Kohl's shares jumped more than 7 percent Tuesday after the company reported better-than-expected earnings and sales during the crucial holiday shopping season.
Sales at stores open for at least 12 months were also surprisingly improved, rising 1 percent during the fiscal fourth quarter ended Feb. 2 from the previous year. Analysts expected a 0.3 percent increase in comparable store sales.
"With a clear focus on driving traffic and operating with discipline, the company is delivering sales growth while also improving profitability," Kohl's CEO Michelle Gass said in a press release.
Here's how the company did compared with what Wall Street expected:
On an unadjusted basis, the company's profit slid 42 percent to $272 million, or $1.67 a share, from $468 million, or $2.81 a share, during the same quarter a year earlier.
The company paid off $413 million in bonds during the quarter, taking a $21 million loss to extinguish outstanding debt. Overall, Kohl's said it reduced its outstanding debt by over $900 million last year and extended the deadlines to repay the rest of its bonds by an extra two years, which it said will cut its annual interest payments by approximately $45 million.
The retailer said it expects earnings per share for 2019 between $5.80 and $6.15 per share. Analysts were expecting $5.77 per share.
The upbeat outlook is a sign that some of Kohl's latest investments in its mobile app, brand partnerships and private brand development are paying off. The company, meantime, has been exploring ways to bring in new uses to fill excess real estate.
Building on its recent initiative to remodel some stores, dividing a space to bring in a new tenant next door, Kohl's also announced on Tuesday it will be partnering with gym operator Planet Fitness at 10 locations across the country, promising more to come. Kohl's has already started working with grocery chain Aldi to do this.
The Planet Fitness locations will be about 20,000 to 25,000 square feet in size, Kohl's said. Gass called the strategy "a large opportunity for Kohl's." It also builds on the company's efforts to become a destination for health and wellness, as some of the best-performing brands in its stores are Under Armour, Adidas and Nike.
"We see the newly announced partnership with Planet Fitness ... as a great opportunity to optimize [Kohl's] real estate footprint, while helping to further drive strength in the active category," Gordon Haskett analyst Chuck Grom said.
Kohl's has also been working with Amazon to accept Amazon returns in its stores and sell Amazon tech gadgets, which it says has been a traffic driver.