Children’s Place begins 2013 in time out

The nation’s leading specialty retailer of children’s apparel issued a dour outlook for the first quarter of 2013 after a strong finish to 2012.

The company said sales for the 14 week fourth quarter increased 11.3% to $509.2 million and same store sales increased 4.3%. Earning per share increased 32% to $1.15, 11 cents better than analysts forecast.

Full year sales grew 5.5% to $1.8 billion and same store sales increased 2%, securing Children's Place status as the largest children's specialty apparel retailer in North America. The company ended last year with 1,095 stores after opening 64 stores and closing 18 others.

Despite a solid finish to the year, Children’s Place forecast first quarter results well below its prior year performance. Citing unfavorable weather and a weak economic environment, the company said it expected first quarter same store sales to decline in the high single digits and said earnings per share would range from 60 cents to 65 cents, far below earnings per share of $1.14 produced in the first quarter the prior year.

The company’s 2013 full year earnings per share forecast of $2.90 to $3.10 is also below the $3.23 in earnings per share the company just reported. The full year profit forecast assumes negative low-single digit same store sales.