Nordstrom shares drop on earnings report Retailer blames slow sales during holiday season for lower profits


SEATTLE -- Nordstrom Inc. shares fell 3 percent after the retailer's report late Friday that its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings will be lower than expected because of slow sales during the holiday season.

The shares fell $1.125 to $36.375 after trading 2.06 million, almost four times the three-month daily average of 551,000. Earlier, they traded as low as $34.25, a 52-week low.

The department store chain said sales at stores open at least a year declined moderately during the holiday from a year ago. It attributed the drop to a shopping season that had five fewer days than last year.

Nordstrom is the first large retailer to report that its holiday sales were lower than last year, when holiday sales rose only 2 percent.

While many chains have said sales during the season were less than expected, analysts have said that Nordstrom's poor performance is due to its own problems.

One problem is that Nordstrom reorganized its stores this summer so clothing lines were in different departments, which "confused customers," Black & Co. analyst Jennifer Groves said Friday.

In addition, the fashion mix ended up being too light on classic clothes, a balance the chain has struggled with and not yet gotten right, Groves said.

She changed her fourth-quarter earnings estimate from 84 cents a share to 70 cents. The company's gross margins will be hurt by markdowns in women's better apparel, Groves said.

Nordstrom's stock was also hurt today by a downgrade to "market perform" from "market outperform" by Goldman, Sachs & Co. analyst George Strachan. Piper Jaffray Inc. analyst Saul Yaari also downgraded the stock to "market perform" from "buy."

Nordstrom is expected to earn 79 cents a share for the quarter ended Jan. 31, according to eight analysts polled by IBES International Inc.

The company's fiscal third-quarter earnings rose 17 percent to $34 million, after falling or remaining unchanged for six quarters.

Pub Date: 12/31/96

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