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Macy’s First Quarter Earnings Call
Author: Rozalina Destanova
Last Update: 4:08 AM EDT May 16 2008



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Sales declined to $5.7 billion from $5.9 billion last year. Operating income included $87 million in division consolidation costs and a $23 million reserve for the potential litigation settlement. The gross margin rate declined by 120 basis points primarily because of a higher level of merchandise clearance. The company repurchased no shares of its common stock. Annual guidance for year-over-year change in comparable store sales remains minus 1% to plus 1.5%.

Investors Question and Answers

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Jeff Stein (Soleil Securities): Your private label brands seem to have outperformed the market brands. On the margin side, given the fact that you are not in a position to get the relief from your vendors on markdowns on private label, did your private label margins suffer more than branded margins during the first quarter?

Karen M. Hoguet: I do not have that data in front of me. Usually that is not a big issue.

Jeff Stein (Soleil Securities): Can you talk about the Bloomingdale’s catalog and your decision to eliminate that and how that is likely to affect the direct sales and profits?

Karen M. Hoguet: The key there is that has a huge potential and we think that that is where we should be investing our resources as opposed to the catalog, and it will have a minor impact on sales and no impact on profit as we discontinue that in 2009.

Deborah Weinswig (Citigroup): How are you working with vendors in terms of My Macy''s?

Karen M. Hoguet: A couple of weeks ago, we had meetings in New York with over 750 of our key vendors, trying to educate them on what we are doing with My Macy''s, because we want their partnership to help us in the field both understand what we need to bring to those stores in terms of assortments and then making sure the vendors will be able to provide that. But also to the degree we are reinvesting in our field organization, we would like them to do that as well. I would say the response has been positive. Like us, they realize the sales potential from this and that would be good for both of us. Separate and apart from My Macy''s, we have also been working on a project to provide the vendors with an easier way of getting more information about their sales in our stores and that is happening also. It will be piloted later this year.

Deborah Weinswig (Citigroup): There were a few press releases out yesterday regarding some store openings. Can you elaborate on that 120,000 square foot format that was mentioned?

Karen M. Hoguet: There are not a lot of regional malls being built in this country. The opportunities are in more of these lifestyle centers which tend to support a smaller door and our growth going forward will be more of these smaller formats in the lifestyle centers.

Deborah Weinswig (Citigroup): How do you see Bloomingdales internet catalog continue to progress over the next few years?

Karen M. Hoguet: We are expecting to do $1 billion this year in volume in our direct businesses and we expect it to continue to grow significantly from there.

Liz Dunn (Thomas Weisel Partners): What are you seeing on the credit income for the balance of the year and how much Citi is seeing in terms of increase in delinquencies?

Karen M. Hoguet: That is not public data.

Liz Dunn (Thomas Weisel Partners): Is there any sort of regional trend to call out relative to that data?

Karen M. Hoguet: I have not looked at it regionally so I do not know the answer to that.

Liz Dunn (Thomas Weisel Partners): Is there any concern that you have about opening in markets that have been notably soft relative to the rest of the country?

Karen M. Hoguet: We are comfortable. We have done a great deal of analysis of the sales potential in these markets that offer the highest growth potential. They would be in the highest growth markets, Phoenix and Las Vegas. So we feel good about the long-term prospects and have as always have been disciplined in analyzing the opportunity to make sure they would earn good returns on capital.

Dana Cohen (Banc of America Securities): Why SG&A dollars will be up in the subsequent quarters?

Karen M. Hoguet: I was giving guidance for the remainder of the year, not just the second quarter. Depreciation is not favorable in the back half of the year and also the investment in the direct businesses increases as the year goes on in dollars because of the sales, so that is a bigger factor when you are looking only at dollars.

Dana Cohen (Banc of America Securities): Operating profit excluding all the items was down $68 million. Were there any major variances by division or is it similar to what you said in terms of the comp trends?

Karen M. Hoguet: This business is dependent on sales and that is why we were pleased with our minus 2.6, because that does bode better for the remainder of the year, as you think about that relative to our peer group. The differences would vary typically as sales do.

Todd Duvick (Banc of America Securities): Going forward, can you give guidance in terms of do you expect any other major variances in cash flow or how you expect cash flow to hold up compared to a year ago?
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