Select Comfort shares dive on profit slip

  • Article by: DEE DEPASS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 6, 2014 - 8:29 PM

The Plymouth-based bedmaker’s stock dropped 19 percent after it said 4Q profit will miss the low end of predictions.

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Select Comfort's stock tumbled after it said fourth quarter results would not meet analysts' expectations.

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Select Comfort’s stock plunged Monday after the hometown bedmaker revealed that its holiday sales were weak and that it would miss financial expectations for a fifth consecutive quarter.

Shares for the Plymouth-based company fell $4.07, or 19 percent, closing at $17.28. Final results for the last quarter of 2013 won’t be released until Feb. 5, but the company said it expects the numbers to fall below its previous forecast of 18 to 26 cents a share.

“From Cyber Monday through the end of December, sales trends fell below internal goals,” CEO and President Shelly Ibach said in a statement. “The sales slowdown following the Thanksgiving holiday reflected a tepid retail holiday shopping season. We expect this challenging environment to continue in 2014 and are preparing accordingly.”

Select Comfort declined to comment beyond its statement.

But the latest revelation marks a series of disappointments from the adjustable air-bedmaker. In October, Select Comfort blamed the economy for missing earnings expectations, noting that store sales for the Labor Day holiday and September in general were tepid. It also said rising costs associated with advertising, store openings and product introductions pinched results.

“It’s déjà vu all over again. Fourth quarter 2013 was another disappointing pre-release,” wrote Raymond James equity research analyst Budd Bugatch. He cut his earnings estimates for the company and complained about “the company’s skimpy and incredibly unsatisfying pre-release.”

Stifel research analyst John Baugh downgraded his stock recommendation. “This marks the company’s fifth quarterly earnings disappointment in a row,” he said in a note to investors. “The lack of sales predictability within the last two quarters is disconcerting. We believe the company’s strong balance sheet and positive cash flow will support the stock to some degree, but the fundamental story of sales and earnings growth is clearly in question.”

That question has lingered for some time.

In addition to missing expectations in October, the company said early last year that the first quarter suffered from a botched change in advertisement purchasing vendors. And in July, officials reported that second-quarter earnings fell 41 percent when ad expenses rose.

For several years, Select Comfort has relied on a strategy that emphasized new high-tech and adjustable bedding products and on remodeled and larger stores. The company has invested significantly on showier locations, either standalone stores or inside strip malls.

In a separate release Monday, Select Comfort said it had appointed Kevin Brown as its chief marketing officer, a position that has been vacant for months. Brown, a former marketing officer at Meijer Inc. and a former marketing manager at Sears Holding Corp., Jo-Ann Stores and Accenture, is expected to help Select Comfort implement a media strategy “that will further unleash the company’s growth potential,” officials said.

Officials also said they will introduce a high-tech bed Tuesday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that is designed to help customers monitor sleep activity. Beyond that, executives declined to say more about advertising, product or management plans for 2014.

It’s unknown whether such reveals will be enough to placate miffed analysts such as Bugatch at Raymond James, who complained about management “going radio silent,” and using old, repetitive excuses for poor performance.

Dee DePass • 612-673-4553

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