Ross Stores Inc. (NASDAQ:ROST) Q1 2019 Earnings Conference Call Transcript
May 23, 2019 • 04:15 pm ET
Good afternoon, and welcome to the Ross Stores' First Quarter 2019 Earnings Release Conference Call. The call will begin with prepared comments by management followed by a question-and-answer session. (Operator Instructions)
Before we get started on behalf of Ross Stores, I would like to note that the comments made on this call will contain forward-looking statements regarding expectations about future growth and financial results including sales and earnings forecasts, new store openings and other matters that are based on the company's current forecast of aspects of its future business. These forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from historical performance or current expectations. Risk factors are included in today's press release and the company's fiscal 2018 Form 10-K and fiscal 2019 8-Ks on file with the SEC.
Now I'd like to turn the call over to Barbara Rentler, Chief Executive Officer.
Good afternoon. Joining me in our call today are, Gary Cribb, Group Executive Vice President, Stores and Loss Prevention; Michael Hartshorn, Group Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; Travis Marquette, Group Senior Vice President and Deputy Chief Financial Officer; Connie Kao, Vice President, Investor Relations.
We'll begin our call today with a review of our first quarter performance followed by our outlook for the second quarter and fiscal year. Afterwards we'll be happy to respond to any questions you may have. As noted in today's press release for the first quarter we delivered sales gains at the high end of our guidance as well as better than expected earnings per share growth despite continued underperformance in Ladies apparel. Earnings per share for the 13 weeks ended May 4th 2019 was $1.15, up from $1.11 for the same period last year. Net earnings for the 2019 first quarter were $421 million compared to $418 million in the prior year. These results include an approximate $0.02 per share benefit from favorable timing of expenses that are expected to reverse over the balance of the year.
Total sales for the period increased 6% to $3.8 billion, with comparable store sales up 2%. For the first quarter, the strongest merchandise category at Ross was Men's, while the Midwest was the best performing geographic region. As I just mentioned, Ladies apparel trails the chains. Our execution in this important business remains below our standard and consequently we did not offer our customers the compelling values they have come to expect from us.
While we are working diligently to improve our merchandise assortments which are out of balance in a number of areas in Ladies, plus strengthen our value proposition it can take some time to correct issues like this in the chain of our size. That said we do believe that the actions we are taking the lead to improved results as we move through the year.
As we entered the period total consolidated inventories were down 4% over the prior year. Average in-store inventories were up 1% as planned or packaway as a percentage