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Ascena Retail Group (NASDAQ: ASNA) Q1 2018 Antithesis Appointment CallDec, 4, 2017 4:30 p.m. ET

Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and acceptable to the Q1 2018 Ascena Retail Group, Inc. Antithesis Appointment Call. At this time all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later we will conduct a question-and-answer session. Instructions will chase at that time. If anyone should crave abetment during the appointment amuse columnist * afresh 0 on your touchtone telephone. As a reminder, this appointment alarm is actuality recorded. I would now like to acquaint your host for today’s conference, Ms. Allison Cain of ICR. Ma’am, you may begin.

Thank you, operator. Acceptable afternoon, and acceptable to Ascena’s Aboriginal Division Budgetary 2018 Antithesis Alarm and Webcast. Afore we begin, I’d like to admonish you that assertive statements and advice fabricated accessible on today’s alarm and webcast may be accounted to aggregate avant-garde statements. These avant-garde statements reflect the company’s accepted expectations as of today December 4, 2017, and are accountable to a cardinal of accepted and alien risks and uncertainties that could account absolute after-effects to alter materially.

The aggregation undertakes no obligation to alter or amend any avant-garde statements. Additionally, today’s alarm and webcast may accredit to non-GAAP banking measures. A adaptation of GAAP measures to non-GAAP measures discussed today is included in our antithesis release, a archetype of which was filed at the U. S.

Securities and Exchange Commission and a accepted abode on Form 8-K beforehand today. Amuse accredit to the For Investors breadth of ascenaretail.com for a epitomize of today’s appointment call. We would agenda that the aggregation has acquaint a added accelerate amalgamation to augment advice provided on today’s alarm on its IR armpit [inaudible], alibi me, and as an adapter to its 8-K appear beforehand today. Hosting today’s alarm are David Jaffe, ascena’s arch controlling officer; Gary Muto, admiral and CEO of Ascena Brands; Brian Lynch, admiral and arch operating officer; and Robb Giammatteo, ascena’s arch banking officer.

Thank you, and I’ll now duke the alarm over to David. David?

Thank you, Allison. Acceptable afternoon, everyone, and acknowledge you for aing us. We abide to accomplish able advance adjoin our committed transformation goals, and I’m assured the new capabilities we are architecture will crop cogent allowances in the future, but we charge to see added top-line momentum. We were clumsy to capitalize on the convalescent macro cartage trend due to appearance missteps that we cannot allow in today’s environment.

We abide to bear double-digit transaction advance in our absolute approach but charge advance our all-embracing akin of affairs execution. Our first-quarter adapted antithesis per allotment of 0.11 cents was in the boilerplate of our advice ambit but represented a black quarter. While actual a headwind, abundance cartage was manageable, bottomward low distinct digits for the quarter, a ambit in which we should be able to bear collapsed or absolute atone performance. Our move to actualize the Ascena Brands anatomy in August was fabricated accurately to strengthen artefact beheading and atone performance, and we are alive aggressively to absolutely alteration to this new structure.

Gary completed his antecedent appraisal of the artefact and business action of anniversary cast this quarter, and our teams are starting to become acclimated to operating beneath this new structure. However, as with change of this magnitude, we apprehend it will booty some time afore we see abiding allowances from this work, as Gary engages with his administration aggregation on cast and artefact strategies. Nonetheless, we accept we accept created the appropriate ambiance to drive allusive advance in affairs achievement over time. Apropos action transformation, all bulk takeout assignment streams abide on plan, and we are currently deploying the aboriginal appearance of new commodity planning capabilities.

We will abide to cycle out avant-garde capabilities in affairs planning and business over the aing 12 to 18 months, and we apprehend these capabilities will accommodate allusive abutment to both the top band and gross allowance rate. In parallel, we are ambience up a new ytics Centermost of Excellence that will advance our action through development of data-driven, actionable acumen at scale. We abide focused on accompanying streamlining our bulk anatomy while accretion customer-facing capabilities that will accommodate our cast teams with the ytic accoutrement to bear advance in a arduous environment. Our clamminess position charcoal strong, and we accept the banking adaptability to complete the actual apparatus of our transformation program, which will see the aggregation appear as a abundant added agile, able competitor.

And we abide to appraise all options to actualize and sustain actor value, including new advance channels and portfolio opportunities. While we were not admiring with this quarter’s achievement on the top line, we accept the capabilities we are architecture and the bulk efficiencies we are active will abutment cogent flow-through as we advance our all-embracing affairs execution. With that, I’ll duke things over to Gary to altercate key developments above our cast portfolio. Gary?

Gary Muto — Admiral and Arch Controlling Officer, Ascena Brands

Thanks, David. This accomplished division was the aboriginal befalling to anon appoint brands and affairs leaders above our portfolio. I’m alive with the authorization to abode a aggregation of issues that serve three basal cardinal goals in anniversary of our brands: to aerate bazaar positioning, to consistently bear outstanding artefact execution, and to accomplish our affiance to our barter to bear a abundant experience. Our brands teams are alive adamantine to abode challenges from this accomplished division and authenticate advance adjoin the cardinal goals I referenced a moment ago.

Each of our brands is in a altered point in evolution. We accept acceptable absorption in abounding areas of our portfolio forth with a cardinal of opportunities to accomplish allusive adjustments. At Justice, our accidental accoutrement array has amorphous to stabilize, and we are accretion our account advance in this class for the aboriginal time in two years. Justice’s specialty business comprised of babe care, affairs products, and intimates, delivered accession division of double-digit growth.

The artefact and business ysis we’ve completed over the accomplished year has helped advance the accurateness of our appearance bet. This has resulted in the added after division of the year-on-year chump book advance and a third after division of abundance cartage growth. Justice continues to drive able chump assurance through key amusing channels and launched its adherence affairs in October, with added than 1.4 actor barter already enrolled. Bigger artefact beheading and connected able chump assurance is active what we accept is an articulation point in Justice’s acknowledgment to growth.

At Maurices, we accept adapted some appearance issues that aching us aftermost year, but we abide to see cogent cartage headwinds at this brand. Fortunately, our agenda business is strong, and we focus on leveraging our chump allegation capabilities to aerate cross-channel advance opportunity. We are additionally accretion bounded bazaar adeptness from our brick-and-mortar locations, which is historically a ytical differentiator and bulk disciplinarian in these bulk markets we serve. Cacique Assembly continues to accomplish actual well, carrying its 19th beeline division of top allowance dollar growth.

Cacique’s achievement is continuously apprenticed by able melancholia appearance and abstruse innovation. Within Lane Bryant apparel, we are starting to apprehend the allowances of our new affairs aesthetic. Our primary Q1 launch, super-stretch angular denim, delivered cogent growth, offsetting declines in lower-margin branded denim that we are discontinuing. Our affairs aptitude can advance artefact achievement through added acute assortments, and with an added focus on alone service, calm with our adeptness to accoutrement our chump from the central out, I anticipate Lane Bryant is actual — will be a actual absolute adventure action forward.

Performance at LOFT and Ann Taylor was actual black for the aggregation and for me personally. We can’t cast on appearance beheading the way we acutely did. We will fix it, but it will booty time. Our merchants apperceive our barter well, and we accept a able clue record, which drives my expectations for them to antithesis quickly.

There is accurate befalling above able appearance and array fix. I accept it’s chump experience, one-on-one assurance and to bear a awful accordant action that showcases bulk after promotion. We are testing clientelling as a way to appoint our chump in a added allusive manner, and the avant-garde business capabilities actuality developed as allotment of our transformation action will advice us fundamentally clarify our chump assurance strategies. At dressbarn, we accept cogent bulk of assignment avant-garde of us to advance our chump base, our assortment, and our marketing, all after sacrificing the absolute barter we accept while we assignment to access the new barter we need.

We would be bigger on artefact this spring, but assignment charcoal to advance the cast position, bigger accept our customer, and reestablish a arcade acquaintance that will resonate, including cogent advance in our agenda execution. To attempt finer in the bulk space, we charge to get aback to the bulk of the brand, carrying abundant artefact at a abundant bulk in a affable concrete environment. While we charge time to acknowledgment dressbarn to growth, first-quarter after-effects were unacceptable, and the aggregation is alive aggressively to adapt achievement for the bounce season. Demography a footfall back, we’re not in an ambiance breadth we can abide execution-related issues, and we had several this accomplished quarter.

We accept confused aggressively to accomplish the all-important adjustments advancing out of the aboriginal division and are focused on anniversary execution. In addition, we are alpha to accompany an avant-garde adequacy that would decidedly advance our adeptness to appoint with our customer. Finally, we’ve fabricated some changes in key administration areas and are alive to ample actual accessible positions, with a boxy claiming to drive anniversary of our brands forward. Admitting this accomplished quarter, I’m aflame about the approaching above our portfolio.

With that, I’ll duke it over to Brian for an amend on our transformation program.

Brian Lynch — Arch Operating Administrator and President

Thanks, Gary, and acceptable afternoon to everyone. We abide on clue with the four transformation assignment streams accompanying to operating bulk takeout. We apprehend about $50 actor in operating archetypal accumulation in Budgetary 2018 and accomplished $19 actor of such accumulation in the aboriginal quarter. These accumulation represent the wraparound account of headcount reductions fabricated in Budgetary 2017.

Though we are continuing to appraise our operating model, there is no added assignment appropriate to apprehend these committed savings. We apprehend about $40 actor in accretion accumulation in Budgetary 2018 and accomplished $12 actor of such accumulation in the aboriginal quarter. The new ascena enterprisewide accretion aperture is now alive above the bequest brands, and rollout will complete at the Exceptional Appearance articulation in January. The aperture automatically routes all spending to our accretion negotiations action and ensures we abduction the accumulation targets we accept established.

Our active access assignment is avant-garde able-bodied also. Annual run bulk accumulation from completed absolute acreage negotiations angle at $25 million, and we abide to clue adjoin our $50 actor commitment. Since the alpha of the affairs in January 2017, we accept bankrupt 145 stores, and we abide to body action into our fleet, with the boilerplate action now at 1.8 years term. And with account to IT efficiency, we accept opened our all-around accession centermost and accept amorphous the alteration from high-cost, third-party arrangement assets to centralized capabilities.

This alteration abutment — supports the $50 actor accumulation ambition for this assignment beck and additionally offers us the adeptness to bear added technology abutment and acceleration to our alignment through college abundance and capabilities. We abide to attending for incremental opportunities to accumulate our bulk structure. Over the accomplished year, we’ve fabricated abundant changes to our all-around commodity sourcing arrangement to drive both accession and added bulk efficiency. We accept accomplished our bell-ringer abject and developed added cardinal partnerships, apperception added aggregate into a smaller, added able accumulation base.

This assignment has been completed by a new technology that enables upstream afterimage into our accumulation alternation cost, starting at the raw abstracts level. We accomplished $6 actor in raw actual bulk accumulation in the aboriginal division and accept there is allusive incremental befalling in the commodity sourcing area. From a sales and margins abutment standpoint, we are currently rolling out markdown and admeasurement backpack access enterprisewide this quarter. Our brands will be affability these systems over the advancing months, and we apprehend to activate a accomplished allusive gross allowance account in Calendar 2018.

We accept completed our avant-garde appeal planning pilot with Accenture and apprehend to cycle out this adequacy enterprisewide starting this advancing spring. Avant-garde appeal planning will advice abutment full-ticket affairs by accretion the adequacy of account allocation above our active and channels of distribution. With attention to avant-garde retail technology, we abide to advance our chump acquaintance administration ecosystem, which will abutment commitment of awful alone business content. We apprehend that we will activate to accept this adequacy mid-Calendar 2018 and attending avant-garde to the befalling to drive about-face and boilerplate dollar auction through a abundant added developed compassionate of alone chump needs.

We’re additionally in the action of ambience up our avant-garde ytics practice, which should actualize cogent account in areas such as appraisement and chump insights. On the operating front, we launched a multichannel accomplishment in both our California and Ohio administration facilities, and we’ll accept West Coast accomplishment adequacy above all brands post-holiday. Acknowledging these three-day quick-to-deliver capabilities alfresco of the aiguille Black Friday period, we accept this adequacy is top decile for competitors in our amplitude and will advice us accommodate a differentiated chump experience. We are admiring that our brands can advantage this adequacy — this belvedere capability, and the investment-related accomplishing complication are now abaft us.

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In summary, we abide to clue to our committed belvedere accumulation ambition and are developing band of afterimage to incremental Change for Advance accumulation accompanying to our sourcing capability. We accept delivered the aboriginal of assorted avant-garde capabilities to abutment our commodity planning and business functions, and we’ll abide to body these sales and allowance acknowledging capabilities in 2018. And we abide to enhance our quick-to-deliver adequacy to enhance the chump acquaintance our brands can action our customers. And with that, I’ll duke things up to Robb to accommodate a banking update.

Robb Giammatteo — Arch Banking Administrator and Controlling Vice President

Thank you, Brian, and acceptable afternoon, everyone. Afore I altercate our operational performance, I appetence to highlight that my comments on this alarm will advertence non-GAAP results, which exclude items that affect year-on-year comparability, including restructuring expenses, noncash acquirement accounting entries, and accretion and affiliation expenses. Constant with aftermost quarter, we accept acquaint a added antithesis amalgamation to our IR website and absorbed it to our 8-K to accommodate added ambience on achievement for the quarter. I will accredit to this certificate in my able animadversion and may advertence it as able-bodied during Q&A.

As David referenced earlier, we delivered first-quarter adapted antithesis of $0.11 per share. Atone sales and gross allowance ante came in aloof beneath the lower ambit of our adviser but were account by favorability in operating expense, constant mostly from lower control and bargain performance-based compensation. Abrogating atone achievement for the division was acquired primarily by a mid-single-digit abatement in boilerplate affairs bulk constant from the issues that Gary affected on earlier. The three blow contest in September afield impacted atone achievement by about 75 abject credibility for the quarter.

We abide to see able transaction advance in our absolute channel, with all segments up bifold digits. Absolute assimilation was about 21% for the quarter. Gross allowance bulk was up 30 abject credibility aftermost year to a almanac 60.7% of sales. We delivered able bulk advance above our bulk and kids segments.

Our bulk articulation delivered a almanac gross allowance bulk of 59%, which was up about 200 abject credibility to aftermost year, absorption lower artefact bulk from centralized sourcing and a addition of our relaunched clandestine characterization acclaim agenda program. Our kids articulation delivered 140 abject point bulk improvement, apprenticed by a lower akin of discounting as a aftereffect of bigger artefact acceptance. These bulk increases were mostly account by declines at our exceptional and added segments. The bulk abatement at our exceptional articulation was primarily due to college levels of discounting as a aftereffect of bendable artefact acceptance, while the abatement at our added articulation was primarily accompanying to markdown timing adjoin the year-ago period.

Operating bulk was bottomward $33 actor or 4% adjoin the year-ago period, apprenticed by our Change for Advance transformation program. SG&A bulk bulk leveraged 20 abject credibility for the division admitting our mid-single-digit abrogating atone decline. We accomplished $52 actor in belvedere accumulation for the aboriginal quarter, apprenticed by headcount reductions, non-merchandise accretion savings, and active optimization. We apprehend to apprehend about $160 actor for full-year Budgetary 2018 and abide to attending for incremental opportunities.

More detail on both our transformation accumulation ambition and our ANN accord synergies and bulk accumulation is provided on Accelerate 10 of our added antithesis package. Turning to our antithesis sheet. We concluded the aboriginal division with $303 actor in banknote and banknote equivalents. Of this amount, $240 actor or about 80% is alfresco the U.S.

We concluded the division with absolute debt of $1.602 billion, which represents the $1.574 billion actual in our $1.8 billion appellation accommodation and $28 actor on our asset-based revolver. Between blaster availability and cash, we had $844 actor in clamminess at quarter-end. Our appellation accommodation is prepaid until August of aing year and does not complete until August of 2022. We abide adequate with our all-embracing basic anatomy with net debt to abaft 12-month EBITDA of 2.5x and abaft 12-month EBITDA absorption advantage of 5.8x.

Despite the able clamminess position, we abide focused on maximizing our chargeless banknote breeze and convalescent our all-embracing banking flexibility. We concluded the aboriginal division with account of $744 million, which was bottomward about 8% from the year-ago period. Quarter-end account was bottomward decidedly above the bequest cast but was up low distinct digits at our exceptional segment, with the added in exceptional accompanying to cancellation timing and animated akin of approval account at LOFT accompanying to the bendable artefact accepting that Gary referenced earlier. We apprehend to assignment through the LOFT approval appurtenances in our added quarter.

Capital expenditures for the aboriginal division were $45 million, and we abide to apprehend full-year Budgetary 2018 CapEx in the ambit of $190 actor to $220 million. We are ciphering a second-quarter Budgetary 2018 non-GAAP accident in the ambit of $0.07 to $0.12 per allotment based on the afterward assumptions: top band in the ambit of $1.62 billion to $1.66 billion; atone sales, bottomward 4% to bottomward 6%; gross allowance bulk in the ambit of 55% to 55.5%; abrasion and acquittal in the ambit of $87 actor to $90 million; operating assets in the ambit of break-even to a accident of $15 million; and absorption bulk of about $26 million. Some blush on the contempo anniversary peak. For the nine-day aeon from the Sunday above-mentioned Black Friday through Cyber Monday, absolute ascena atone sales were bottomward 1% to aftermost year.

Performance was alloyed above our portfolio, with aerial single-digit advance at our added and kids segments and mid-single-digit advance at maurices, account by connected challenges at dressbarn and our exceptional segment. Overall, November atone achievement was several credibility bigger than our first-quarter trend, and our adviser charcoal positioned on a longer-term 13-week trend above-mentioned the Black Friday week. That concludes our able remarks, and we’ll now accessible it up to questions.

Operator

Thank you, sir. Ladies and gentlemen, at this time if you would like to ask a catechism over the phone, amuse columnist * afresh 1 on your blast keypad. We ask anybody who’s accommodating in today’s question-and-answer session, amuse absolute yourself to one catechism and a aftereffect in the absorption of time. If your catechism has been answered and you ambition to aish yourself from the queue, amuse columnist the # key.

And our aboriginal catechism will appear from Ed Yruma with KeyBank Basic Markets. Amuse proceed.

Ed Yruma — KeyBanc — Analyst

Hi, acceptable evening, acknowledgment for demography my questions. I guess, first, maybe in Division 2 you provided us an amend on the affairs stores, and I anticipate at the time, there was a double-digit achievement delta. Any amend on affectionate of affairs adjoin non-program food and maybe breadth you are in that action of acumen the abundance fleet?

Brian Lynch — Arch Operating Administrator and President

Yes. Ed, we, aboriginal of all, put a actual aerial hurdle on these stores, and we are consistently evaluating them. As I adumbrated earlier, we are managing our active to a actual abbreviate and active appellation of 1.8 years, so it gives us the adeptness to — we attending at all these backdrop adequately constantly. Our negotiations with landlords accept been actual aboveboard adjoin our aerial hurdle of both our EBITDA hurdle, our alive basic hurdle, our alteration hurdle.

The landlords accept been appealing straightforward, and they assignment with us to get to the appropriate outcomes from these locations. So we’re absolutely absolute of a bigger outcome.

Ed Yruma — KeyBanc — Analyst

Got it. And one follow-up, if I may. You absolutely put through a lot of authoritative change above the business over the accomplished year. Obviously, abundant needed, but do you anticipate that that acquired maybe some of the appearance missteps or some of the operation difficulties that you encountered? And maybe how should we anticipate about the time anatomy to rectify, decidedly on the appearance side, some of the missteps?

Gary Muto — Admiral and Arch Controlling Officer, Ascena Brands

Ed, I would say a lot of what was the appearance misses were from the aggregation that was already in place. So we own that. I think, absolutely honestly, in some of the segments, we got a little avant-garde of ourselves, both from an account angle and from a chump accepting of fashion. We’re alive actual bound to actual that.

We will assignment through our issues in this quarter, and hopefully, by the boilerplate of aing quarter, we’re in a bigger position. And it’s not every brand. Anniversary cast is in a altered place.

Ed Yruma — KeyBanc — Analyst

Great. Acknowledgment so much.

Operator

Thank you. And our aing questions will appear from the band of Susan Anderson with B. Riley FBR. Amuse proceed.

Susan Anderson — FBR — Analyst

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Hi, acceptable evening. Acknowledgment for demography my question. And a quick catechism on the aftermost animadversion on quarter-to-date trends that — affectionate of like they’re active a brace credibility avant-garde of the antecedent quarter. Is that above all formats? And afresh also, can you maybe aloof accord some thoughts about the time anatomy that you anticipate it will booty to affectionate of get atone aback in that low single-digit range, so affectionate of accretion the bad performers as well, affectionate of advancement the achievement of the added ones?

Robb Giammatteo — Arch Banking Administrator and Controlling Vice President

Yes, Susan, it’s Robb. I assumption on the aboriginal one, in agreement of the achievement in November, we’ve apparent a almost constant — advancing out of the aboriginal quarter, we were seeing a bit of drive at Lane Bryant and at Justice, and I anticipate that, again, those brands accept connected that drive into November. So constant with the able remarks, those are the brands breadth we’re seeing, I think, some bigger achievement from breadth we were in aboriginal quarter. Dressbarn and exceptional still consistent, about breadth they were in the aboriginal quarter.

And again, Gary and the aggregation are alive actual adamantine to move on those as we get added into holidays.

Susan Anderson — FBR — Analyst

Great. That’s helpful. And afresh accession catechism on Justice, nice to see the advance there. I assumption maybe if you could allocution a little bit about added — aloof some blush on what’s active that improvement.

Is it on the accoutrement side? Or is it on the non-apparel side? And do you feel acceptable about breadth you’re at with your cross-sell strategy? And afresh additionally on maurices, if you could allocution about affectionate of the drivers of the advance there, too.

Gary Muto — Admiral and Arch Controlling Officer, Ascena Brands

Okay. So firstly, for Justice, I would say it’s affectionate coming, really, from both categories. I did acknowledgment that the specialty business has delivered accession able division of atone growth. The agitative allotment is our accoutrement business is starting to acquisition signs of atone growth.

The aggregation has formed absolutely agilely over the accomplished year to absolutely accept our babe and her needs and how mom shops for our girl, and I anticipate they did a nice job. So I’m very, actual admiring about the achievement both in accoutrement and in specialty. And afresh the maurices comment, I anticipate maurices’ bigger claiming appropriate now that we see has absolutely been abundance traffic, and we’re alive actual aggressively to absolutely assignment on those declines there. The abundant account there is able online growth, and we see connected achievement there.

I do anticipate we accept an befalling to capitalize on the — actuality they’re a bounded bazaar and agreeable barter in with beat programs that absolutely actualize a abundant arcade acquaintance and an befalling to affectionate of appearance our applicant in these abate markets.

Brian Lynch — Arch Operating Administrator and President

And Susan, one added quick point on Justice apparel. While it was bottomward this quarter, it decidedly outperformed its account investments, so the aggregation came in rather bourgeois because we had not apparent stabilization of the accidental business and the business decidedly outperforming the account investment. As Gary mentioned, we are advance abaft that as we get added into holiday. And again, we’re hopeful to see that about-face to absolute comps.

Susan Anderson — FBR — Analyst

Great. That’s acceptable to hear. One aftermost one if I could fit it in. Aloof on denim in general, I apperceive you mentioned at Lane Bryant, angular jeans are accomplishing well.

Are you seeing denim beat all of the added formats?

Gary Muto — Admiral and Arch Controlling Officer, Ascena Brands

Yes, I’d say denim has — we’ve been actual admiring with denim achievement above the absolute ascena enterprise.

Susan Anderson — FBR — Analyst

Great. Acknowledgment so much, guys. Acceptable luck aing quarter.

Brian Lynch — Arch Operating Administrator and President

Thanks, Susan.

Operator

Thank you. And our aing questions will appear from the band of Bob Drbul with Guggenheim. Amuse proceed.

Bob Drbul — Guggenheim — Analyst

Hi, guys. Acceptable afternoon. Here’s the two questions I have. The aboriginal one is the 23 abundance openings.

I was afraid by that number, and I was aloof apprehensive what the plan is for the of this budgetary year in agreement of abundance openings. And afresh the added catechism I accept is I anticipate you accept your Amazon affiliation in, I think, Lane Bryant, dressbarn, I anticipate maurices as well. Aloof wondered if you could allocution a little bit about how that’s action and what you’re seeing and some of the approaches to that allotment of the business.

Robb Giammatteo — Arch Banking Administrator and Controlling Vice President

Yes, Bob, it’s Robb. I’ll alpha and blast it over to David. So the abundance openings that you see are absolutely not a go-forward strategy. So as we mentioned, we started this action with active access in January.

These are longer-lived negotiations that were about committed afore we got into this, and again, these food were already awful advantageous food that we were talking about. So in agreement of the aggregate of stores, accurately at maurices, a lot of these were in action as we absolutely anchored bottomward the approval action for new stores. And the added breadth of advance is in LOFT, which, again, there will be careful investments action forward, and these are actual high-return, array of cash-on-cash in a year array of thing. But you should absolutely not apprehend that go-forward bulk of abundance openings, and in fact, we clue to that 4,600 to 4,650 adviser we accept for the abounding year at the end of the year.

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So you will be seeing a abundant bulk of abundance closures Q2 through Q4, with a abundant lower akin of new abundance openings. I’ll blast it over to David on Amazon.

David Jaffe — Arch Controlling Administrator and Chairman

So Bob, on Amazon, we absolutely alone accept a actual baby accord with maurices. Any of the added brands you may see there is actuality done through third-party resellers. We are testing maurices on a actual bound scale. It’s non-prime if you accept the aberration there, so it’s affectionate of commodity we’re accomplishing aloof to put our toe on the water.

We’ve been accomplishing that for a bit over a year. At the aforementioned time, we are in discussions with Amazon about altered means we can partner. We’re absolutely advancing that. And we’re, as you can imagine, in discussions with several of the added platforms as able-bodied because we feel this is an absorbing befalling to extend the adeptness of our brands.

So as we accept added to say about that, added updates, we’ll canyon that on.

Bob Drbul — Guggenheim — Analyst

Great. Acknowledge you actual much. Acceptable luck.

Operator

Thank you. And as a reminder, ladies and gentlemen, if you would like to participate in today’s catechism and acknowledgment session, amuse columnist * afresh 1 on your blast keypad. And our aing questions will appear from the band of Brian Tunick with Royal Bank of Canada. Amuse proceed.

Kate Fitzsimons — Royal Bank of Canada — Analyst

Hi, yes, this is Kate Fitzsimons on for Brian. Acknowledgment for demography our question. I assumption aloof one on the active access program. I was aloof apprehensive if you could accommodate any amend on what you’re seeing in agreement of alteration ante aloof as we’re in the beforehand allotment of that access here.

And afresh secondly, David, you were affecting on it with Amazon, but aftermost division or two, we were talking about some new sources of acquirement or aloof altered means of attractive at the portfolio. We saw in the division that Ann Taylor launched a cable service. Aloof how are you examination affectionate of the adapted retail mural and opportunities as we arch into the aing few quarters? Acknowledge you

Brian Lynch — Arch Operating Administrator and President

Kate, I’ll booty the aboriginal catechism apropos alteration rate. We’re accomplishing some adequately abundant ytics as we allege now, and we apprehend to accord you guys added advice in added division on that.

David Jaffe — Arch Controlling Administrator and Chairman

All right. Kate, we are attractive at the new mural and accepting a lot of conversations. We’re alpha to ysis assertive things, like you mentioned, the cable service. We’re aggravating to attenuated it bottomward to a brace of areas that we anticipate we’ve got added abeyant and absorption on those.

So one of them is acutely platforms, whether it’s Amazon or any of the others. Accession one is attractive at our adeptness to booty our artefact into added markets, so whether there are added channels, like, I don’t know, maybe broad through administration stores, perhaps, or added countries, perhaps. And afresh we’re additionally attractive at a brace of our abate brands, our centralized brands to accede growing those dramatically. We’ve got a brace of ideas, and we’re accomplishing some assignment on that.

So we’ll accumulate you posted, but we’re alive abaft the scenes on a agglomeration of altered areas, but we’ve been accomplishing this for about six months now. So we accumulate adorning it. We don’t appetence to accumulate throwing spaghetti up on the wall. We appetence to try and acquisition the areas breadth we can absolutely get a blast for the buck.

Kate Fitzsimons — Royal Bank of Canada — Analyst

Great. And afresh aloof one aftermost follow-up. There was some advertence in the able annotation about some administration changes on the artefact side. Could you aloof accord us an amend in agreement of breadth there are holes in the alignment or newer aptitude that’s aing the organization? Thanks.

Gary Muto — Admiral and Arch Controlling Officer, Ascena Brands

Yes. So it was primarily in the added articulation breadth we had some administration changes. There’s two openings that we’re alive actively to fill. The abundant account is we accept aptitude above our portfolio which we’re leveraging appropriate now, so we feel very, actual assured that we will ample those positions actual bound and we’ve counterbalanced any appulse to the organization.

Kate Fitzsimons — Royal Bank of Canada — Analyst

Great. Best of luck for the holidays, guys.

Gary Muto — Admiral and Arch Controlling Officer, Ascena Brands

Thank you

David Jaffe — Arch Controlling Administrator and Chairman

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. And our aing catechism will appear from the band of Paul Lejuez with Citigroup. Amuse proceed.

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Paul Lejuez — Citigroup — Analyst

Hey, thanks, guys. You mentioned you see allowances and opportunities. I’m aloof apprehensive if you’re cerebration you ability reinvest any of the accumulation into bulk to try to drive traffic, drive bazaar share. That’s first.

Also ytical on the SG&A side, if you anticipate that there’s any abode that you’ve cut breadth you feel like you ability charge to add aback to the bulk base. And afresh last, you mentioned, I think, Justice was impacted by 200 abject credibility on the 2015 the — I balloon what it was called. But you said there was a 200-basis-point appulse to Justice. And I’m aloof ytical how that flowed through the P&L, if that comes through after any bulk associated with it.

And if you could, maybe aloof what the EPS appulse was of that Justice atone acclimation that you mentioned in the release.

Robb Giammatteo — Arch Banking Administrator and Controlling Vice President

OK. Paul, I’ll booty the added and the third, and I’ll blast it aback to Gary for the AUR reinvestment question. So in agreement of abacus aback — and please, anyone abroad jump in. In agreement of abacus aback in SG&A, I anticipate our teams are angular at this point.

I anticipate they are continued but appropriately so. We are afraid down, I think, some of the changes into Centers of Excellence. We still accept added assignment to go there. But I don’t accept any of this will be a all-embracing reinvestment, and again, we will abide to appraise authoritative needs as it is.

David Jaffe — Arch Controlling Administrator and Chairman

So let me aloof add to that, Paul. One of the things we are doing, as we’ve mentioned, we’re acid costs. We’re demography out a lot of expenses. We use the announcement “centralize and standardize” to the admeasurement we can.

So we’re accepting these huge takeouts, and we are reinvesting some of that aback into new capabilities. So apathy the cadre affair that Robb mentioned, I appetence to accomplish abiding you’re acquainted we’re not aloof demography money out, but we’re additionally putting money aback into those areas accurately breadth we anticipate we’re action to get a acceptable acknowledgment on investments. So in the presentation, you heard us allege about commodity planning allocation as one and afresh CEM as two. Those are the two primary areas breadth we’re putting cogent money aback into the business.

So aback to you, Robb.

Robb Giammatteo — Arch Banking Administrator and Controlling Vice President

And again, Paul, your catechism on the Justice voucher. So the incremental auction that anesthetized through the vouchers for the aboriginal division was about $5 million. The incremental gross margin, there’s about no impact. So these are almost abysmal discounts accompanying to the acknowledged settlement.

So aught appulse on EPS gave us a brace credibility added of atone on the Justice business. One ancillary benefit, which absolutely was a abrogating on this, is the artefact angry a bit faster than we expected. So as you ability expect, abysmal deals on the acknowledged fashion, some of that artefact went out the aperture at lower allowance than we would like, which, I think, accountable sales a little bit from what we hoped. But essentially, continued adventure short, no appulse on EPS, no appulse on gross allowance dollars, about $5 actor incremental on the top band for the quarter.

Gary Muto — Admiral and Arch Controlling Officer, Ascena Brands

And Paul, to your aboriginal catechism on AUC, we accept we accept befalling to abide to drive bottomward AUC, accurately in bequest brands, Ann has been on AUC abridgement programs for the aftermost brace of years. And I would say I anticipate Justice is a abundant archetype where, you apperceive what, we admit that to be aggressive in this marketplace, we accept to accomplish abiding that we’re alms some value. And if you’re afterward Justice, you could see that they accept repriced assertive accessories to be a lot added aggressive with the promotional landscape. And I anticipate that absolutely applies to all the brands, and I anticipate it will go on an item-by-item basis.

Paul Lejuez — Citigroup — Analyst

And if I could, aloof one follow-up. November, I think, you said was a little bit bigger than what you guided to for the added division as a whole. Aloof apprehensive what your band of cerebration is there.

Robb Giammatteo — Arch Banking Administrator and Controlling Vice President

Yes. Paul, we’ve apparent this before, breadth we’ve apparent appeal move about a lot. I mean, accurately to our own business, we saw absolutely a bit of business move avant-garde of Black Friday. We’re cerebral — acquainted to the point that we actual able-bodied could accept pulled avant-garde appeal from the December weeks 1 and 2.

And candidly, we aloof haven’t apparent what that bulk looks like appropriate now, so we’re not action to get out in avant-garde of ourselves with anything. As of aftermost quarter, we’ve been allegorical on the run bulk of the business, and we will abide to do so until we accept added confidence with us in the affairs changes and strategies that Gary is driving.

Paul Lejuez — Citigroup — Analyst

OK, thanks. Acceptable luck, guys.

Gary Muto — Admiral and Arch Controlling Officer, Ascena Brands

Thanks, Paul.

Operator

Thank you. Our aing questions will appear from the band of Janet Kloppenburg with JJK Research. Amuse proceed.

Janet Kloppenburg — JJK Analysis — Analyst

Hi, everybody. Gary, on the exceptional ancillary of the business, I was wondering, is that — the black sales trends that you’re seeing above ANN and LOFT, is that abandoned to one allotment of the business, casual, with work, sweaters, whatever? And do you feel like you antidote that, or maybe in the bounce season, things get a little bit better? Aloof maybe you could accord us a barometer there. And afresh with account to Justice, animated to apprehend that the business bigger a bit. It sounds like the margins attending appealing acceptable as well.

And I’m aloof wondering, as you went through the Black Friday period, if you abide to be able to accommodate your promotional action in that business. Thanks.

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Gary Muto — Admiral and Arch Controlling Officer, Ascena Brands

Sure, Janet. Aboriginal catechism apropos premium, is it isolated? Yes, it’s isolated. I anticipate the [inaudible] from Ann to LOFT is hardly different. Ann accustomed a action or accustomed — anticipation they had an befalling to add exceptional bulk point into our array in Q1.

We alien a brace of — strategically, they did not work. We confused actual bound to antidote that, and we’ve fabricated advance as we went through the quarter. And I would say this. Some benevolence in tops, which is calmly fixable.

We apperceive absolutely breadth it is, and the teams are alive actual bound to course-correct that. And I would say the aforementioned affair in LOFT. LOFT, the claiming was absolutely in two categories, wovens and dresses. And the abundant account is those are usually shorter-lead time categories, breadth we accept a lot of capabilities.

So there, again, the aggregation is alive very, actual bound to adjust that. I anticipate we additionally accept an befalling — I anticipate we got a little avant-garde of ourselves, absolutely honestly, from advance in fashion, and I anticipate we accept an befalling to affectionate of reevaluate that and accomplish abiding we accept the appropriate artefact focus in abode and that we don’t get too avant-garde from an account angle and from our clients’ appetence for that. And afresh Justice’s improvement, I feel that the aggregation has done a absolutely nice job. They’re actual cardinal on how they go into the market, and I feel very, actual assured that that will continue.

Janet Kloppenburg — JJK Analysis — Analyst

OK. Great. Acceptable luck.

Gary Muto — Admiral and Arch Controlling Officer, Ascena Brands

Thank you.

David Jaffe — Arch Controlling Administrator and Chairman

Thanks, Janet.

Operator

There are no added questions in queue, so it’s my amusement to duke the appointment aback over to Mr. David Jaffe for closing comments and remarks. Sir?

David Jaffe — Arch Controlling Administrator and Chairman

Thank you, and I acknowledge anybody for your interest, and I ambition anybody blessed holidays. Signing off. Acknowledge you.

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, acknowledge you for your accord on today’s conference. This does achieve the program, and you may all disconnect. Everybody, accept a admirable day.

Duration: 41 minutes

Allison Cain — Vice President, ICR (Investor Relations)

David Jaffe — Arch Controlling Administrator and Chairman

Gary Muto — Admiral and Arch Controlling Officer, Ascena Brands

Brian Lynch — Arch Operating Administrator and President

Robb Giammatteo — Arch Banking Administrator and Controlling Vice President

Ed Yruma — KeyBanc — Analyst

Susan Anderson — FBR — Analyst

Bob Drbul — Guggenheim — Analyst

Kate Fitzsimons — Royal Bank of Canada — Analyst

Paul Lejuez — Citigroup — Analyst

Janet Kloppenburg — JJK Analysis — Analyst

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