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Alberto Culver Company announced growth in sales and diluted earnings per share from continuing operations. Net sales for the first quarter increased 2.9% to $363.0 million compared to $352.8 million in the prior year quarter. On an organic basis, which excludes the effect of foreign currency fluctuations and acquisitions and divestitures, sales were flat in the quarter.
"While the hair care category remains soft, trends are slowly beginning to improve and we continue to gain market share," said V. James Marino, president and CEO, Alberto Culver. "Sales growth was particularly strong in our international segment, even with a very strong performance in the prior year quarter."
In the U.S., despite market share gains and continued solid growth on TRESemme, reported sales declined 2.5% versus a difficult comparison against the prior year first quarter where sales increased 8.0% (including 4% growth from last year's Noxzema acquisition). International sales on a reported basis increased 12.3% (foreign currency fluctuations accounted for 8.5% of the growth) behind double-digit growth on TRESemme and St. Ives.
The company's gross profit margin was 53.4% in the first quarter compared to 51.6% in the prior year quarter. Gross margin improved primarily as a result of lower commodity costs. "We are very pleased with our gross margin improvement as it provides leverage to increase our advertising investments in our core beauty care brands," said Marino.
Advertising and other marketing investments in the first quarter increased to $50.1 million compared to $49.4 million in the prior year quarter. The increase resulted primarily from double-digit increases in TRESemme and St. Ives. Marino added, "In the quarter, we increased our investments in aggregate on our core beauty care brands and we continued to benefit from lower media rates."