Stronger Online Sales Steer Macy's to Higher 1Q Profit; View Maintained

Macy’s (NYSE:M) beat the Street on Wednesday with a 38% leap in first-quarter profits, but the iconic department-store operator declined to raise its guidance, disappointing Wall Street.

Shares of Cincinnati-based Macy’s slumped 5% in the wake of the numbers, eating into their big 2012 gains.

The company said it earned $181 million, or 43 cents a share, last quarter, compared with a profit of $131 million, or 30 cents a share, a year earlier. Analysts had been calling for EPS of 40 cents.

As was previously reported, revenue rose 4.4% to $6.15 billion, narrowly topping the Street’s view of $6.13 billion. Same-store sales were also up by 4.4%, while gross margins slipped to 38.8% from 39.1%. Online sales surged 33.7%.

“The momentum in our business at Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s continued to build in the first quarter, with sales and earnings that exceeded our expectations going into the year,” CEO Terry Lundgren said in a statement.

Macy’s appeared to let down Wall Street by maintaining its outlook for 2012 EPS of $3.25 to $3.30. Even the high end of that range would trail consensus calls from analysts for $3.41. Same-store sales are expected to increase 3.5%.

It’s clear the bar had been raised on Macy’s as its shares generated a 22.7% gain for the year as of Tuesday’s close.

“We are as excited about the future as we have been about the significant progress we have made over the past several years to build a culture of growth at Macy’s,” Lundgren said.

Shares of Macy’s fell 4.5% to $37.70 Wednesday morning.