Burlington 2Q profits on the rise

Don Hogsett, Carole Sloan, January 22, 2001

BURLINGTON, NJ — Building sales by more than 20 percent and at the same time slashing costs and interest expense, Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse, parent of Luxury Linens, drove second-quarter profits up by 61.5 percent, to $47.5 million from $29.4 million last year.

Sales in the period ended Dec. 2, including the start to the all-important Christmas season, jumped up by 20.3 percent, to $735.3 million from $610.9 million last year, as the retailer boosted the top line by almost $125 million. The crucial gauge of same-store sales rose by 5.1 percent.

Leveraging the big increase in sales, the retailer whittled down its overhead by 210 basis points, to 27.4 percent from 29.5 percent the prior year. And in a big cash savings after working down its debt earlier during the year, Burlington slashed its interest expense by 56.9 percent, to $553,000 from $1.3 million last year, generating a savings of $731,000.

In a further prop to the bottom line, the retailer boosted its margins by 60 basis points, to 38.8 percent from 38.2 percent the previous year. Gross margin dollars improved by 22.3 percent to $285.3 million from $233.2 million.

With sales and margins both growing and costs coming down, operating profits shot up by 51.4 percent, to $89.3 million from $59.0 million.

But this quarter's good news could mean a weaker Christmas season, the company pointed out. Coming off last year's 53-week retail calendar, this year's second fiscal quarter began and ended one week later than last year's comparable period, which had the effect of pulling a week's worth of holiday sales out of the traditional Christmas season, "which may cause weaker results for that period on a comparative and/or absolute basis," according to the company.

Underlining the calendar shift, the company noted that while sales in the quarter rose by 20.3 percent, the increase is substantially smaller when measured on a comparable-weeks basis, with sales rising by 14.3 percent.

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