Big Lots runs loss in Q4, sees improvement on horizon

COLUMBUS, Ohio — While Top 100 retailer Big Lots posted a net loss for the fourth quarter, officials from the discount retailer see signs of better business ahead.

The Columbus, Ohio-based retailer had a GAAP-adjusted operating loss of $24 million in the three months ended Feb. 3 but had an adjusted operating profit of $1 million, its first quarter of positive adjusted operating profit since the fourth quarter of 2021.

“I’m pleased to report another quarter of sequential improvement in comps and gross margin rate, while continuing to take out costs,” said Bruce Thorn, president and CEO. “For the third quarter in a row, we did what we said we would do, and despite a challenging macroeconomic environment and well documented weather challenges in January, we finished the year in a much better place than where we started.  That said, there’s a lot of work to do in 2024, and we are moving aggressively to accelerate our transformation, return to positive comparable sales, and continue to improve our gross margin rate over the course of the year.”

Net sales for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2023 totaled $1.432 billion, a 7.2% decrease compared with $1.543 billion for the same period last year. The decline to last year was driven by a comparable sales decrease of 8.6%. Net loss for the quarter totaled $30.71 million, or $1.05 per diluted share compared with a net loss of $12.46 million, or 43 cents per diluted share in the fourth quarter of FY2022.

“For Q4, as we announced on Feb. 12, we delivered on our guidance for comparable sales, gross margin rate, operating expenses, and inventory,” Thorn said. “We believe progress on the five key actions that underlie our strategy, which are to own bargains, communicate unmistakable value, increase store relevance, win customers for life with our omnichannel efforts, and drive productivity, enabled us to deliver adjusted operating profit growth in Q4, marking the first quarter of adjusted operating profit in two years.”

For the year, Big Lots accumulated $4.722 billion in net sales, down 13.65% from $5.468 billion in 2022. Its net loss for the year was $481.9 million, or $16.53 per diluted share compared with a net loss of $210.71 million, or $7.30 per diluted share a year ago.

For the first quarter of fiscal 2024, Big Lots expects comp sales to improve relative to the fourth quarter and be in the mid-single-digit negative range, as key actions to improve the business continue to gain traction. The company is not providing EPS guidance at this point but does expect its Q1 adjusted operating loss to be lower than last year.

“Overall, our five key actions are gaining momentum and have enabled us to again sequentially improve results in the fourth quarter,” Thorn said. “We are excited to return to comp sales growth as 2024 progresses, driven by continued progress on these key actions, and to significantly improve our gross margin in every quarter versus last year.”

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