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Nordstrom reported second-quarter earnings and sales on Thursday that topped analysts' expectations, sending shares of the stock higher after market close.
Same-store sales — a metric monitored closely by Wall Street — for the company were also positive, a rare outcome among department stores of late. Nordstrom said its results this period were fueled by more customers ringing up purchases online.
Nordstrom's stock was last climbing more than 3 percent higher in after-hours trading on the news. Shares had closed Thursday down 4.3 percent, following mixed reports by retail rivals Kohl's, Macy's and Dillard's.
"In a day of muted results clouded by continued sales declines, Nordstrom has provided a ray of sunshine," GlobalData Retail Managing Director Neil Saunders wrote in a note to clients. "The company has, for a long time, invested in its retail proposition and has taken sound strategic decisions like the diversification into off-price and the development of an omnichannel plan."
Here's what the company reported vs what Wall Street was expecting:
Nordstrom's net income fell to $110 million, or 65 cents per share, from $117 million, or 67 cents per share, one year ago. Net sales rose 3.5 percent, to $3.72 billion.
Nordstrom said its Anniversary Sale this year, which is historically the company's biggest sales event of the year, "performed better than recent trends."
Notably, the retailer delivered online sales growth of 20 percent at Nordstrom.com, and 27 percent growth at Nordstromrack.com and HauteLook. Off-price sales at Nordstrom Rack were up 3.1 percent, while sales at full-line stores in the U.S. fell 4.4 percent. That is still better than a year ago, when sales fell 6.5 percent at its American full-line stores.
"Our Rack business is an important way to attract new customers to Nordstrom," Co-President Blake Nordstrom said on a call with analysts and investors. As the company opens new off-price locations, "these stores incorporate our latest store designs with improvements to the layout and fitting room experience," he added.
Nordstrom should have 232 Rack locations open, in total, by year end.
The best-performing merchandise categories for Nordstrom this quarter were women's apparel and beauty.
So far in 2017, Nordstrom has opened six Nordstrom Rack stores and closed one of its full-line stores. While many of its department store peers have been forced to shutter unprofitable stores, Nordstrom has been known to keep a leaner real-estate footprint.
Looking ahead, Nordstrom has updated its full-year outlook; it now sees net sales increasing by about 4 percent, a tad better than a previous forecast for 3 to 4 percent growth. Nordstrom still expects comps to be flat, but it has increased the low end of its range for profit.
Nordstrom now expects to earn between $2.85 to $3 per share for the fiscal year 2017, compared to previous expectations for earning $2.75 to $3 a share.
The company also included highlights from its Nordstrom Rewards loyalty program, which now has 9.4 million active users in the U.S. and Canada. Sales from Nordstrom Rewards customers represented 56 percent of second-quarter sales, compared with 48 percent a year ago.
"It remains clear to us that Nordstrom is on a much better trajectory than most other players in the department store segment," GlobalData Retail's Saunders said.
"The Nordstrom family know this, which is one of the reasons why they looked into taking the company private. Whatever the outcome of that process, Nordstrom should not be tarred with the same brush as other department stores."
Still top of many analysts' minds this quarter are Nordstrom's latest talks to go private — something the company didn't comment on in Thursday's earnings release.
In June, the department store chain announced it was exploring such a transaction by the Nordstrom family after forming a special committee. Reuters then reported that the Nordstrom family would be offering "preferential terms" to potential equity partners willing to fund a buyout.
As a private company, Nordstrom would likely be able to focus on initiatives such as investing more in e-commerce, closing underperforming stores and expanding its off-price chain, Nordstrom Rack, without pressure from shareholders.
Women's Wear Daily last week reported that time was running out for Nordstrom to court a buyer, based on conversations the publication had with various bankers. Sources told WWD that Nordstrom continues to have conversations with potential partners, but those discussions are being described as "informal" and "just talks."