Kohl’s sales tank almost 44% as coronavirus slams the retailer

Earnings

Customers leave a Kohl’s store on November 12, 2015 in San Rafael, California.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Kohl’s net sales tanked 43.5% during the first quarter, the company said Tuesday, as its stores were forced temporarily shut due to the Covid-19 crisis. 

“While we have a fast-growing digital business, it has only replaced a small portion of the sales loss from our entire store base,” Chief Executive Officer Michelle Gass said during an earnings conference call. 

The company also said it has suspended its share repurchase program and its quarterly cash dividend payment, beginning in the second quarter, as it looks to cut costs and bolster liquidity. 

Kohl’s shares were falling more than 9% in early trading on the news. 

Here’s how the company did during its fiscal first quarter, ended May 2: 

  • Earnings per share, adjusted: A loss of $3.20 
  • Revenue: $2.16 billion 

Kohl’s net sales fell to $2.16 billion from $3.82 billion a year ago. 

The retailer reported a net loss of $541 million, or $3.50 per share, compared with a profit of $62 million, or 38 cents per a share, a year prior. Excluding one-time charges, Kohl’s lost $3.20 per share. 

The company said it will not be reporting its same-store sales results for the quarter due to its shops being forced shut. Analysts had been calling for a decline of nearly 31%, according to FactSet. 

Analysts had been calling for the retailer to report a loss of $1.80 per share, adjusted, on revenue of $2.18 billion, according to Refinitiv data. However, it is difficult to compare reported earnings with analyst estimates for Kohl’s first quarter, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to hit global economies and makes earnings impact difficult to assess. 

Kohl’s digital sales were up 24% overall, with growth of more than 60% in April, the company said. Some of its strongest categories online included home, active wear, toys and beauty, according to Gass. 

“We responded [to store closures] with speed and agility, leaning into our digital business as the only channel to engage with our customers,” the CEO said. 

However, with heightened e-commerce activity comes heightened pressure on profits. 

Kohl’s gross margins during the period fell to 17.3% from 36.8% a year ago, hurt by increased shipping costs and amplified promotions to try to clear inventory. 

“We expect significant pressure to this line as the industry faces an unprecedented inventory glut,” Jefferies analyst Randal Konik said in a post-earnings note to clients. 

Kohl’s said Tuesday that about half of its more than 1,160 stores across the U.S. have already been reopened for business. 

The company ended the quarter with $2 billion in cash on hand and $500 million available on its revolving credit facility. 

“We know this experience will have a lasting impact to customer behavior and the retail landscape,” Gass said about the pandemic. 

Kohl’s shares as of Monday’s market close are down 63% this year. The retailer has a market cap of $2.9 billion. 

Read the full earnings report from Kohl’s here. 

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