11/06/2014 09:11 EST | Updated 01/06/2015 05:59 EST

Canadian Tire credits 22 per cent boost in profits to sales being 'on a roll'

TORONTO - Canadian Tire Corp. (TSX:CTC.A) says strong sales across all of its banners was the main driver for the 22 per cent boost in its third-quarter profit.

"Clearly, we have a great deal of momentum and the Tire is on a roll right now — pun intended," joked president and incoming CEO Michael Medline during an analyst call Thursday to discuss the company's latest financial results.

Medline, who will replace CEO Stephen Wetmore at the helm at the national retailer on Dec. 1, said the Toronto-based company is encouraged by the latest earnings ahead of the crucial holiday shopping season.

Canadian Tire reported net income of $178.2 million for the 13-week period ending Sept. 27. The profit amounted to $2.17 per diluted share, compared with $145.5 million or $1.79 per share in the same quarter a year earlier. The earnings beat estimates of $2.01 per share, according to Thomson Reuters.

Overall revenues increased to $3.07 billion versus $2.96 billion a year ago.

Sales at Canadian Tire stores grew by 3.7 per cent in the quarter, boosted by categories including back-to-school promotions and automotive. FGL Sports, which operates Sport Chek and Pro Hockey Life stores, saw a 13 per cent bump in sales, while Mark's, which recently launched a new focus on denim to attract younger customers, reported that sales jumped 6.5 per cent year over year.

Same-store sales, a key metric in retail, also increased across the banners. Sport Chek saw a bump of 11.2 per cent, while Mark's stores saw an uptick of 6.8 per cent and Canadian Tire saw same-store sales growth of 3.2 per cent.

Meanwhile, gasoline sales dipped 0.4 per cent in the quarter due to lower volumes and higher gas prices.

Medline said the company will continue to be competitive.

"We have planned and executed on the basis that we have to make our own good fortune here... we are prepared for some competitors, especially if they believe that they're struggling, to make it quite competitive and we're ready for that."

Canadian Tire launched a digital version of its iconic Canadian Tire Money loyalty program on Oct. 28. Since then, it said it has signed up a daily average of 100,000 new cards online and in-store.

Medline said there are still growth opportunities for the retailer as it begins to use the data gleaned from the loyalty program to target customers' shopping habits, and as its e-commerce efforts mature. Currently, customers can go online and buy merchandise to be picked up at their local stores.

But Medline admitted he doesn't think e-commerce will be a "meaningful part" of the business for at least three years.

"We see all the things we're not doing right and all the opportunities that we still have out there. We have a heck of a lot of opportunities than what we've already taken advantage of," said Medline.

"We haven't even started to exploit data or e-commerce yet… We're way closer to the beginning of the path than at the end of the path."

Irene Nattel, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, said the results show that Canadian Tire's efforts to "weatherproof" their business may be paying off. Retailers are often at the whim of weather, especially in the winter, when early snowstorms can drive up demand for snowblowers and shovels or unseasonably warm conditions than can dampen the sale of outdoor clothing.

"The nature of CTC's offering means that top line should always benefit from favourable seasonal weather patterns, but the company has been working hard to weatherproof its offering such that it can deliver strong SSS (same-store sales) regardless of whether or not Mother Nature cooperates," she wrote in a note.

At its financial services division, the company said it saw gross average credit card receivables go up by 7.1 per cent due to a higher number of accounts and increased average account balances.

In addition to the earnings, the retailer announced it will be increasing its annual dividend to $2.10 per share on each common and class A non-voting share starting in early 2015. The company will begin to pay the new quarterly dividend of 52.5 cents per share on March 1 to shareholders of record as of Jan. 31, 2015.

Founded in 1922, the company has nearly 1,700 retail stores and gasoline outlets across the country. In addition to Sports Chek, FGL Sports operates as Hockey Experts, Sports Experts, National Sports, Intersport and Atmosphere.

Canadian Tire also holds a majority interest in CT Real Estate Investment Trust (TSX:CRT.UN), which acquired most of the company's real estate last year.

Follow @LindaNguyenTO on Twitter.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. The company initially reported the new quarterly dividend would be $2.10 but, in fact, that is the new annual rate. The quarterly dividend will increase to 52.5 cents per share in early 2015.