TORONTO - High-scale retailer Saks Fifth Avenue helped Hudson's Bay Co. (TSX:HBC) cut its losses in the third quarter, as the department store chain nearly doubled sales across its various banners.
The Toronto-based company, which also owns Hudson's Bay Co., Lord & Taylor and others, lost $13 million, or seven cents per share, in the three months ended Nov. 1.
That's better than a loss of $125 million, or $1.05 per share, a year earlier.
Part of the improvement came from more people shopping on Hudson's Bay websites, particularly in Canada, HBC's chief executive Richard Baker told analysts on a conference call Tuesday.
Digital sales grew 73 per cent, with $228 million coming from its department store brands. Of that, $166 million came from Saks' websites.
"We are pleased with the traction that our digital businesses are achieving," he said, noting that e-commerce growth is particularly sharp in Canada, when compared to the United States.
"We continue to focus on both — on all of our different businesses and we think we have a lot of opportunity ahead of us."
Overall, retail sales grew to $1.91 billion from $984 million in the comparable period. Same-store sales, which is a common industry barometer that also filters out the Saks acquisition, showed growth of 1.6 per cent.
With better results on the books, Hudson's Bay predicted it will meet its guidance for the year, which estimates sales will come in between $7.8 billion and $8.1 billion.
Normalized earnings, which remove non-recurring items and charges, are expected to come in between $580 million and $620 million.
Last fall, HBC paid $2.9 billion for Saks, a deal that included the New York luxury chain's $500-million debt.
Since then, HBC has tapped into Saks' assets, taking out a 20-year mortgage for the ground floor of the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship store in New York, valued at US$1.25 billion, that it put toward reducing interest payments on debt.
"This transaction is just one part of our comprehensive real estate strategy," Baker said. "The company continues to make progress in its work to surface value."
Next spring, Baker plans to unwrap further details for shareholders on how the company could make money from its vast real estate holdings.
HBC's properties include the Lord & Taylor store on Fifth Avenue in New York, the Saks Beverly Hills location and 62 other owned and ground lease properties in the United States.
In Canada, the company owns 13 stores that include Hudson's Bay stores in several big cities.
In the past, Baker suggested creating a real estate investment trust, though some analysts question whether he'll choose that route now, considering the uncertainty of the real estate market in Canada.
Meanwhile, Saks' flagship store in New York City will begin a renovation project valued at US$250 million later next year.
Hudson's Bay operates in 328 department stores, including 90 under the Hudson's Bay name, 50 Lord & Taylor and 69 Home Outfitters, as well as 39 Saks Fifth Avenue and 80 Off 5th locations.
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