CHARLOTTE, N.C., May 22, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- The Cato Corporation (NYSE: CATO) held its Annual Shareholders' Meeting on Thursday, May 21, 2015 at its corporate offices in Charlotte, NC.
John Cato, Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer, commented on the Company's performance in 2014, the third best year in its history. The Company reported an increase in same store sales of 4%, a net income increase of 11% and diluted earnings per share increased 16% over the prior year. In addition, through dividend payout and share repurchase, Cato returned over $75 million to shareholders in 2014 and still remains a debt free company with over $260 million in cash.
Mr. Cato discussed how the Company remains committed to growing its overall business by driving same-store sales profitably, growing eCommerce and continuing store development.
In discussing growth plans for 2015, the Company expects to open 42 new stores for the year. Mr. Cato noted that the Company's store growth plans were higher; however, store development continues to be challenging due to the lack of new shopping center development and increased competition for good retail space.
There were also a number of key initiatives that began in 2014 and are continuing in 2015. The Company built an internal design organization that has evolved to include apparel, shoe, jewelry, accessory and print designers; plus, in the support of this group, the addition of a fabric specialist. This design organization will identify the newest trends to create exclusive designs for Cato with the goal of enhancing our assortments by layering unique, exciting designs that will continue to bring existing customers back to Cato, while attracting new ones.
Cato also opened sourcing offices in Asia including Hong Kong and Shanghai and is planning for additional operations in Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia and other cities in China where manufacturing takes place. By having offices closer to manufacturing centers, the Company expects faster development and delivery of new products. Plus, having Cato Associates working for us in Asia will improve the efficiency of the sourcing process. Finally, by going directly to our factories, we will be able to maximize our cost savings.
Mr. Cato also reported the successful launch of the e-commerce website for the Versona concept. Like the Cato website, all functions of e-commerce are performed in-house including fulfillment, photo studio, customer call center and website management. In addition, he reported that the current Cato e-commerce site, which was launched in 2013, continues to perform above expectation. Mr. Cato stated the Company will continue to refine and develop the existing Cato e-commerce business by adjusting merchandise assortments and processes, enhancing the development of the mobile site and reaching new customers through social media marketing. Both e-commerce businesses support Cato's initiative to give its customer a convenient shopping experience with an omni-channel approach including the ability to purchase merchandise unavailable in our stores through the web channel, using the e-commerce site to locate available styles in nearby stores, and the option to ship and return to a store with no shipping charges.
In addition to the initiatives mentioned above, Mr. Cato was excited to report the recent purchase of intellectual property of two well known brands that recently filed for bankruptcy, Cache and Body Central. He noted that the Company is still developing plans for these brands and sees them as potential vehicles to grow the overall business in the future.
From a corporate perspective, Mr. Cato reported that the company is finalizing the expansion and renovation of its corporate offices and continuing to upgrade Information Technology systems and improving our data security to better protect customers and Associates. In addition, the Company is continuing to purchase land in South Carolina for future growth and development.
In summary, Mr. Cato stated, "2014 was a very good year and Cato delivered excellent sales and profits. We started a new design organization, opened our own sourcing offices in Asia and built upon our e-commerce business. In 2015, we will leverage and grow these initiatives and we are confident that we will continue our momentum into 2015 and beyond."
In a meeting of the Board of Directors prior to the Annual Meeting, the Board declared a regular quarterly dividend of $0.30 per share. This dividend equates to a dividend of $1.20 on an annualized basis, and represents an annualized yield of 3.1%. In 2014, the Company repurchased over 1.4 million shares of Cato stock. There is also remaining authorization to repurchase an additional 2 million shares. These purchases reflect the Company's commitment to returning value to its shareholders.
During the Annual Meeting, shareholders re-elected John P. D. Cato, Thomas E. Meckley and Bailey W. Patrick each for a term expiring in 2018. Shareholders also ratified the selection of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP as the Company's independent registered public accounting firm for the fiscal year ending January 30, 2016.
The Cato Corporation is a leading specialty retailer of value-priced fashion apparel and accessories operating three concepts, "Cato", "Versona" and "It's Fashion". The Company's Cato stores offer exclusive merchandise with fashion and quality comparable to mall specialty stores at low prices every day. The Company also offers exclusive merchandise found in its Cato stores at www.catofashions.com. Versona is a unique fashion destination offering apparel and accessories including jewelry, handbags and shoes at exceptional prices every day. Select Versona merchandise can also be found at www.shopversona.com. It's Fashion offers fashion with a focus on the latest trendy styles for the entire family at low prices every day. Additional information on The Cato Corporation is available at www.catocorp.com.
Statements in this press release not historical in nature including, without limitation, statements regarding the Company's expected or estimated financial results are considered "forward-looking" within the meaning of The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Such forward-looking statements are based on current expectations that are subject to known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those contemplated by the forward-looking statements. Such factors include, but are not limited to, the following: general economic conditions; competitive factors and pricing pressures; the Company's ability to predict fashion trends; consumer apparel buying patterns; adverse weather conditions and inventory risks due to shifts in market demand and other factors discussed under "Risk Factors" in Part I, Item 1A of the Company's most recently filed annual report on Form 10-K and in other reports the Company files with or furnishes to the SEC from time to time. The Company does not undertake to publicly update or revise the forward-looking statements even if experience or future changes make it clear that the projected results expressed or implied therein will not be realized. The Company is not responsible for any changes made to this press release by wire or Internet services.
SOURCE The Cato Corporation