Pumpkin Patch back to profit despite sales fall

Costs of shutting stores in the UK and US haven't been repeated in the past half year for Pumpkin Patch, so it's back in profit despite a small fall in sales. Photo / NZ Herald
Costs of shutting stores in the UK and US haven't been repeated in the past half year for Pumpkin Patch, so it's back in profit despite a small fall in sales. Photo / NZ Herald

Pumpkin Patch, the children's clothing chain, returned to profit in the first half as costs to close underperforming stores in the US and UK a year earlier weren't repeated. Sales fell on tough trading conditions and inventory disruptions.

Profit was $4.7 million in the six months ended January 31, from a loss of about $30 million a year earlier, the Auckland-based company said in a statement. Sales fell 5 per cent to $153 million.

The retailer had to contend with "pretty subdued" trading in its largest markets of Australia and New Zealand and the weak performance was compounded by late delivery of the company's summer inventory at the start of the season, resulting in lost sales opportunities, the company said.

"Even though trading conditions across the rest of the period more closely tracked last year and we had a reasonable Christmas, we couldn't recoup the sales and earnings lost at the start of the season," chief executive Neil Cowie said.

Shares of Pumpkin Patch fell 1.5 per cent to $1.30. The stock is rated a 'hold' based on a Reuters poll of four analysts, with a median price target of $1.55.

The brightest spot was in online sales, which climbed 28 per cent to $19.3 million in the first half. It didn't provide a separate online earnings number.

In Australia, its biggest market with 132 stores, sales fell 5.7 per cent to $102.8 million while earnings before interest and tax gained 1.3 per cent to $16 million.

New Zealand sales fell 9.7 per cent to $28 million and earnings rose 0.5 per cent to $4.8 million. In the company's international division, sales rose 5.8 per cent to $22.3 million and earnings fell 12.6 per cent to $2.35 million.

Reorganisation costs were $2.6 million in the first half, down from $36.1 million a year earlier.

Pumpkin Patch isn't paying a first-half dividend and says it will review the policy at year-end.

The company didn't give a forecast for the full year. Its reorganisation will lead to improved earnings and lower working capital and net bank debt in FY14 and beyond," it said.

- BusinessDesk

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