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Lowe's 4Q up Sharply, Says Worst is Over

Home improvement retailer Lowe's reported a 26.5% boost in profit for the fourth quarter, a sign consumers are starting to spend again, according to the company's chief.

“Our fourth-quarter results, including sales and earnings that exceeded our guidance, suggest the worst of the economic cycle is likely behind us,” commented Robert Niblock, chairman and ceo. “While the psychological impact of falling home prices and an uncertain employment picture continue to weigh on consumers, improving comparable store sales trends, including improvement in many bigger-ticket, project categories, provides an encouraging sign that consumers are gaining the confidence to take on more discretionary projects.

Lowe's earnings per share increased 27.3% to 14 cents on net income of $205 million.

Sales for the quarter ended Jan. 29 rose 1.8% to $10.2 billion, while comps slipped 1.6%.

For the fiscal year, earnings declined 18.8% to $1.78 billion and EPS fell 18.8% to $1.21.

Sales dropped 2.1% to $47.2 billion, and comps fell back 6.7%.

The retailer plans to open 40 to 45 stores this year. It currently operates more than 1,700 units.

Guidance for the current fiscal year calls for EPS of $1.30 to $1.42 along with a boost in operating margin of 40 to 50 basis points. Lowe's expects annual to rise 4% to 6%, with comps gaining 1% to 3%.

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