Kohl's shares tumble on weak holiday sales

Key Points
  • Kohl's says 2018 holiday same-store sales rose 1.2 percent.
  • That's compared with growth of nearly 7 percent in 2017.
  • The retailer also boosts its profit outlook for fiscal 2018.
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Kohl's on Thursday reported holiday sales growth that paled in comparison to its results in 2017, sending shares tumbling.

Shares then fell further as other retailers including Macy's and L Brands reported disappointing holiday sales, sending a sea of retail stocks into the red. Kohl's stock closed the day down nearly 5 percent, as its sales growth wasn't enough to appease investors, even as it raised its full-year profit outlook. Macy's was down nearly 18 percent, J.C. Penney fell 4.5 percent, and Target was down about 3 percent.

Kohl's said sales at its stores and website operating for at least 12 months, on a shifted basis, rose 1.2 percent over the 2018 holiday shopping season. That's compared with growth of nearly 7 percent during the same time a year before.

CEO Michelle Gass said in a statement the company was pleased with reporting a "very strong holiday" on top of "last year's exceptional holiday season." She added the retailer saw double-digit sales growth online this past November and December.

For Kohl's, though, sales gains were "much more difficult to attain this year" after the company had such a strong holiday season in 2017, GlobalData Retail Managing Director Neil Saunders said. "The main takeaway from Kohl's numbers is not that growth has come down a bit. ... Rather it is that Kohl's is executing and delivering in a consistent way with some good progress on both the top and bottom lines."

Gass had told CNBC last November that Kohl's hit a record day for digital sales on Thanksgiving, as it kicked off many of its Black Friday deals on its website at midnight that morning. She said Kohl's was seeing huge traffic coming from mobile devices, as shoppers were looking to scoop up apparel and kitchen appliances.

Kohl's has, meanwhile, been called out by analysts as one company expected to have benefited this past holiday season amid Sears' bankruptcy and Toys R Us' liquidation.

Based on Thursday's results, Kohl's said it now expects fiscal 2018 diluted earnings per share to fall within a range of $5.50 to $5.55, up from a prior range of $5.35 to $5.55. Analysts had been calling for earnings of $5.52 per share, according to a poll by Refinitiv.

Kohl's said it will share more details about its holiday performance when it reports fourth-quarter earnings on March 5.

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