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By
Reuters
Published
Feb 18, 2011
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Nordstrom, cautiously, expects 2011 sales gains

By
Reuters
Published
Feb 18, 2011

NEW YORK | Thu Feb 17, 2011 - Upscale retailer Nordstrom (JWN.N) forecast its gains in sales and profits over the holiday quarter would continue this year, with shoppers as willing to pay full price for items as before the recession.

Nordstrom

The department store operator's revenue in its fourth quarter ended January 29 grew 10.9 percent to $2.82 billion. It was helped by a 6.7 percent rise in same-store sales, leading to a better-than-expected net profit.

"Our regular-priced selling is back to historical high levels," Nordstrom President Blake Nordstrom told investors on a conference call.

But Nordstrom gave what analysts said was a conservative forecast for sales this year. The retailer expects same-store sales, or sales at stores open at least a year, to rise 2 to 4 percent in fiscal 2011.

Nordstrom shares, which hit a 52-week high on Wednesday, fell 2.7 percent in after-hours trading.

Bill Smead, a portfolio manager with Smead Value Fund, which owns Nordstrom shares, praised the results and said the retailer was simply being prudent in the face of rising cotton prices that will lead to higher prices for consumers.

"I think they're being realistic that there might be a little momentum taken away by higher commodity prices," Smead said.

Nordstrom, based in Seattle, expects fiscal 2011 earnings of $2.95 to $3.10 per share, compared with the $3.06 per share that Wall Street analysts on average had estimated, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Nordstrom, which has been Wall Street's darling for investing in technologies to enhance customer loyalty programs and draw shoppers years before many rivals did, also said it was buying online private sale marketplace HauteLook for $180 million in Nordstrom stock.

HauteLook had 3.1 million visits in the U.S. last month, making it the second-most popular Flash-sale website after electronics discounter Woot, according to data firm Hitwise.

Nordstrom attracts many of the same shoppers as upscale stores such as Saks Inc (SKS.N) and Neiman Marcus NMRCUS.UL and competes with mid-tier retailers like Macy's Inc (M.N).

Unlike many of its rivals, Nordstrom has avoided profit-draining price-cutting, helping gross margins to continue to rise during the holiday quarter.

But the company said gross margins may have peaked. For 2011, it forecast the change in gross margin would range from a decline of 0.1 percentage point to an increase of the same degree.

Nordstrom, which gets about 4 percent of its revenues from fees and interest on its private label credit cards, said delinquencies on sales on its private label credit cards fell to 3 percent from 5.3 percent a year earlier.

Net profit rose 34.9 percent from a year earlier to $232 million, or $1.04 a share, in the fourth quarter ended January 29. Analysts, on average, had been expecting $1 a share.

Nordstrom operates 115 department stores, 86 Nordstrom Rack outlet stores, and two Jeffrey boutiques. It plans to open three department stores and 17 Rack locations this year.

(Reporting by Phil Wahba; Editing by Richard Chang and Tim Dobbyn)

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