Ascena Retail Group FY 4Q14 Earnings Call Notes

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This post is part of a series of posts called “Company Notes.” These posts contain quotes and exhibits from earnings calls, conference presentations, analyst days and SEC filings. Full transcripts can be found at Seeking Alpha

A challenging specialty retail environment

“During the quarter, we saw the challenging specialty retail environment continue with soft traffic across all our brands. While we achieved our planned profitability for the quarter, sales were below our expectation, down roughly 1% to last year, with store comps down 4%, offset partially by continued positive ecommerce comp of 13%.”

shifting away from traditional promotional strategies to more targeted marketing

“From a marketing perspective, we’ve begun to see customer response shifting away from traditional promotional strategies like storewide percent off and regular bounce back programs. We’re testing more targeted marketing to specific customer segments aimed at growing share walks in cross category engagements. Examples of this include focused programs in our best ad denim and bra categories.

We’ll also focus on broadening our marketing investments to better reach both prospective and inactive customers, including more direct mail that goes to these groups and a significant digital marketing initiative and expanded the office.”

We don’t think the environment has improved

“When we think about the first quarter, as we mentioned, there are still some headwinds with traffic that we don’t see the environment has having markedly improved…at the end of the day, we are really subject to the winds of the consumer and not that I want to pull a lot of phasing in this consumer right now.”

We are not looking to reduce our store count

“I think there is a sense in the market, that, oh, everybody is cutting back stores, they only need half as many stores in the fleet that they have. And if you are a hard good guy, like some of the office guy, office supply superstores, I get it, because half of their business is being done online and it’s a commodity product. I mean, I guess, that, they don’t need these big stores, they don’t need this many.

Our stores are small. The Justice stores are like 9,000 to 4,000 feet, maurices stores are 5,000, et cetera, et cetera. So we are not looking to reduce our stores or reduce the number of stores, because apparel — fashion apparel is still about that touch and feel, and as we had omni-channel capabilities, they become fulfillment center, they become a pick-up center and we think that across all of our brands that there is going to be an ongoing need for the store base that we have in all of our brands”