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R3: REQUIRED RETAIL READING

October 25, 2010

Positioning for the upcoming holiday season remains the top priority for retailers with a few companies aggressively ramping both footprints and inventories while most of the industry continues to run lean and clean.

RESEARCH ANECDOTES

- With strict rules governing the sale of the iPad, retailers are still willing to comply for a chance to sell what it is likely the most popular item for the holiday season.  As part of Apple’s requirements, retailers selling the device must include the iPad in their circular with a FULL page dedicated to it.  Of course discounting isn’t allowed, however Target seems to have found a loophole by allowing the device to purchased under the company’s recently launched 5% rewards program.

 

- Spirits Halloween, the pop-up store subsidiary of Spencer’s Gifts, has opened 870 locations this year.  This marks a substantial increase of 150 units over last year.  With less than a week to go,  most anecdotes suggest that Halloween candy and costume sales are up year over year.  Recall that the NRF predicted a robust increase in this year’s Halloween spending.

 

- According to a BBC/Harris poll, 63% of American’s are angry about the economy.  This slightly outpaces the 62% of Americans that are angry about the government as well as the unemployment situation.  Taxes registered anger with 58% of those polled.

OUR TAKE ON OVERNIGHT NEWS 

LVMH Takes A Slice of Hermes - In a surprising revelation that could ignite a battle for one of luxury’s most hallowed names, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton said Saturday it holds a 14.2% stake in family-controlled Hermès, and plans to be a “long-term shareholder.” The luxury conglomerate LVMH said it holds more than 15mm shares of Hermès, plus more than 3mm derivative instruments it intends to covert into shares. That eventually would give LVMH 17.1% of the share capital. LVMH moved quickly to squash any takeover speculation, saying it has no intention of launching a tender offer, taking control of Hermès nor seeking board representation. <wwd.com/business-news>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:  If you can’t beat em, join em.  The success of super-luxury brand Hermes even through the recession clearly caught the eye of LVMH.

 

Christian Siriano Increases Presence at Payless For Fall 2011 - The designer is branching out from his dress shoe looks, adding a more moderately priced line. (Price points were not disclosed, but current retail is between $25 and $60.) The collection will include up to 20 styles of footwear and handbags, and feature on-trend details such as shearling and suede on a variety of boots, casuals, flats and sandals. <wwd.com/footwear-news>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:  Lower price points make a ton of sense here for the retailer which does a much better job managing a high volume, lower priced offering.  PR will likely not suffer, even if they’ve taken a haircut on the price points.

 

JNY's Stuart Weitzman Holdings On the Expansion Trail - Following several top executive appointments, the company is sketching out plans for a deeper move into branded retail stores, a wider international reach and a full push into e-commerce. Gaetano Sallorenzo, CEO of Italian denim company Replay, was tapped as CEO last week, while Wayne Kulkin was promoted to the post of president after 20 years with the company. Stuart Weitzman shoes and accessories are sold in more than 65 countries, with 33 retail stores in the U.S., and 35 locations in international markets including Canada, Mexico, Europe, Russia, China, Singapore and Australia, among other locales. In addition to wholesale and retail growth globally, executives are betting on the online business. <wwd.com/footwear-news>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:   Not surprising as JNY looks to “professionalize” its latest acquisition following years being of being run and managed by Weitzman himself. 

 

Puma to Restate 2009 Earnings Over `Irregularities' at Greek Joint Venture - Puma AG, the sporting-goods maker controlled by PPR SA, said “irregularities” at its Greek joint venture will cause the company to write off as much as 115 mm euros ($162 mm). <bloomberg.com>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: A JV gone rogue reportedly colluding with local Greek government officials is every retailers worst nightmare – unfortunately for them, it’s reality for Puma.

 

TRU to Roll Out Online Purchase and In Store Pickup - Toys ‘R’ Us Inc. plans to roll out a service in time for the holiday season that enables shoppers to buy any of more than 7,500 items online and pick them up in 260 Babies ‘R’ Us and select Toys ‘R’ Us bricks-and-mortar stores in such major U.S. metropolitan areas as Boston, Chicago, Seattle and Washington, D.C. The retailer will guarantee that the products will be available within two hours.  <internetretailer.com>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: Translation = higher inventories and traffic. Most retailers that have offered a similar option have realized meaningful increases in store traffic and incremental sales in 2010. Take into account the company’s plans to open 600+ pop-up stores over the holidays and the plan is likely to drive a meaningful uptick in traffic.

 

USPS Denied Another Rate Hike - The U.S. Postal Service has appealed a recent decision by The Postal Regulatory Commission to reject proposed postal rate hikes. In a statement, the U.S. Postal Service says it is requesting a review of the commission’s interpretation of the law that governs how prices are set and is asking again for permission to increase rates. It’s also asked for more clarity on how postal pricing laws will be applied if it wants to raise rates in the future. The U.S. Postal Services also says it is exploring other ways to come up with the  $2.3 billion the rate hikes were expected to generate. The Postal Service had sought a new rate schedule that would have raised most of its rates between 4% and 6%, effective next January. But some rate increases would have been higher for particular mail categories, including 23% for standard mail parcels and 5.1% for catalogs, the Postal Service says. <internetretailer.com>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: Expect a prolonged battle here – as the outcome will likely mean higher shipping rates in the end, it’s just a matter of by how much and when.

 

CFO Study Reveals Retailers Focus Shift - Retailers have shifted their focus from downsizing their businesses to downsizing the risks associated with renewed but slow growth. That was among the conclusions of the third annual survey of chief financial officers conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC’s Retailing Consulting Services. The study found that cfo’s were using many of the skills picked up during the economic downturn to maximize sales on minimal inventory, tighten up their supply chains and even look for ways to make their investments in marketing and advertising more productive in the wake of the worst recession in more than a generation. Survey results were gleaned from 32 retail cfo’s, 21 in North America and 11 abroad, and include department stores as well as apparel, jewelry and footwear specialty stores ranging in volume from $200 mm to more than $10 bn. There is a natural dynamic tension within retail between cfo’s, trained to focus on the bottom line, and buyers, who tend to be optimistic and upbeat. The cfo’s are forcing re-forecasts on a more regular basis, looking to make sure that the store is flowing goods closer to need rather than bringing them in and stacking them high.  <wwd.com/business-news>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: With inventories still at very lean levels relative to prior year levels, it’s no surprise to see CFO’s winning over buyer interest to stock up for the holiday – a trend we’ve seen in most of retail with the exception of sporting goods retailers with substantially more new product selling into the channel this year after a dearth of options in 2009.

 

Retailers Mixed on Job Hiring for Holiday - Retailers might be optimistic about holiday sales, but they still are mixed on whether to boost their ranks for the season. Larger retailers, from Macy’s to Finish Line, have announced plans to increase hiring during the fourth quarter, but smaller stores are hanging back. Many retailers are waiting until November to decide whether to add more associates, and will be watching the consumer mood closer to the holiday season — as well as the nationwide unemployment data — before making any moves. Larger retailers are feeling more confident than the small players as Macy's, Finish Line, and Kohl's all announced increased holiday hires. Overall, outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. forecast a total of 550,000 to 600,000 retail hires during the months of October, November and December this year, compared with 501,400 last year. Despite the bump, these numbers still do not match the holiday hires before 2008, when retailers added about 700,000 new positions.  <wwd.com/footwear-news>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: Driven in part by a trend towards pop-up stores, our view is that this year’s holiday hiring figures are slightly inflated as a result. With customer service still on at the top of the list in terms of deciding factors for customers, the investment in employees are likely to win out at the end of the day when we’re looking back on the holiday 2010 season.

 

Leather Finishing Supplier Increases Prices to Offset Raw Materials - Due to escalating prices of raw material feedstock in the last couple of months, Stahl has announced to increase prices for several of their leather finish and performance coatings products, effective December 1 2010, or as contracts allow. The company is therefore forced to pass on part of these increases to their own product prices, in order to guarantee undisturbed supplies to its customers, which Stahl see as their main responsibility. Stahl is one of the world’s leading suppliers of wet-end products, dyes and finishes to the leather industry.  <fashionnetasia.com>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: Further evidence of cost inflation across raw materials. We saw news on raw hide prices increases last week, now we are seeing leather goods finishers take up price, next are accelerating handbag markups from retailers.

 

New Technology For Online Apparel Retail - Start with an armadillo. Then dress it up and take its picture. That’s the latest approach to the digital dressing room, and the “armadillo” in question is a robotic mannequin developed by Fits.me Biorobotics. A few European companies have already launched the virtual try-on tool. The goal is to reduce disappointment for online shoppers and costly returns for the merchants. Other retailers have tried computer-generated 3-D animation or augmented reality. The Fits.me robotic torso’s armadillo-like moving surface plates can contort to 100,000 body shapes, driven by algorithms drawn from more than 30,000 three-dimensional human body scans. <wwd.com/retail-news>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: This tech has been in the works for some time, but is likely to pay dividends. Consider this – according to Infosys, the average return rate for retail stores is roughly 6%. With rates significantly higher for apparel stores at nearly 20% and online apparel at ~35%-40% - you can expect to see the technology on retailer sites as soon as it’s made available.