A staff member sorts clothes inside a Zara store in Beijing, China, April 16 2021. Picture: REUTERS/TINGSHU WANG
A staff member sorts clothes inside a Zara store in Beijing, China, April 16 2021. Picture: REUTERS/TINGSHU WANG

Inditex, the Spanish owner of the Zara clothing brand, rebounded from its first loss on record to post better-than-expected first-quarter earnings, as the easing of pandemic restrictions allowed it to reopen most shops. 

Though Europe has been hit by the coldest spring since 2013, sales during both the first quarter, which covers February through to end-April, and in the first half of the second quarter were up, the company said in a statement. Sales in the first part of the second quarter were also up 5% relative to 2019, before the pandemic started.

While first-quarter results were affected by store closures in key markets including the UK, France, Italy and Portugal, the company now has 98% of its 6,758 stores open. The gross margin, a closely followed metric for the retailer, improved to 59.% from 58.4%, beating estimates.

Online sales grew 67% in the quarter in constant currencies.

Inditex’s sales so far in the second quarter show a “strongly improving picture”, confirming the benefits of pent-up demand, James Grzinic, an analyst at Jefferies, wrote in a note. He said the better-than-expected gross margin helped offset an increase in operational expenditure.

Inditex shares, which had gained 24% in 2021 before Wednesday, traded 0.7% lower in Madrid.

Like all retailers, the lockdowns of the past year meant that Inditex had to face huge uncertainty surrounding inventories. This saw stockpiles in the first quarter rise 5% from a year earlier, though they were down 5% from 2019. Inventory management is the core element in Inditex’s strategy, as it sources more than half its products in Spain or nearby countries, rather than from Asia.

Highlights:

  • Net income rose to €421m in the quarter through April from a loss of €409m a year earlier.
  • Sales rose to €4.94bn in the first quarter.
  • The second quarter has kicked off positively, with sales between May 1 and June 6 up 102% from 2020, and 5% higher than in 2019.

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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