Feb. 20--The long, snowy winter that's testing our tolerance levels did help Toro's sales move in a northerly direction last quarter.
The Bloomington-based maker of snow throwers, lawn mowers and landscaping equipment saw its sales rise less than 1 percent to $446 million in the first quarter, which ended Jan. 31.
"Significant snowfall across North American markets this winter spurred retail demand for our snow products," said Toro's CEO Michael Hoffman said Thursday. Combined with strong international demand for its products, the company was able to temper tough sales comparisons to the year-ago quarter, when Toro launched popular turf equipment with a new engine, which boosted business.
But earnings were a tougher comparison, with Toro's net earnings declining to $25.9 million in the most recent quarter from $31.4 million a year ago -- a 17.5-percent drop.
Hoffman noted Thursday that Toro's primary selling season is coming up, and that it's "well-positioned across our businesses to drive retail sales and increase our market share."
Last year, when winter's grasp wasn't loosened until late in the spring, sales of lawn mowers were down. The company expects its retailers to transition quickly to spring products, and is expecting spring to come earlier this year than last.
Toro stock was down 1.2 percent midday Thursday at $65.13.
The stock's weakness on Thursday also may have been in response to the company's guidance for second-quarter earnings per share. While analysts were hoping for $1.52 per share in the quarter, Toro's guidance sets it in a range of $1.45 to $1.50.
Toro's earnings guidance for fiscal 2014, with net earnings of $2.90 to $2.95 per share, remained in line with expectations.
John Welbes can be reached at 651-228-2175.
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