Why J.Jill, Inc. Stock Plummeted Thursday

What happened

Shares of specialty women's apparel retailer J.Jill (NYSE: JILL) were slammed on Thursday, falling as much as 36.1%. The stock is down about 35% at the time of this writing.

The decline followed J.Jill's fourth-quarter earnings release, which included better-than-anticipated revenue and earnings per share for the period, but also featured a weak outlook for Q1. In addition, investors may be concerned with management's report that J.Jill's new e-commerce platform has not met its expectations.

So what

J.Jill's fourth-quarter revenue and adjusted earnings per share were $188.7 million and $0.13, respectively. This compares to revenue and adjusted earnings per share of $166.9 million and $0.08 in the year-ago quarter. Investors should note that J.Jill's fourth-quarter of fiscal 2017 included one extra week compared to the year-ago period.

The results were well ahead of consensus analyst estimates for revenue and adjusted earnings per share of $178.5 million and $0.09, respectively. But management said that strong retail performance wasn't the only factor driving its growth during the period; actions to clear inventory were also a primary driver for the results.

J.Jill's outlook for its first quarter of fiscal 2018 was particularly weak, with management calling for comparable sales to "decrease in the mid-single digit range" and adjusted earnings per share to be $0.24, below a consensus analyst estimate for $0.26.

Now what

Looking ahead, there are "challenges that are being addressed... As we turn to 2018, the teams are taking important learnings from 2017 and incorporating them throughout the business," CEO Paula Bennett said. "Reigniting momentum in the Direct business and using this channel to capture market share is our top priority."

Along with its fourth-quarter results, J.Jill also announced that Bennett is retiring from her position as CEO and director, and will be replaced by board member Linda Heasley on April 16.

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Daniel Sparks has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.