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Nordstrom shares tumble on disappointing holiday sales

Key Points
  • Nordstrom is now expecting its diluted earnings per share for fiscal 2018 to fall on the low end of a prior range of $3.27 to $3.37.
  • The department store chain said its full-price stores had "softer traffic" during the holiday season.
  • Its off-price stores have been trending in-line with the company's expectations, Nordstrom said.
A man shops at the Nordstrom men's store in New York.
Getty Images

Nordstrom shares tumbled more than 7 percent Wednesday after the retailer said sales at its full-price stores were "below expectations" this holiday season and that it would need to use promotions to get rid of excess inventory.

The news, which was reported Tuesday evening, resulted in two Wall Street analysts downgrading Nordstrom's stock, calling out the weak trends at Nordstrom's core department store business. Nordstrom's off-price Rack stores have, meanwhile, been performing more in line with expectations.

Goldman Sachs downgraded Nordstrom to neutral from buy and has removed the stock from its "Americas Conviction List."

"We have fading confidence in the outlook for the core department store business, and see choppy gross margins as likely offsetting good news on costs," the firm said in a note to clients Tuesday evening.

Telsey Advisory Group downgraded shares to market perform from outperform.

"The fact that traffic decelerated to such a large degree at the full-price stores without a specific rationale creates more uncertainty as compares become more challenging," Dana Telsey, CEO and chief research officer at Telsey Advisory, said.

In a press release, Nordstrom said it now expects its diluted earnings per share for fiscal 2018 to fall on the low end of a previously estimated range of $3.27 to $3.37.

Sales at its stores open for at least 12 months were up 1.3 percent overall for the nine weeks ended Jan. 5 compared with a year ago, the company said. It said off-price same-store sales were up 3.9 percent during that time-frame, on par with performance earlier in the year and in-line with expectations. Full-price same-store sales, however, were up just 0.3 percent, "reflecting softer traffic in stores," Nordstrom said.

It said online sales were up 18 percent during the holiday period from a year ago and accounted for 36 percent of total sales.

The results from Nordstrom come just days after a handful of retailers including Macy's and Kohl's reported disappointing holiday sales. Macy's CEO Jeff Gennette said traffic at stores fell after Black Friday and took longer than expected to pick back up. Macy's stock suffered its worst day in history last Thursday, when it delivered that news to analysts and investors.

The dismal results have some analysts wondering just how bad department store operators have it today, as more spending moves online and foot traffic shifts away from stale shopping malls. The bankruptcies of chains like Bon-Ton, Toys R Us and Sears don't appear to benefiting others in the industry.

"We see Bon-Ton's filing [for bankruptcy] as a cautionary tale of what happens when department stores become too highly leveraged while falling too far behind the competitive pack," Moody's analyst Christina Boni said in a note to clients. "The market's growing impatience will be putting a brighter spotlight on struggling companies like J.C. Penney during 2019. "

Nordstrom is set to report fourth-quarter and full-year earnings on Feb. 28.