Even after posting a larger loss than a year earlier, shares of Vera Bradley rose 2% the day financial results were released for its first-quarter because the 5% sales growth they included convinced a lot of investors it was getting back on track.
After heavier trading than usual, shares of the Fort Wayne-based handbag, luggage and accessories company closed at $11.33 on June 5, up from a closing price of $11.14 the previous day.
The company said its first quarter revenues of $91 million were at the high end of the guidance range it had provided and were up from $86.6 million a year ago.
Its first-quarter loss of $2.4 million, or 7 cents per share, was in line with its guidance range for a loss between 6 cents per share and 8 cents per share, it said. For the same period last year, Vera Bradley had reported a loss of $1.4 million, or 4 cents per share.
“We are pleased with our 5.2% first quarter comparable sales increase and that revenues were once again at the high end of our guidance, indicating that our customers are responding to both our innovative product and targeted consumer engagement efforts,” Robert Wallstrom, chief executive officer, said in a statement.
The company had announced a Vision 20/20 plan that establishes goals to restore full-price selling and reduce clearance revenues drastically while minimizing customer base erosion; drive cash from operations, and reducing its selling, general and administration costs.
“The first stage of Vision 20/20 was to restore brand and company health, and we continue to build upon the progress we made in Fiscal 2019,” Wallstrom said.
“We once again improved the quality of sales in our full-line stores and on verabradley.com by increasing comparable full price selling in these two channels by approximately 20%,” he said.
“Moving into Year 2 of our three-year journey, we are focused on expanding our customer base and increasing sales and profitability.”
The company’s earnings report for the first quarter, which ended May 4, included the following focus areas for the 2020 fiscal year it has started:
Growth: Our goal is to return to positive comparable sales growth this year, and we are off to a good start in the first quarter. This improvement is being driven by compelling, innovative product supported by targeted marketing and engaging customer experiences.
Operational Excellence: Later this year, we will begin a two-year process of re-platforming our ERP (enterprise resource planning) and other key information systems to become more streamlined, nimble, and efficient in our technology and business processes.
Ownership: We will continue to reinforce our culture as an ownership-based model, where every Associate can drive significant value creation through their individual and team efforts.”
A 4% increase in comparable store sales and 9% e-commerce sales growth contributed to a 5% increase in Vera Bradley’s first-quarter comparable sales, it said.
The company’s direct segment revenues of $71.1 million were up about 9 percent from $65.5 million a year earlier. Its indirect segment revenues fell about 6 percent to $19.9 million from $21.1 million.
Vera Bradley had warned last September that it could see an unfavorable impact from the trade war with China.
During the first quarter, “as we look at gross margin, it really is the impact of the Chinese tariffs that’s working through our margin numbers,” Wallstrom said in a conference call with securities industry analysts.
John Enwright, Vera Bradley’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, said it had reduced the share of its production that takes place in China to 57 percent by the end of its 2019 fiscal year in February, and “we expect to take that down to 25%.”
For the company’s second quarter, it expects to see earnings per share range between 25 cents and 28 cents with 34.5 million outstanding shares and a 25% effective tax rate. It expects to see second-quarter revenues in the range of $115 million to $120 million.