Ascena Retail Group Inc., which has a portfolio of retail chains that includes Ann Taylor and Loft, said plus-size fashion and pants were hot items during the most recent quarter.
Ascena ASNA, +28.92% reported fiscal first-quarter net income of $31.7 million, or 16 cents per share, up from $5.9 million, or 3 cents per share last year. Last year’s profit includes a 15 cents per-share benefit from discontinued operations.
Sales for the quarter totaled $1.30 billion, down from $1.34 billion last year. Same-store sales were flat overall. Ann Taylor same-store sales fell 1%, Loft same-store sales were down 2%, Lane Bryant was up 2% and Justice kid’s fashion was down 6%.
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Dressbarn, which will complete its store closures this month, had 10% same-store sales growth.
FactSet does not have consensus numbers for Ascena Retail, which closed Tuesday at 44 cents.
The results sent Ascena shares soaring 29% in Tuesday premarket trading. Shares have plummeted nearly 84% over the past year compared with a 19% increase for the S&P 500 index SPX, -0.13%.
Ascena Chief Executive Gary Muto said the company has done more to gather data about shopper behavior and preferences, which benefited the company’s plus-size business. Those names include Lane Bryant and Catherines. Same-store sales at Catherines fell 5% during the quarter for 1% total plus-size segment growth. That’s the first positive same-store sales result in five quarters.
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“We saw the biggest benefits of these insights in the performance of our plus business this quarter,” Muto said on the company’s earnings call, according to a FactSet transcript. He attributed the plus segment result to an improved assortment, which includes better fit and style. The company has also launched an in-store styling service.
At Ann Taylor, shoppers were headed to the pant section.
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“In the first quarter, we increased our mix of fashion and are building on the positive momentum to deliver distinctive assortments that align with the ongoing shift towards more casual work wear,” Muto said on the call. “As part of this, we continue to pump our pant business, a key driver of customer loyalty, with new silhouette.”