjusted earnings are expected to be $2.90 to $3.15 a share.

"We are encouraged by the performance of the pilot programs we tested last year in categories like women's shoes, fine jewelry, and furniture and mattresses," CEO Jeff Gennette said in a statement. "We look forward to expanding these successful initiatives nationally this year and anticipate they will have a measurable impact on our performance starting in the second quarter, building through the fall. Additionally, our digital platforms showed continued strong growth in the first quarter."

Gennette, who succeeded Terry Lundgren just last month, has already made clear his desire to end a two-year streak of negative same-store sales.

He takes over Macy's at a time when department stores are struggling to keep pace with off-price brands and e-commerce players such as Amazon.

Shortly after starting in his new role, Gennette said he wanted to make Macy's more of a competitor with off-price chains, by bringing a model similar to that of Ross Stores or TJ Maxx into traditional malls.

Macy's has been rolling out its own off-price brand, Macy's Backstage, during the past two years. The retailer now plans to open 30 more Backstage-branded shops in Macy's full-price stores by the end of this year, Gennette said.

Saunders said the latest results show the challenges Gennette faces.

"Turning around Macy's is not a venture for the faint of heart," Saunders said, acknowledging that the company is "embracing this change" and "actively trying to reinvent and modernize the business with an energy that was simply not present a couple of years ago."

Real estate update

At the start of the year, Macy's said it will shutter 100 of its locations — one of many retailers making the decision to slim down its real estate portfolio.

Further, the department store chain has been under pressure from activist investor Starboard to make money off its vast real estate empire.

In the first quarter of 2017, the company said it received cash proceeds associated with real estate transactions of $96 million and booked $68 million of real estate gains. Of these gains, $47 million were related to the sale of the company's downtown Minneapolis property.

Macy's is also under contract to sell two additional floors of its downtown Seattle store after having sold floors five through eight in 2015, the company said. This transaction is expected to close later this fall.

Since the end of the first quarter, Macy's has said it plans to sell and close a store at Temple Mall in Temple, Texas. It also is working on the previously announced closure of the store at the Mall at Tuttle Crossing in Dublin, Ohio.

As of Thursday's close, shares of Macy's have fallen about 22 percent over the past 12 months and are down 32 percent for the year-to-date period.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to show that earnings per share had been expected at 35 cents.