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Nordstrom shares fall as sales at its growth engine Nordstrom Rack stall

  • Nordstrom family members recently put off efforts to take the retailer private until after the holiday season.
  • The department store had sought to escape the eye of public investors, but financing sources became skittish amid retail headwinds.
  • Investors will be closely watching to see how strongly both its discount store model and traditional store are performing.

Nordstrom reported quarterly earnings and revenue that beat analysts' expectations on Thursday, but same-store sales at its discount concept Nordstrom Rack disappointed, dragged down by unpopular goods.

Here's how the company did compared with what Wall Street expected:

  • EPS: 67 cents, vs. 63 cents expected according to Thomson Reuters
  • Revenue: $3.63 billion, vs. $3.58 billion expected according to Thomson Reuters
  • Same-store sales: Decline of 0.9 percent, vs. the decline of 0.2 percent expected by Thomson Reuters

Shares declined 1 percent in after-hours trading.

The company reported net sales of $3.5 billion for the quarter, up 2 percent from the same quarter the year prior. Total revenue came in at $3.63 billion, beating estimates of $3.58 billion according to Thomson Reuters. It reported diluted earnings per share of 67 cents, beating estimates of 63 cents.

Both sales and earnings were impacted by hurricanes, according to the company's press release.

Comparable sales at Nordstrom Rack dropped 5 percent, reversing its previous growth trends. It generated roughly 30 percent of its net revenue in the stores for the past quarter.

Nordstrom has been building out its off-price Rack concept in order to appeal to increasingly cost-conscious customers. It added roughly 15 this past year, leaving it with a total of 232. It expects to add more in Canada and the U.S. next year.

Nordstrom said those stores were stuck with merchandise that customers were not buying, but was unable to quickly replenish with more popular items. It said it is working to rectify those issues.

"We weren't in the market as aggressively as we would like to have been to ensure that we have the right freshness and flow and...corresponding values," the company said on its earnings call.

Its full-price stores, where it generated roughly 40 percent of its net revenue, saw comparable sales drop 4.9 percent.

Still, the company delivered strong growth online.

On Nordstrom's website, where it generated 15 percent of its net revenue, comparable sales grew 7.5 percent. On Nordstrom Rack's website and HauteLook, where it booked 6 percent, comparable sales grew 33.6 percent.

That stronger online performance may reassure investors considering financing the Nordstrom family members' efforts to take it private. The family announced earlier this fall it is putting those efforts on hold until after the holidays, as investor skittishness complicated putting together a financing package.

The family is hoping that as a private company, Nordstrom will be able to make investments that help it adapt to the changing retail landscape without worrying about short-term shareholder reaction.

CORRECTION: Nordstrom reported $3.63 billion in revenue for the quarter. That figure was misstated in an earlier version of this article.