Kohl's slides after storms mar chain's back-to-school season

Kohl's Corp. suffered its worst stock decline in three months after hurricanes and other turbulent weather hurt an otherwise-strong back-to-school season.

The department-store chain posted earnings that missed analysts' estimates, even as same-store sales notched a surprise break-even quarter.

The stormy weather hurt results in the middle of the period, when hurricanes ravaged parts of Florida and Texas. But sales began to pick up again at the end of the quarter, Chief Executive Officer Kevin Mansell said.

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Kohl's has been trying to break away from a pack of struggling department-store chains, but its efforts so far have been slow to pay off. Rather than closing underperforming locations -- a strategy adopted by Macy's Inc., J.C. Penney Co. and Sears Holdings Corp. -- Kohl's has been touting the fact that its stores have remained open.

It also has teamed up with Inc. Kohl's has begun letting customers test out Amazon electronics in some locations, and it's accepting returns from the e-commerce giant's customers at select stores. For now, though, the effort is small: It just began last month and only affects a small number of Kohl's.

» Customers can return unwanted Amazon items at some Kohl's locations

The weak earnings sent shares down as much as 6.9 percent to $37.97, the biggest intraday rout since Aug. 10. The stock price was $39.01 at 11:10 a.m. Already this year, the stock had fallen 17 percent.

This week serves as a barometer of department-store health, with most of the largest chains reporting their quarterly results. Shares of Macy's gained on Thursday after earnings improved and the retailer maintained an upbeat view of the holiday season. Nordstrom, which is coming off a failed attempt at a leveraged buyout, plans to deliver its results after the close. J.C. Penney, meanwhile, weighs in on Friday morning.

Excluding some items, Kohl's profit amounted to 70 cents a share last quarter. Analysts had projected 72 cents on average. Sales were about $4.3 billion, roughly in line with estimates. On a same-store basis, Kohl's grew 0.1 percent -- topping the 0.7 percent decline predicted by analysts, according to Consensus Metrix.

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Kohl's ended the quarter with 1,156 stores in 49 states, adding one location over the past year. Macy's, J.C. Penney and Sears, meanwhile, are collectively shuttering hundreds of stores.

The Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin-based company now expects earnings of $3.60 to $3.80 a share this year, boosting the low end from $3.50 previously. Still, that midpoint remains below the $3.76 projected by analysts.

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