Hot Topic Beats on Improved Margins - Analyst Blog

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Shopping mall based specialty retailer, Hot Topic Inc. ( HOTT ) reported first-quarter 2012 earnings of 9 cents per share, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate by a penny and the prior-year break-even earnings.

The year-over-year increase in quarterly earnings was primarily driven by solid top-line growth and improved margins, resulting from the company's cost reduction initiatives. The reported earnings also beat its guidance range of 7 cents to 8 cents.

Hot Topic's net sales for the quarter increased 6.4% year over year to $171.5 million, on account of robust sales in both the namesake and Torrid concepts. On a segmental basis, net sales rose 7% year over year to $124 million at the company's namesake stores, while Torrid stores registered a 5% increase with sales of $47.6 million. Moreover, quarterly sales were almost in line with the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $172 million.

Hot Topic's first-quarter 2012 comparable store sales (comps) were up 7.5% compared with 1.2% reported in the year-ago period. Comps increase in the quarter was driven by a 9.5% rise in comps at the company's namesake stores and a 2.5% spike in Torrid stores. Comps gain in the quarter also resulted from positive comps at Torrid and improvements in fashion attire validating the company's strategy.

Cost & Margin Performance

Adjusted cost of goods sold (COGS), including buying, distribution and occupancy costs, increased 4.1% to $109.9 million. As a percentage of revenue, adjusted COGS decreased 140 basis points to 64%. Consequently, gross profit surged 10.6% to $61.7 million and gross margin expanded 140 basis points to 36%.

Adjusted selling, general & administrative expenses inched down 0.25% to $55.6 million compared with $55.7 million in the prior-year quarter. Based on revenues, it declined 220 basis points to 32.4%. Adjusted operating income in the quarter came in at $6.1 million compared with an operating income of $0.04 million in the year-ago quarter. Consequently, operating margin surged 348 basis points to 3.5%.

Other Financial Details

At the end of the first quarter of fiscal 2012, Hot Topic had cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments of $69.6 million, down from $73.7 million at the end of the first quarter of fiscal 2011. Shareholders' equity was $185.2 million compared with $206.5 million in the prior-year period.

Store Update

During the quarter, the company closed net 4 Hot Topic stores and opened net 16 Torrid stores. The company ended the quarter with 624 Hot Topic stores and 164 Torrid stores.

Guidance

The company provided its earnings guidance for the second quarter of fiscal 2012 at the time of reporting its first quarter comparable sales result on May 2, 2012. Hot Topic estimates second-quarter 2012 loss per share between 4 cents and 6 cents compared with a loss of 14 cents per share recorded in the year-ago period. The company's guidance is based on comparable-store sales growth in the low to mid-single-digit range. The current Zacks Consensus Estimate for the second quarter stands at a loss of 5 cents per share.

Peer Performance

One of Hot Topic's closest competitors, Abercrombie & Fitch Co. 's ( ANF ) adjusted earnings of 3 cents per share for the first quarter of fiscal 2012 came a penny ahead of the Zacks Consensus Estimate. However, quarterly earnings for the quarter dipped substantially from the year-ago quarter earnings of 27 cents per share.

Our Recommendation

We believe Hot Topic's niche market position, strong brand recall, ability to tweak merchandise in line with rapidly changing trends and a debt-free balance sheet augur well for operating performance. However, macroeconomic headwinds, intense competition from other specialty retailers and the seasonal nature of the business severely undermine the company's future growth prospects.

Currently, we are maintaining our long-term 'Neutral' recommendation on Hot Topic. Moreover, the company has a Zacks #2 Rank implying a short-term 'Buy' rating on the stock.


 
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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.



This article appears in: Investing , Business , Stocks

Referenced Stocks: ANF , HOTT

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