J.Jill reports gross profit of $464 million for 2017; announces CEO transition
Qunicy, MA-based womenswear retailer J.Jill, Inc. saw profits rise in 2017 despite the underperformance of its new e-commerce platform, launched in the fourth quarter. The company has also announced the resignation of CEO Paula Bennett, planned for April of this year.
The company’s net sales for the 14 weeks ended February 3, 2018 totaled $188.7 million, up from the $166.9 million reported for the 13-week period ended January 28, 2017. Direct-to-consumer sales represented 46.6% of total net sales during Q4 2017, having previously accounted for 48.8% in the prior year period.
On a thirteen-week basis, total company comparable sales increased by 8.9%.
Gross profit for Q4 2017 came to $117.3 million, an 11% increase from the $105.5 million achieved in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2016.
Net sales for the full 53-week year 2017 totaled $698.1 million, versus $639.1 million recorded in the 52 weeks ending January 28, 2017. Direct-to-consumer sales represented 43.1% of total net sales, around the same level as the previous year, while comparable sales increased by 6.4%.
Full year gross profit increased 8% to $464.1 million from the prior year’s $427.9 million.
J.Jill’s Q4 and full year results both benefited from fiscal 2017’s fifty-third week, which contributed approximately $9.2 million in sales.
“While we finished the year with positive trends, there are also challenges that are being addressed”, stated Paula Bennett, J.Jill president and CEO, in a release. “Within our Direct channel, we completed the rollout of our new e-commerce platform, however results have not met expectations. As we turn to 2018, the teams are taking important learnings from 2017 and incorporating them throughout the business. Reigniting momentum in the Direct business and using this channel to capture market share is our top priority.”
The company’s current outlook for Q1 2018 expects comparable sales to fall in the mid-single digit range, while diluted earnings per share are predicted to be somewhere in the range of $0.18 to $0.20.
J.Jill also announced on Thursday that Paula Bennett will be stepping down from her position as CEO to be replaced by Linda Heasley, who has served on the company’s Board of Directors since 2017.
Heasley’s most recent role was as CEO of The Honey Baked Ham Company, LLC. Prior to this, she was CEO and president of Lane Bryant, Inc. from 2013 to 2017, a period during which she is credited with revitalizing the brand. She also served as chairman, president and CEO of Limited Stores LLC, as well as in a variety of leadership roles at CVS Health Corporation, Timberland LLC, Bath and Body Works and L Brands, Inc.
“I have worked with Linda over the past year while serving together on our Board, and I am confident that her leadership experience combined with her deep understanding of our industry, our company and our customers will make her extremely well-suited to lead the company”, stated Bennett.
“From my time on the Board and throughout my career, I have gained great respect and admiration for the unique relationship that J.Jill has with its customers as well as for its outstanding business model, and I am honored to assume this new role,” commented Heasley.
Heasley will become CEO effective April 16, 2018 and will work closely with Bennett to ensure that the transition runs smoothly.
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