Kmart Earnings Tumble 61 Percent

Thursday, May 11th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DETROIT (AP) — Kmart Corp.'s first-quarter earnings fell by nearly 61 percent as cooler-than-normal weather in April hurt business at the giant discount store chain.

The Troy, Mich.-based retailer said Thursday that it earned $22 million, or 5 cents a share, in the quarter ended April 26, compared with $56 million, or 11 cents a share, a year ago.

Sales for the quarter were $8.19 billion, up from $8.08 billion a year ago. Sales at stores open at least a year, an industry gauge of performance, were flat.

Kmart warned last week that its first-quarter earnings would fall short of Wall Street analysts' expectations due to a weak sales in April due to cold, dreary weather.

Many analysts then revised their outlook for the quarter, and the retailer met those revised estimates in its report released Thursday. Kmart's stock was down 6.25 cents at $7.56 1/4 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Kurt Barnard, who runs the consulting firm Barnard's Retail Trend Report, said Kmart's latest numbers suffered because the company failed to join other retailers in discounting items to lure customers otherwise put off by April's weather.

``When the weather's like that — with snowstorms and weather in the 30s — people don't feel like going out and buying things for spring, and that's what hit Kmart,'' he said. Kmart ``did not respond proactively to counter the unfavorable situation created by the weather.''

Floyd Hall, Kmart's chairman and chief executive, said in a statement that the chain is ``taking steps to regain our sales momentum and remain confident that we can meet or exceed the Company's financial plans for the year.''

Barnard agreed, calling the retailer's latest earnings ``a short-term aberration'' and ``says nothing whatsoever about the future of Kmart.''

``I think the immediate, foreseeable future for Kmart looks very good,'' he said. ``I think Kmart is strong and has managed to regain in the last couple of years its place in the sun as a viable competitor in the marketplace.''

Kmart's latest earnings reflect its majority ownership of Internet service provider and retailer, which lost about 2 cents per share in the quarter.

Kmart operates 2,171 retail outlets.