Kohl’s swings to surprise loss and issues bleak outlook

NEW YORK — Kohl’s swung to a surprise fourth quarter loss and sales slumped as the department store’s customers pulled back on spending with inflation squeezing family budgets.

The retailer also issued an annual outlook today that fell well below Wall Street expectations, sending shares tumbling 10% in premarket trading.

The company reported a loss of $273 million, or $2.49 per share for the quarter ended Jan. 28. Industry analysts had projected per-share profits of 97 cents, according to a poll by FactSet.

Last year during the same period, the company earned $299 million, or $2.20 per share.

Sales fell a little more than 7% to $6.02 billion. Comparable-store sales — those from stores opened at least a year and online channels — slid 6.6%.

Kohl’s is under pressure from activist shareholders to turn around its business. It is battling higher costs and a pullback from its price-conscious shoppers who are being more cautious with their spending in the face of rising prices for gas, food, and just about everything else.

Last month, the Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, retailer made Tom Kingsbury, named interim chief executive in early December, its permanent CEO. Kingsbury, a Kohl’s board member with more than 40 years experience in retail, took over for Michelle Gass who was named president of Levi Strauss & Co.

On Tuesday, Kohl’s announced that 30-year retail veteran Dave Alves had been named Kohl’s president and chief operating officer, reporting to Kingsbury, effective in April 1.