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Ulta Beauty (ULTA) Rallies on Q3 Earnings Beat, Raised View

Ulta Beauty, Inc. ULTA posted third-quarter fiscal 2023 results, wherein the top and bottom lines beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate, and net sales grew year over year. Management raised the lower end of its net sales and earnings per share (EPS) guidance for fiscal 2023. Shares of ULTA were up almost 12% in the after-market trading session on Nov 30.

The company benefited from healthy traffic trends, greater brand awareness and loyalty program expansion to 42.2 million members. A positive view of the beauty space keeps Ulta Beauty well-positioned.

Quarterly Numbers

Ulta Beauty posted an EPS of $5.07 in the quarter, which beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $4.96. However, the bottom line declined from $5.34 in the year-ago period.

Ulta Beauty Inc. Price, Consensus and EPS Surprise

Ulta Beauty Inc. price-consensus-eps-surprise-chart | Ulta Beauty Inc. Quote


Net sales of this beauty product retailer rose 6.4% year over year to $2,488.9 million and beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $2,470 million. The uptick can be attributed to higher comparable sales, solid new store performance and an increase in other revenues.

Comparable sales (sales for stores open for at least 14 months and e-commerce sales) jumped 4.5% compared with our estimate of 2.5% growth. Comparable sales growth was driven by a 5.9% improvement in transactions, partly offset by a 1.4% drop in the average ticket.

The gross profit advanced 3% to $992.1 million. The gross profit, as a percentage of net sales, was 39.9%, down 130 basis points year over year. Higher inventory shrink, reduced merchandise margins and elevated supply-chain costs were partly made up by strength in other revenues. Our model suggested a gross margin contraction of 360 bps to 37.6%.

SG&A expenses rose 10.8% to $661.4 million. As a percentage of net sales, SG&A expenses came in at 26.6%, up from 25.5% reported in the year-ago quarter. The year-over-year increase in SG&A expenses was due to the increased corporate overheads related to strategic investments, deleverage of store payroll and benefits, increased store expenses and greater marketing expenses, somewhat compensated by the leverage of incentive compensations.

The operating income decreased from $361.9 million to $327.2 million. The operating margin contracted 240 bps to 13.1%, coming in line with our estimate.

Other Updates

Ulta Beauty ended the quarter with cash and cash equivalents of $121.8 million. Net merchandise inventories were $2.3 billion at the end of the third quarter of fiscal 2023. Stockholders’ equity at the end of the quarter stood at $2,028.5 million. Net cash provided by operating activities was $358 million in the 39 weeks ended Oct 28, 2023.

The company repurchased 686,689 shares for $281.5 million in the third quarter. In the first nine months of fiscal 2023, ULTA repurchased 1.8 million shares for $840.5 million. As of Oct 28, 2023, Ulta Beauty had shares worth $259.4 million left under its buyback program announced in March 2022. The company anticipates a share repurchase of around $950 million in fiscal 2023.

For fiscal 2023, the capital expenditure is expected in the band of $400-$425 million.

In the reported quarter, Ulta Beauty introduced 12 new stores, remodeled 11 and relocated two. Ulta Beauty ended the third quarter with 1,374 stores totaling 14.4 million square feet.

For fiscal 2023, ULTA expects 25-30 net new stores, along with 20-30 store remodeling and relocation projects.


Ulta Beauty now expects fiscal 2023 net sales in the range of $11.1-$11.15 billion compared with the $11.05-$11.15 billion band expected earlier. The company reported net sales of $10.2 billion in fiscal 2022.

Comparable sales are expected to rise 5-5.5%, up from 4.5%-5.5% growth expected earlier. Management continues to expect an operating margin between 14.6% and 14.8%.

For fiscal 2023, earnings are envisioned in the band of $25.20-$25.60 per share, suggesting a rise from the $24.01 per share reported in fiscal 2022. Management earlier projected the bottom line in the range of $25.10-$25.60 per share.

This Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) stock has risen 2.4% in the past three months against the industry’s decline of 2.8%.

Some Solid Picks

Here, we have highlighted three better-ranked stocks.

Abercrombie & Fitch ANF, a specialty retailer, currently sports a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for Abercrombie & Fitch’s current financial-year sales suggests growth of 12.8% from the year-ago reported numbers. ANF has a trailing four-quarter earnings surprise of around 713%, on average.

The general merchandise retailer, Target Corporation TGT, carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) at present.

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for Target’s current financial-year EPS suggests growth of 38.5% from the year-ago reported figure. TGT has a trailing four-quarter earnings surprise of 30.8%, on average.

American Eagle AEO, a specialty retailer of casual apparel, accessories and footwear for men and women, currently carries a Zacks Rank of 2. AEO has a trailing four-quarter earnings surprise of 23%, on average.

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for American Eagle’s current financial year’s sales and EPS suggests an increase of 3.9% and 37.1%, respectively, from the year-ago reported figures.

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