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Burlington Stores upbeat outlook for 2023 offsets weak quarter to send stock up 14%

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Burlington Stores Inc. stock soared 14% Tuesday, as investors looked past weaker-than-expected third-quarter earnings to focus on an upbeat outlook for 2023.

Chief Executive Michael O’Sullivan said the discounter was “not happy” with its quarterly performance which he acknowledged was not just due to the difficult macroeconomic environment.

“As we said on our August earnings call, as an off-price retailer we should be able to perform better in this environment despite the significant macro headwinds,” said O’Sullivan. “Recent results from other off-price retailers reinforce this view.”

The consumer’s “frame of reference for value” shifted significantly in the quarter and Burlington
was not aggressive enough in responding, he said. The company is also more exposed than rivals to low-income customers, who have been hit hardest by inflation, he said.

See now: Kohl’s sales slowed in late October — just like Target’s and Macy’s

The company took certain measures to address its product assortment and moved back a plan to raise prices and boost margins in the back half of the year, O’Sullivan told analysts on the company’s earnings call.

It went through inventory to mark down slower-moving merchandise and by end-September, had rolled those across the store. It took further markdowns in October.

“We raised liquidity in faster-moving businesses and focused this open to buy on great opportunistic deals. These guys began to show up in stores in early October,” he said, according to a FactSet transcript.

The strategy appears to have worked. Unlike other retailers, Burlington saw an increase in sales in mid-October, and not the slowdown reported by Target
and others.

Don’t miss: Target stock tumbles after ‘rapidly softening demand’ leads to another big profit miss.

Also: Macy’s stock rockets 15% after better-than-expected earnings but CEO flags uncertainty about holiday season

The positive trend continued into November.

“This is a short period of time, and of course, there are many important shopping days ahead of us,” he said. “But we believe that this improvement is attributable to the actions we have taken, and this pickup gives us some optimism going into Q4.”

The company reaffirmed the fourth-quarter guidance offered in August, and said it expects sales to be down 4% to 1% compared with 2019, before the start of the pandemic.

Also read: Walmart, Target stocks diverge, highlighting difference between ‘staple’ and ‘discretionary’ labels.

But the company is optimistic about 2023 and expects the economic and competitive environment to be beneficial for off-price.

“We also recognize that we will be lapping our own execution mistakes and underperformance from 2022,” O’Sullivan said in the statement. “Based on these factors we believe that we can start to drive significant sales, margin, and earnings recovery next year.”

“Burlington has quickly swung from one of the lowest sentiment names in our space, to a ‘2023 must own,’ as their 3Q print gave bulls more ammo on the recovery thesis,” said Wells Fargo analysts led by Ike Boruchow.

The team welcomed the news of a pickup in sales trends, the flowing fresh receipts for holiday and new price points, the better supply/demand backdrop expected to 2023, and the promise of a return to prepandemic margins in the next few years.

“Bulls need to get in early, the inflection looms, (and the) stock remains a ‘Top Pick’ in our space,” said the note.

Wells Fargo rates the stock at overweight.

Burlington posted net income of $17 million, or 26 cents a share, for the quarter, up from $14 million, or 20 cents a share, in the year-earlier period. Adjusted per-share earnings came to 43 cents, below the 52 cent FactSet consensus.

Sales fell 11% to $2.036 billion, also below the $2.055 billion FactSet consensus. Same-store sales fell 17%, while FactSet was forecasting a 16.6% decline.

The company is now expecting full-year same-store sales to fall 15% to 14%, compared with a FactSet consensus for a decline of 14.6%. It expects adjusted EPS of $3.77 to $4.07, compared with a FactSet consensus of $4.00. 

Shares have fallen 38% in the year to date, while the S&P 500
has fallen 17%.


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