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Takeaway: This is the 1st Stage of KSS EPS permanently being held below $4.00. Stage 2 goes to $3.25. Stage 3 = $2.50 and dividend cut.

Editor's Note: Below is a brief excerpt from an institutional research note on Kohl's (KSS) written by Hedgeye Retail analysts Brian McGough and Alec Richards. As of this writing, shares of KSS are down over 17%. To access our research please email sales@hedgeye.com

Steer Clear of Kohl's (This Is Only The Beginning) | $KSS - kss image

All along we’ve been saying Kohl's would never earn $4.00 again.

While today’s rather dramatic guide-down will make this premise seem a reality for some doubters, what we find most interesting is that this is only midway through Stage 1 of what we think is a Three Stage process to KSS cutting its dividend. Here’s our thinking…

Stage 1: Weak sales results as a result of the fact that KSS sells less and less of what consumers want to buy. Sounds overly simple – but it’s reality. That flows through to the gross margin line as online sales cannibalize brick and mortar, and come at a gross margin 1000bps below the company average. True SG&A growth becomes apparent as credit income stops going up as newly emphasized non-credit/loyalty shoppers become a bigger mix of the pie due to launch of Yes2You rewards program.

Steer Clear of Kohl's (This Is Only The Beginning) | $KSS - kss stage 2

Steer Clear of Kohl's (This Is Only The Beginning) | $KSS - kss stage 3

Other Notables on The Release

The comp in this quarter missed, and believe it or not, the comps from here get much more difficult. This pre-announced $0.30 (7%) earnings miss for a fiscal year is monstrous. The last time a company with the cap and sales base that KSS owned (pre-blowup) missed at this magnitude in a fiscal year was back in 2012 at JCP under RonJon. Prior to that, we have to go all the way back to 2003 when TGT and KSS printed a miss of 11% and 8%, respectively.  

This is now the 5th straight quarter of positive SSS comps for a company that hasn’t put a string like this together since 3Q10 – 3Q11. By our math, given that e-commerce sales grew at 30%, brick and mortar comps were down 4% in the quarter. Gross margins were down to the magnitude of 100bps+ assuming SG&A growth of 3-4%.