(Filed Under wholesale Lingerie News). Comparable store sales at Soma rose half a percent in the first quarter, while sales dropped 4.2% for parent company Chico’s FAS (which also includes the brands Chico’s and White House Black Market).
Meanwhile, the company reiterated plans to open more Soma stores this year.
In the quarter ended April 30, Soma reported sales of $79.3 million, compared to $77.2 million for the 13 weeks ended May 2, 2015. Soma’s sales represented 12.3 of Chico’s overall sales in the most recent quarter, compared to 11.1% in the same quarter last year.
Net income for Chico’s in the quarter dropped to $31.8 million on sales of $643.0 million compared to earnings of $32.5 million on sales of $697.8 million in the same quarter in 2015.
In the conference call to discuss the results, Todd Vogensen, EVP, CFO stated, “We will open approximately 15 to 20 new stores which will be primarily Soma stores.” Between January 30 and April 30 of this year the company also revealed it has already opened three new Soma stores, raising the total to 272, and one new Soma outlet, raising the total to 19.
In the conference call, Shelley Broader, Chico’s president and CEO, who joined the firm just over six months ago, explained that “The launch of our Enticing Bra, with none of the push but all of the up, was a tremendous success. It was our highest volume bra launch ever. Soma’s overall comparable sales were impacted by the challenging traffic environment, but importantly the brand was able to leverage their maintained margin rate as a percentage of sales versus last year. Soma’s Elevated Creative featuring more sensual imagery in print and on TV helped drive more traffic to our stores compared to the overall mall. The campaign also drove traffic online, reinforcing our view that customers are buying online even without trying the product on in our stores.”
Also commenting on the future of online sales at Soma, EVF, CFO Vogensen noted, “it continues to be true, probably always be true that Soma very much lends itself to online selling. Soma is a natural reorder point for customers, and with our latest bra launch we are even seeing that we’ve had a very big uptick over the most recent periods in customers that are making even that first purchase online. So I would think Soma would have our deepest online penetration really as we go forward. It’s just the nature of that business.
The comments by the Soma executives serve as interesting counterpoints to one by Aerie’s global brand president late last year. While the lingerie division of American Eagle Outfitters is also building its online sales, Jen Foyle noted that “We know that 90% of our customers are acquired through brick and mortar stores.” Not from the web.
There is one major difference between the two brands: while Soma focuses on “women who are 35 years old and over,” (according to the last Chico’s annual report), American Eagle claims, on its website, that its “customer is between 15 and 25 years old.” Perhaps Aerie customers have more time to shop in brick and mortar stores than their moms.
In the Chico’s conference call, Broader concluded about Soma, “During the quarter, once again bras, swim and sleepwear were our strongest categories. Our pipeline of new bra launches will continue throughout the year, and we’re introducing a new bra this summer which will be followed by several more major launches.”
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