Ann Taylor 1Q Profit Grows, But Outlook Disappoints

Shares of Ann Taylor (NYSE:ANN) ticked higher Friday morning on a better-than-expected 5% increase in first-quarter profit, however its forecast dipped below estimates.

The women’s clothing retailer and operator of Ann Taylor Loft stores reported net income of $28.7 million, or 58 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier $27.3 million, or 51 cents.

The results topped average analyst estimates of 51 cents in a Thomson Reuters poll.

Revenue for the three months ended April 28 was $560.4 million, compared with $523.6 million a year ago, narrowly below the Street’s view of $560.8 million.

Comparable sales – a key growth metric for retailers – were up 3.8% during the quarter, a reflection of 11.3% growth in Loft brand comparable sales, or sales at stores open longer than a year. The Loft brand and higher e-commerce sales helped offset a 6.9% drop at the Ann Taylor brand.

Gross margin slipped slightly during the quarter to 56.6% from 57.3%.

The retailer sees second-quarter sales of $585 million, which is below the consensus of $593 million. It anticipates fiscal 2012 sales of at least $2.37 billion, just below the Street’s view of $2.38 billion.