Macy’s maintains outlook for full year, disappointing Wall Street

NEW YORK, Wed May 9, 2012 – Macy’s Inc. kept its full-year profit forecast despite reporting better-than-expected first-quarter earnings on Wednesday, disappointing Wall Street and putting pressure on the retailer’s shares.

Macy’s, which also owns the upscale Bloomingdale’s chain, has handily outperformed its mid-tier competitors in the last year, winning shoppers away from chains such as J.C. Penney Co. Inc. and Kohl’s Corp.

CFO Karen Hoguet told analysts on a conference call that Macy’s has seen an uptick in sales in areas where a store competes directly with Penney, which in February implemented a new pricing strategy that largely gets rid of sales events. Analysts have said such changes would hurt Penney at least initially.

Macy’s often raises its full-year profit forecast after reporting such strong numbers.

When Barclays Capital analyst Robert Drbul asked Hoguet why the company had not done so this time, she said the “guidance for the year was more aggressive than usual.”

Macy’s gross profit margin edged down in the first quarter, largely because of shipping costs linked to its rising Internet sales. Sales growth in April, which had been expected to be weaker than in March because of an early Easter, came in below what Wall Street was expecting.

Morningstar analyst Paul Swinand said that Macy’s long winning streak may have led analysts to get ahead of themselves.

Macy’s shares last week rose to $42.17, their highest level since July 2007, making them vulnerable to a sell-off. On Wednesday morning, the shares fell as much as 6.3 percent to $37.02 on the New York Stock Exchange before paring some of those losses to be down 3.4 percent to $38.18 in early afternoon trading.