Ulta Salon Beats - Analyst Blog

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Ulta Salon, Cosmetics & Fragrance Inc. ( ULTA ) posted fourth quarter 2011 earnings of 73 cents per share, which surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 68 cents. Quarterly earnings shot up 49.0% from the year-ago quarter earnings of 49 cents per share and also beat management's guided range of 67 cents to 68 cents. In full-fiscal 2011, reported earnings were $1.90 per share versus $1.16 in 2010.

The better-than-expected results were due to double-digit growth in the top line resulting from strong holiday sales.

The salon operator reported net sales of $582.5 million in the fourth quarter, up 23% year over year and were well above management's projected range of $574 million-$579 million. In full-fiscal 2011, net sales increased 22.1% to $1,776.2 million.

Quarter Highlight

Comparable store sales in the quarter escalated 11.5% from 10.4% reported in the prior-year quarter due to higher traffic. During the quarter, management succeeded in driving traffic based on leverage in value offerings, marketing initiatives, introduction of new brands and customer service and expects the same trend to continue going forward. The beauty retailer also benefited from continued demand across all its categories and unit expansion.

Gross margin expanded 100 basis points (bps) year over year to 34.1% in the fourth quarter, mainly attributable to cost reductions through improved supply chain and marketing leverage.

Selling, general and administrative expenses, as a percentage of sales, slipped 110 bps to 21.3% during the quarter.

In the reported quarter, operating income surged 49.5% year over year to $73.2 million, while the operating margin grew 230 bps to 12.6%.

Financial Position

Ulta ended 2012 with cash and cash equivalents of $253.7 million and had no debt on its balance sheet.

Merchandise inventories at the end of the quarter stood at $244.6 million compared with $218.5 million at the end of the previous quarter. The increase was mainly due to the addition of 60 new stores since July 31, 2010. However, average inventory per store dropped 3.0% year over year on the back of better inventory management initiatives.

The company also announced a special cash dividend of $1.00 per share.

Store Update

Ulta opened 7 new stores in the quarter, thus bringing the total number of stores to 449.

The company will continue to focus on store expansion and hence, plans to open 100 stores in 2012. In the first quarter of 2012, the company expects to open 13 new stores.

Outlook

In the first quarter of 2012, Ulta expects earnings per share between 46 cents and 48 cents, a significant growth from 37 cents in the year-earlier quarter, aided by Ulta's sound marketing, merchandising and stores expansion strategies.

Net sales are estimated in the range of $452 million to $460 million based on a comparable store sales growth of 6% to 8%.

In 2012, the company expects to achieve comparable store sales growth at or slightly above the high end of its long term goal of 3% to 5% and net income growth towards the high end of it's long term target of 25% - 30%.

Our Take

The company reported better-than-expected results and will continue to introduce exciting merchandising and marketing programs to attract customers in 2012. Hence, we expect an upward movement in estimates in the coming days. The Zacks Consensus Estimates for 2012 and 2013 are pegged at $2.33 and $3.00 per share, respectively. 

Ulta has a Zacks #1 Rank, implying a short-term Strong Buy rating on the stock. Our long-term recommendation for the stock remains Outperform.

Meanwhile, one of Ulta's competitors, Regis Corp. ( RGS ) reported second quarter 2012 adjusted earnings of 32 cents per share, way ahead of the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 8 cents and the year-ago quarter earnings of 25 cents.


 
REGIS CORP/MN ( RGS ): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
ULTA SALON COSM ( ULTA ): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
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Zacks Investment Research



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: RGS , ULTA

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