While Ulta Beauty ended 2012 with a big finish, the companys stock fell 14.23% percent to $74.14 at the close of trading Friday. Analyst reaction to news that Ulta is forecasting earnings of $.60-$.63 on sales of $568 million to $577 million for its first quarter, below the $.72 a share on earnings of $580 million, sent the stock downward.
The news overshadowed Ulta’s very strong fourth quarter, ended Feb. 2, where sales jumped 30% to $758.8 million, with comp store sales up 8%. Net income increased 39.4% to $64.5 million.
“Excellent execution of our multi-year growth strategy was evident in the milestones achieved during the year,” remarked Dennis Eck, non-executive board chairman and interim CEO. Dennis has led the company since Feb. 21 when former CEO Chuck Rubin left suddenly to head up arts and crafts retailer, Michaels. A search for a permanent replacement is currently underway.
For the full year, sales grew 25% to $2.22 billion, up from $1.77 billion, with comp store sales up 8.8%. Net income for the year was up 43.5% to $172.5 million.
During the year the company added 102 new stores, increasing square footage by 23%. Plans are to add 125 more in 2013 as it moves towards its long range goal of 1,200 units. It currently operates 550 stores in 45 states.
The company said it added new products across all categories in 2012 and is continuing the excitement this year with the introduction of Perricone skin care in all doors and an expansion of its Clinique boutiques. The boutiques debuted in 43 stores last year and another six installations have already been added in 2013. The total increase for the year is still being finalized. Ulta also just became the exclusive online retailer for OPI nail lacquer.
Holiday sales, the seven weeks from Nov. 11 to Dec. 29, were up 23.2%, with prestige skin care and cosmetics performing strongly. Ecommerce volume also grew, and the website is being heavily invested in this year as the company seeks to become a more integrated retailer and enable direct-from-store ordering. As an indicator of that, starting this year it will include ecommerce sales figures in its comp store reporting. With online sales still accounting for a `low single digit’ portion of its total revenue, there are high expectations for further ecommerce growth.
In other areas, there will be expanded use of digital media to reach women who have not yet visited an Ulta store and to drive additional store traffic overall. The retailer is also spending to strengthen its supply chain and add store personnel to better serve customers with prestige brands.
Ulta is forecasting net sales in the first quarter of $568 million to $577 million, up from $474.1 million in the prior year period, with comp store growth 4% to 6% for the year.
Earlier this week, Ulta formalized Scott Settersten as chief financial officer and assistant secretary. He had been acting in the roles since October 2012.