* Same-store sales down 12 pct vs est 6.5 pct
* Overall sales down 16 pct
* Profit beats estimates as costs fall
* Shares down 3 pct in morning trade (Adds conference call details, background; Updates shares)
By Gayathree Ganesan
May 18 (Reuters) - Ralph Lauren Corp reported its ninth straight fall in quarterly sales at established stores as fewer customers visited its stores, sending the company’s shares down 3 percent to levels last seen during the financial recession.
The company also said it expected the sales decline to continue in the current quarter.
Same-store sales during the quarter fell 12 percent, widely missing the 6.5 percent decline analysts polled by Consensus Metrix had expected.
That contributed to a 16.3 percent fall in overall sales to $1.57 billion, also hurt by a drop in the average transaction size as company’s move to sell more items at full price discouraged shoppers.
Ralph Lauren, like other apparel chains, has been struggling with weak sales due to sluggish spending on apparel and accessories. The company’s margins have taken a hit as competition in the industry has intensified.
In a bid to turn around the business, the company has made major changes in its top management. It hired P&G executive Patrice Louvet as its CEO on Wednesday after his predecessor stepped down after being in the role for just over a year.
“Ralph Lauren has been turning itself around for a very long time. It goes back to over two years now,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail.
“There is a lack of confidence among investors that the company would be able to pull through all the initiatives it is now talking about.”
The company has been trying to reduce costs by cutting jobs and shuttering stores, including its flagship Fifth Avenue store in New York.
As a result of these efforts, selling, general and administrative expenses fell about 15 percent in the fourth quarter ended April 1. Cost of goods sold slumped nearly 13 percent.
On a post-earnings conference call, Ralph Lauren said it pulled back inventory with its wholesale partners, lowered sales in the off-price channel, engaged in fewer promotional periods, shuttered stores and exited brands in the quarter.
The cost-cutting actions also helped the company post an adjusted profit of 89 cents per share that topped analysts expectations by 11 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Ralph Lauren’s gross margins on an adjusted basis rose 90 basis points to 55.4 percent.
The company swung to a loss in the quarter, mainly due to a more than $300 million charge related to restructuring and severance pay.
Ralph Lauren said it expects current-quarter net revenue to fall in the low double-digit percentage range. (Reporting by Gayathree Ganesan in Bengaluru; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar and Martina D‘Couto)