Bed Bath & Beyond Earnings: Buybacks Bolster Bottom Line, but Top Line Falls Short

Home-goods retailer Bed Bath & Beyond hasn't been able to shake off sluggishness seen all across retail.

Bed Bath & Beyond's operations continue to weaken, as the home-goods retailer on Thursday reported second-quarter earnings that matched analyst expectations, but on revenues that fell just short of forecasts.

Shares of the retailer are in a long slide this year, falling 22% year to date as worries about its ability to maintain sales momentum mounted. As the latest effort shows, investors have good reason for concern, even if the bottom isn't falling out of the business.

Here are the highlights of Bed Bath & Beyond's most recent quarterly report:

  • Net sales of $3 billion, up 1.7% from last year.
  • Net income of $201.7 million, down 10% year over year.
  • Earnings per share of $1.21 versus $1.17 in the year-ago quarter.
  • Comparable-store sales were an anemic 0.7% compared to the year-ago quarter.

Wall Street had been expecting revenues of $3.03 billion, and while Bed Bath & Beyond did meet per-share estimates, that was only because it bought back $194 million worth of stock in the quarter, and reduced its outstanding share count by almost 25 million shares as it chewed through its share repurchase authorization. Were we comparing earnings on an apples-to-apples basis, share count-wise, earnings per share would have been 13% lower, not only missing analyst expectations, but also falling well below last year's results.

But share repurchases have been a big part of Bed Bath & Beyond's financial performance. It notes that, between 2004 and the second quarter of 2015, it has repurchased more than $9 billion worth of company stock.

And there's more to come, too. The board of directors has authorized yet another big tranche of stock to be bought back, some $2.5 billion worth. With about $300 million left on the current authorization, that's still a big chunk of change to be spending. And while an authorization isn't a guarantee that shares will be bought back, Bed Bath & Beyond has shown a propensity to scoop up its stock, so it's a good bet to think it will continue to do so.

It's going to need to buy up stock if it wants to meet its earnings projections. Bed Bath & Beyond is modeling per-share earnings for the third quarter to be in a range of $1.14 to $1.21, compared to $1.23 last year, with comparable sales rising between 1% and 3% -- but that might be wishful thinking at this point.

Comps growth has slowed considerably during the past year, and it's already dialed back expectations since initially expecting at least 3% growth in the current year. Last quarter it forecast 2% to 3% growth, but now it's knocked it back a little bit more.

Even if we're heading into the holiday season, the National Retail Federation recently lowered its forecast for full-year industry sales from its previous estimate of 4.1% growth to 3.5% after first-half 2015 sales only rose 2.9% year over year. The trade group is worried about consumers shifting their purchases away from goods, and toward services. Alix Partners expects this Christmas to be the weakest for retailers since the Great Recession, with sales growing just 2.8% to 3.4% over the November-December period.

The second quarter was marred by a lackluster back-to-school sales effort, similar to what other retailers have been reporting. They're finding that consumers don't need to spend within a specific time frame at bricks-and-mortar stores when they can buy all year long online. Bed Bath & Beyond has attempted to meet those challenges by beefing up its own Internet offerings, but those investments are also eating away at margins. Gross, operating, and net margins are all lower this quarter than they were last year.

Although Bed Bath & Beyond reiterated its outlook for the year, investors should remain cautious with this company until it offers some proof it has reached bottom.

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Rich Duprey has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Bed Bath & Beyond. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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