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Europe’s New Year’s Update

Position: Long Germany (EWG); Short Italy (EWI), Euro (FXE)

 

While Estonia made news joining as the 17th country to use the Euro as a common currency in the New Year, Europe’s economy continues to be centered on its sovereign debt and deficit issues, with the bailouts of Greece and Ireland in 2010 functioning as mere fiscal band aids. As we’ve pointed out for over a year, we see these fiscal issues plaguing Europe over the next 3-5 years; in the near to intermediate term we’re tasked with managing risk around the volatility throughout the region.

 

Currently we’re playing Europe’s Sovereign Debt Dichotomy with a short position in Italy (we re-shorted the etf EWI yesterday on strength), a short position in the Euro (FXE), and continued long exposure to Germany (EWG) in our Virtual Portfolio.

 

However, the data that’s new on the margin is two-fold:

 

1.  Inflation is rising throughout the Eurozone, including the Eurozone CPI average that rose to +2.2% in December Y/Y (versus 1.9% in November), the first time it’s been above the ECB’s 2% target since November 2008; and Eurozone PPI that rose +4.5% in November Y/Y (versus 4.4% in October).

 

In the chart below we show the growing divergence of CPI across select countries. We continue to emphasize that inflation should rise globally on an absolute basis. When it comes to an investment decision in Europe, we like Germany’s low inflation outlook given the set-up for slowing growth in the region in 2011. (Germany too saw a rise in CPI to 1.9% in December Y/Y versus 1.7% in November, see chart below).

 

Europe’s New Year’s Update - mhh1

 

Further, it’s worth note that the inflationary pressures are real (out of pocket expenses) for consumers – the highly publicized and debated austerity programs included measures to raise VAT, and the New Year marked the official increase: the UK from 17.5% to 20%; Spain boosted to 18% from 16%; and Portugal plans to raise its VAT to 23% this year.

 

Also, weakness in the Euro versus major currencies due to the debt and deficit imbalances could spur inflationary pressures in 2011. We’re currently short the Euro etf FXE with a TRADE (3 weeks or less) range versus the US Dollar of $1.32-$1.35. Certainly, given the magnitude and duration of Europe’s sovereign debt issues, we could foresee significant downside to the common currency that would create its own inflationary pressures.

 

 

2.  Germany, despite our bullish outlook, is showing signs of “topping” from a fundamental perspective vis-à-vis the Manufacturing and Services PMI.

 

As the historical PMI chart below shows, from a mean reversion standpoint we see the probability of a move to the downside in these numbers far outweighing the upside over the next months. The 60 line is historically a heavy resistance level. A downturn in the data however isn’t a huge conceptual surprise given that the German economy should slow in 2011 versus 2010: Bloomberg currently estimates GDP at 2.55% in 2011 versus 3.60% in 2010.

 

Europe’s New Year’s Update - mhh2

 

Finally, it’s worth refreshing our charts of sovereign bond yields and CDS as a proxy for risk. The takeaway is that both indicators are confirming a continued heightening in the risk trade, and in some cases all-time highs. Interestingly, today’s sovereign bond issuance from Portugal of €500 million found sufficient demand, however at a significantly higher yield demonstrating the increased risk premium that is demanded by investors.  The 6-month paper yielded 3.68% (versus 2.04% in September!).

 

Europe’s New Year’s Update - mhh3

 

Europe’s New Year’s Update - mhh4

 

As yields have raced higher over the last year particularly for the PIIGS, and this despite bailouts of Greece (May) and Ireland (December), the equity performance of the periphery also showed marked underperformance.  Greece’s Athex was the worst performer globally year-to-date at -35.6% and is down -10.2% since 1st wk of December. And Spain’s IBEX 25 and Italy’s FTSE MIB tumbled -18.1% and -12.4% respectively ytd, to round out some of the worst performing indices globally ytd.

 

In 2011 we’ll be picking our spots in Europe. We have long biases on countries like Germany and Sweden and short biases on Spain, Italy, and Greece.

 

Stay tuned,

 

Matthew Hedrick

Analyst

 

Europe’s New Year’s Update - mhh5


R3: M, SHLD, Kellwood, LVMH

 

R3: REQUIRED RETAIL READING

January 5, 2010

 

 

 

RESEARCH ANECDOTES

  • Keep an eye out for the US introduction of Canadian brand, Joe Fresh.  The extreme affordable men’s and women’s fashion line is a more recent endeavor from Club Monaco’s founder, Joseph Mimran.  Interestingly, the low-priced line is sold exclusively at Canadian grocer Loblaw’s.  Here the in the states, the line will make its debut in a freestanding, company owned location on lower fifth avenue in New York City.
  • In a sign that TV isn’t entirely dead and the economy may be on the rebound, Academy Award commercial spots are commanding $1.7 million per 30 second spot.  This marks a measured increase from 2010 at $1.5 million and 2009 at $1.3 million.  No word yet on whether JC Penney will continue to use Oscar night as its premier marketing venue for yet another year.
  • A Gallup study suggests the post-Christmas blizzard had a substantial impact on spending over what would normally have been a key shopping weekend.  In the first two days of the day-after-Christmas blizzard that affected more than 20 states east of the Missouri River, consumers' average daily spending fell by nearly 50% in the East and by 55% in the Midwest, compared with their average spending over the four days prior to Christmas. By contrast, spending in the South and West fell by no more than 11% over the same time period.

OUR TAKE ON OVERNIGHT NEWS

 

Macy's Ramps E-Commerce Operations - In a dramatic buildup of its online operations, Macy’s Inc. will add 725 positions at macys.com and bloomingdales.com. over the next two years. Macy’s said it was the single biggest growth maneuver to date in the 15-year-old online operation. Macys.com was launched in 1996 as an information-only Web site but later that year started selling merchandise. Macy’s relaunched the site in 1998, recognizing the potential of the channel. Bloomingdales.com was launched in 2001. The announcement has broad implications for the retail industry, which in the past two years has done more firing than hiring but now sees e-commerce as the biggest avenue for growth.  “Macy’s is just the tip of the iceberg. What you see happening here is going to accelerate throughout the industry,” said Les Berglass, chief executive officer of Berglass+Associates executive search firm. “E-commerce represents the greatest need for talent, relative to its size, both for top talent and the folks to support this talent.” According to Berglass, brick-and-mortar retailers experienced a 25 percent average increase in their e-commerce business this holiday season, more than double their overall increases. “Add smartphones, iPads and soon-to-be-released new versions of the tablet, the growth accelerates even more,” Berglass said. “While e-commerce now is 10 percent of the retail universe, it accounts for more than 20 percent of our search practice today.” <WWD>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: We believe similar announcements from other traditional bricks and mortar retailers will become commonplace this year.  With consistent and robust growth in e-com across the board, infrastructure investments are much needed to play catch up on volumes that are beginning to make a difference.

 

Sears Hires Lana Cain Krauter - Sears Holdings Corp. has tapped Lana Cain Krauter as senior vice president and president of its apparel business, both online and in stores. The retailer has been struggling with its apparel offering, but the company noted that Cain Krauter is an apparel veteran, most recently serving as president and chief merchandising officer for Bealls Department Stores Inc., and, before that, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s and children’s apparel at J.C. Penney Co. Inc. Cain Krauter also held senior roles at Goody’s Family Clothing, and Sears, Roebuck, where she oversaw women’s ready-to-wear, intimate apparel, accessories and import teams. Cain Krauter will report to John Goodman, executive vice president of apparel and home. He cited her track record in brand, product and customer-loyalty program development, as well as her ability to create “high-performance teams.” “I am excited to add such an accomplished leader to our apparel team,” added Bruce Johnson, interim ceo and president of Sears Holdings. “Under John’s leadership, we are transforming our softlines business. Additionally, we’re continuing to attract high-caliber talent to the company who are focused on satisfying the customer.”<WWD>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: The apparel leadership revolving door spins yet again at SHLD.  History suggests this a tough role to fill, no matter what resume comes along with the “president” title. 

 

Luxury Key to December Comp Results- Luxury shoppers helped lift December comparable-store sales, but analysts, already coming down from their holiday highs, questioned if consumers could keep up the pace as economic headwinds accelerate. Despite winter blizzards and fears that shoppers would play Scrooge this Christmas, December comps proved robust and are likely to rise between 3.4 percent and 3.6 percent when retailers report results on Thursday. “I’m reluctant to say that things are back,” said Mike Berry, director of industry research for MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse. According to SpendingPulse — which estimates total U.S. retail sales made by cash, check or credit card — total apparel sales rose 10.9 percent in December over a 2.3 percent increase last year. Women’s apparel grew 6.1 percent, which was its best performance of 2010, as men’s apparel rose 9.9 percent. Family and children’s apparel jumped 12.4 percent and 11.3 percent, respectively. Luxury sales expanded 8.5 percent, the biggest increase for the sector since last spring. Footwear sales increased 10.8 percent while jewelry sales rose 10.4 percent, bolstered by a 15.6 percent leap in sales at independent jewelers. The big loser in December was the department store segment, which brought in a negative 1.4 percent comp. Thomson Reuters’ consensus estimate is that the department stores reporting comps on Thursday will have a median increase of 3.8 percent. <WWD>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: While we do expect sales to come in strong for the month of December, we don’t put much credence into the MasterCard numbers. Historically these statistics tend to be overly bullish when used as a proxy for actual results. 

 

Irving Place Acquires Dots- Betting the combination of trendy fashions and value will continue to pay dividends, Irving Place Capital acquired Dots, a Glenwillow, Ohio-based retailer with more than 400 stores in 26 states. John Howard, chief executive officer of Irving Place, told WWD the retailer could expand to 1,000 doors with some additional funds and the right kind of attention. Dots has sales of about $400 million. Terms of the deal, which closed Monday, were not disclosed.  “The company’s doing quite well,” Howard said. “It’s a question of how can we help nudge it to do better.” Irving Place has plenty of experience from which to draw, having invested in Aéropostale, New York & Co., The Vitamin Shoppe, Seven For All Mankind, Stuart Weitzman and, through a collaboration with Creative Artists Agency, J Brand. “They’re fast on their feet,” said Howard of Dots. “They’re not a vertical retailer, so they go to the markets. They’re not fashion leaders — they’re kind of quick followers. That’s a recipe that you can do without designing your own product. It’s not commodity apparel, it’s fashionable apparel. Why buy something that’s plain when you can buy something that’s special and pay the same price?” <WWD>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: More M&A and this time with a retailer that many probably haven’t visited.  This may be the fashion apparel equivalent of FDO or DG.  

 

Kellwood Acquires Sportswear Brand - Kellwood Co. started the New Year on an active note, closing on its acquisition of contemporary sportswear brand Rebecca Taylor. Terms of the deal, which closed on Tuesday, were not disclosed. Financial sources said the funding for the purchase was by both Kellwood and its parent, Sun Capital Partners. Rebecca Taylor and her business partner Elizabeth Bugdaycay, who together founded the firm 15 years ago, will remain with the company. Michael Kramer, Kellwood’s president and chief executive officer, promises more acquisitions on the horizon for 2011, and sources said that Gryphon could be the next target on Kellwood’s contemporary radar. The two firms are said to be in talks about a possible acquisition. “This is an awesome brand. Rebecca and Beth are incredibly talented people,” Kramer said. Market sources said the brand’s volume is in the $45 million range, similar to Vince’s sales when Kellwood acquired that brand in September 2006. Vince’s volume has since grown to about $150 million annually. The firm acquired Adam, headed by Adam Lippes, and Isis in 2010. According to Kramer, the plan is to build Rebecca Taylor through additional doors for its wholesale business, a more sophisticated Web presence with improved fulfillment functionality and, in particular, through the increased presence of freestanding retail stores from the company’s current portfolio of two. <WWD>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: Kellwood continues on its path towards building the ultimate portfolio of small to medium sized contemporary sportswear brands.  With the era of the billion dollar mega-brand essentially over, this stealth approach to growth may ultimately prove to be one of the more unique business models in fashion apparel.

 

Totes Isotoner Acquires Acorn Products - Accessories marketer Totes Isotoner is expanding its foothold in the at-home and comfort markets with the recent acquisition of Acorn Products, an icon in the slipper category.  “Now is the ideal time for Acorn to add the critical mass necessary to maximize growth opportunities we see in the global marketplace today and in the future,” said John Donnelly, formerly president and CEO of Acorn and now GM of the brand. Isotoner’s global footprint and depth of resources, he said, will enable Acorn to provide products and services to customers well beyond its current capabilities. Acorn has a broad range of products, including its original Slipper Sock and more recent introductions in the performance outdoor category. “We have a long heritage in quality comfort products,” said Donnelly. “We will continue to build upon the unique heritage of the brand and the product direction in place today.” <WWD>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: Acorn=comfort.  We wonder of Acorn will ultimately stay true to its slipper roots or is now contemplating some sort of comfort shoe product extension?

 

French Market Authority to Debate Hermès Request - The board of France’s stock market regulator will meet on Thursday to examine a request by Hermès to be exempted from buying out minority shareholders in its attempt to fend off a potential takeover bid by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, according to market sources. The 16-member committee of the AMF, headed by president Jean-Pierre Jouyet, will debate the issue but will not necessarily publish a ruling on the same day, the sources said. Officials at the AMF declined comment. LVMH revealed last month that it has boosted its stake in Hermès to 20.2 percent after its initial stock acquisition of a 17.1 percent share of capital through cash-settled equity swaps. The AMF is separately examining whether LVMH violated market rules by buying the shares via equity swaps. Though LVMH chairman and chief executive officer Bernard Arnault has said he is not seeking full control of the maker of Birkin handbags and silk scarves, Hermès has vowed to protect itself from what it considers an unwelcome suitor. <WWD>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: The saga continues with further clarity expected Thursday. 

 

Twitter Users Share More Info - Twitter’s user base has experienced infamous growth over the past couple years, with the company announcing in December that 100 million new accounts had been opened in 2010 and eMarketer estimating that the US Twitter population rose from 18 million in 2009 to 26 million last year. The social media service may also be beginning to mature as a community. According to research from Sysomos, users’ following habits have changed dramatically since 2009. That year, nearly two in five Twitter users around the world followed five people or fewer. By 2010 that group had been sliced nearly in half, indicating more participation among users. There was also a sharp difference in the proportion of accounts who were followed by five or fewer other users, dropping from 46% of the total in 2009 to 32% in 2010. Tweeting is still a relatively niche phenomenon among the population as a whole, with a Pew Internet & American Life Project survey indicating just 8% of US web users participate in the service. But those users may be developing a deeper relationship with the site that will keep it a vibrant community for marketers. <emarketer>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: The key takeaway here is the stickiness of Twitters’ users, which appears to be increasing. Given the two-fold increase in several profile metrics year-over-year, these figures indicate a successful conversion of what many users probably considered a ‘trial period.’

 

R3: M, SHLD, Kellwood, LVMH - R3 1 5 11

 

 



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What Storm?

This morning’s athletic apparel data provides the latest read-through of how the end of December played out and just how significant the impact was from the blizzard at month’s end – the bottom-line, it was more of a snowball than a snow bank.

 

With this week’s numbers in, we have our first look at the impact of the storm in aggregate at least through the lens of sports apparel sales, which were up sequentially over the past 2-weeks both on a YY and Trailing 3-week basis. Recall that last week’s athletic apparel data included sales through Saturday, while the footwear data did not – Saturday through Tuesday’s sales will be released later this morning.

 

Looked at on a regional basis, it’s no surprise to see sales down sequentially in both New England and the Mid Atlantic, but importantly neither turned negative on a year-over-year basis. In fact New England was up 9.9%. An update on brand performance and footwear sales to follow…

 

Casey Flavin

Director

 

What Storm? - FW App App Table 1 5 11

 

What Storm? - FW App Reg 1 5 11


SBUX: STRANGE BED FELLOWS

News of a rumored plan to buyout Acosta Inc, Starbucks’ new partner for its product development, manufacturing, and marketing, emerged today.

 

Bloomberg reported today that Thomas H. Lee Partners LP plans to buy the Acosta Inc. food marketing company from private-equity firm AEA Investors LP for more than $2 billion and that a transaction may be announced as soon as tomorrow.

 

It is important to remember that SBUX announced in early December at its analyst meeting that it has partnered with Acosta to pursue a direct model approach for its entire CPG channel, effective March 1, 2011.  SBUX assured investors and analysts of a smooth transition following the termination of the Kraft distribution agreement. 

 

Through its new partnership with Acosta, Starbucks will be responsible for product development, manufacturing, distribution and marketing while Acosta will be responsible for the selling and merchandising of SBUX’s products within the grocery channel. 

 

This announcement is made more interesting by the fact that Thomas H. Lee Partners also owns Dunkin’ Donuts.  I don’t know the details of the agreement between Starbucks and Acosta, nor do I know if and how a sale to Thomas H. Lee Partners would impact that agreement, but I don’t think Starbucks will take comfort in the fact that Thomas Lee is effectively in bed with both Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts.

 

Howard Penney

Managing Director


SONC: LESS BAD IS GOOD

Conclusion: SONC is not yet out of the woods from a top-line perspective, but margins are stabilizing and the company could emerge from the “deep hole” as early as 2QFY11

 

SONC posted a sequential improvement in comparable restaurant sales yesterday.  System-wide same-store sales declined 2.4% during the first quarter versus a 6.5% decline in the same quarter a year prior.  StreetAccount consensus was calling for a comparable restaurant sales number of -3.2%. 

 

Turning to our quadrant chart, it is clear to see how poorly SONC has been performing over the past 5 quarters.  From a sales perspective, partner-drive in comparable restaurant sales have declined for 11 consecutive quarters.  We anticipate the company moving out of the “Deep Hole” quadrant by next quarter and remaining safely out in 3QFY11.  The company is seeing stabilization in margins and faces easier comparisons in 2QFY11 than last quarter.  From my model, I see restaurant level margins being approximately flat to up slightly next quarter and positive in 3Q.  While this is largely due to exceedingly sharp restaurant level margin declines in the year prior, results in this range would be a significant improvement from the last 5 quarters of significant margin erosion.

 

From a sales perspective, things continue to trend in a positive direction.  While the company’s guidance for sequentially improving same-store sales throughout the year seems like a stretch on a one-year basis after fiscal 2QFY11 (partner drive-ins are lapping an easy -14.9% comp during 2QFY11 and a -13.2% comp on a system basis) , two-year trends should continue to improve.  Given my view that MCD’s comps will slow as the company’s beverage business will fail to maintain the same level of trial, Sonic should have less of a headwind to face in the back half of the year from a market share perspective. 

 

SONC: LESS BAD IS GOOD - sonc quadrant

 

From a sentiment perspective, Sonic is not particularly well-liked by the buy-side or sell-side.  The average short interest in the QSR space, excluding the outliers GMCR and PEET, is 4%.  Sonic’s short interest is currently at 6% which is one of the highest in the space.  While that hardly makes it the runt of the consumer discretionary litter, it is noteworthy that Sonic is one of the few stocks that have seen an uptick in short interest over the past couple of months.  

 

SONC: LESS BAD IS GOOD - qsr short interest

 

The sell-side also has a negative view of SONC.  Given an improving top line and margin trends that should improve significantly this fiscal year, I think there is a strong possibility that this chart will change markedly over the course of the next 6-9 months (especially if my view on MCD is correct).   We are nearing a turn in sell-side love, or at the very least, a decline in sell-side bearishness.

 

SONC: LESS BAD IS GOOD - sonic sell side ratings

 

Howard Penney

Managing Director


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