ANN INC. (ANN)

ANN 
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ANN INC (ANN)

Q4 2011 Earnings Call

March 09, 2012 8:30 am ET

Executives

Judith Lord - Vice President of Investor Relations

Katherine Lawther Krill - Chief Executive Officer, President and Executive Director

Michael J. Nicholson - Chief Financial Officer, Principal Accounting Officer, Executive Vice President and Treasurer

Analysts

Kimberly C. Greenberger - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Brian J. Tunick - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division

Michelle Tan - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Jennifer Black

Robin S. Murchison - SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division

Neely J.N. Tamminga - Piper Jaffray Companies, Research Division

Paul Lejuez - Nomura Securities Co. Ltd., Research Division

Presentation

Operator

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to ANN INC.'s Fourth Quarter 2011 Earnings Conference Call. At the request of the company, today's conference call is being recorded. [Operator Instructions] I would now like to turn the call over to Judy Lord, Vice President, Investor Relations. Please go ahead.

Judith Lord

Thank you, Teresa. Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us to review our results for the fourth quarter and fiscal year 2011. I'm here this morning with Kay Krill, ANN INC.'s President and CEO; and Mike Nicholson, our CFO. Kay will begin with an overview of the quarter and fiscal year, followed by a brief summary of our strategic priorities for fiscal 2012. Then Mike will discuss our financial results and outlook, and after that, we'll open it up for your questions.

Before turning it over to Kay, we would like to remind you that our discussion this morning includes forward-looking statements, which are subject to the Safe Harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements reflect the company's current expectations as of March 9, 2012, concerning future events and are subject to a number of factors and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially.

With that, let me hand it over to Kay

Katherine Lawther Krill

Good morning, everyone, and thanks for joining us to review our results for the fourth quarter and fiscal year 2011. While the fourth quarter came in lower than we initially expected, overall, it was an excellent year for the company. We made meaningful progress strategically while achieving significant increases in both sales and profitability.

In line with our February 2 announcement, sales for the fourth quarter increased 10% to $567 million with comparable sales up 5%. Excluding charges, net income was $5.5 million or $0.10 per diluted share compared to net income of $11 million or $0.19 per share a year ago. Overall, the results reflected strong performance across all channels of the LOFT brand and in the e-commerce and factory channels of the Ann Taylor brand, offset by significantly lower-than-anticipated results in the Ann Taylor stores channel.

For the year, total sales increased 12% to more than $2.2 billion with comparable sales up a solid 7%. Net income excluding charges reached $89.9 million, up 17%, and diluted earnings per share excluding charges increased 31% to $1.70 from $1.30 in fiscal year 2010. We also maintained our very healthy balance sheet, ending the year with $150 million in cash and no debt. In addition, over the course of the year, we delivered on our commitment to further enhance shareholder value through the repurchase of 7.3 million shares, representing nearly 15% of our outstanding shares.

Let's turn now to performance by brand for the quarter, and then I'll spend a few minutes outlining our strategic priorities for 2012. First, Ann Taylor. For the fourth quarter, comparable sales for the Ann Taylor brand decreased by 1%. This reflected an increase of 28% in the e-commerce channel, a 6% increase in the Ann Taylor Factory channel and a decline of 11% in the Ann Taylor stores channel. As you know, for the past couple of quarters, performance of the stores channel has been soft versus the growth we've achieved in the brands' other channels.

As we announced in February 2, Brian Lynch has assumed responsibility for this channel in his new role as Brand President. He has driven outstanding results across diverse businesses, channels and responsibilities at ANN INC. over the past 8 years, most recently, in our e-commerce and factory channels. We are confident that under his leadership, the Ann Taylor brand will continue to deliver strong results in e-commerce and factory and that we will see meaningful progress in the stores channel as well.

The Ann Taylor team is focused on executing a number of initiatives to position the assortment in the stores channel for improved performance. Among the number of changes underway, we are evolving the assortment in-store to offer her a better balance within each category, including more color choices, greater versatility and more depth in key fashion items and marketing looks.

In addition, we will be offering more depth and breadth in opening price points in virtually every category to provide her with even greater value. At the same time, we recognize there's an opportunity to create a more engaging and personalized client in-store experience with an emphasis on superior service. I am pleased to note that within the Ann Taylor stores channel, one of the highlights continues to be the strong performance of our new concept stores. These stores once again achieved outstanding results, delivering approximately 50% higher productivity than the balance of the chain.

During the quarter, we opened 4 new concept stores and downsized or remodeled 5 existing stores to this new format, giving us a total of 44 new concept stores at fiscal year-end. Based on the strong results, I continue to be very excited about our strategy to expand our fleet of new concept stores, and we will be adding approximately 40 of these in fiscal 2012. Our focus is very clear, to drive increased sales, productivity and profitability across the Ann Taylor stores fleet, while enhancing the aspirational element of the iconic Ann Taylor brand.

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