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R3: COST, BJ, CRI, AMZN

R3: REQUIRED RETAIL READING

March 3, 2011

 

 

 

 

RESEARCH ANECDOTES

  • Costco noted that while most retailers try to get margin when they can (i.e. in inflationary periods such as now), they are trying to hold margins a bit while they can.  In other words, Costco will look to hold prices a bit longer than the competition in an effort to maintain its value proposition.  They also use margin improvements in categories other than food to offset some the of the margin degradation they expect to occur in consumable categories.
  • BJ’s noted that there has not been enough inflation coming through the system yet to have a good read on how Wal-Mart and the traditional grocers are going to pass through cost increases at retail.  Management believes that the company’s overall value proposition remains strong in periods of rising prices as the appeal of the “club” may actually go up on a relative basis when the consumer is looking to save money.
  • In one of the more sober perspectives on product costs so far this year, CRI’s management highlighted that better visibility suggests an increase of +25% through the 2H of 2011. While the company expects to mitigate cost increases with higher prices, it’s no surprise that margin compression is clearly a reality here as indicated by the Q1 outlook calling for earnings 15%-25% below consensus.

OUR TAKE ON OVERNIGHT NEWS

 

Amazon Warns it will Leave California Over Tax Law - Amazon.com Inc. told California tax officials this week that it will cut ties with thousands of California affiliates if the state passes pending legislation requiring the online retailer to collect sales tax from California customers. Amazon, contending that four bills pending in the California Legislature appear to be unconstitutional or would “construct Trojan horses” leading to unconstitutional regulation, said passage of any of the bills into law would compel the world’s largest online retailer to end its advertising relationships with more than 10,000 California-based participants in Amazon’s affiliate program. Amazon, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, compensates program participants when they refer consumers who make purchases on Amazon.com. <InternetRetailer>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: Just weeks after threatening to pull out of Texas, Amazon is clearly ready to go to the mat here suggesting it will leave California as well if required to collect taxes. Given the state of California’s economy, the retailer’s stance on the issue has just strengthened materially.

 

RL Gang Back for Spring - Ralph Lauren’s favorite school class — dressed impeccably in his new childrens wear offerings — is back for spring. “The RL Gang: A Magically Magnificent School Adventure,” a shoppable online storybook, is launching Thursday at RalphLauren.com/RLGang and Bloomingdales.com/RLGang, and Uma Thurman served as narrator this time. The second edition also comes with a contest to find a child to appear in a future installment. Parents in the U.S. and U.K. can upload a photo of their child on Lauren’s Facebook page for people to vote on — adding interactive elements to the project — and the winning child will be flown to New York for the shoot. <WWD>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: The latest from RL’s innovative online team, this site offers a fresh new take on the presentation of children’s clothing illustrating the product in motion as worn by children in the story. Take a look here: (ralphlauren.com)

 

Eva Mendez becomes Brand Ambassador for Reebok EasyTone - Hollywood actress Eva Mendes has become the latest ambassador of Reebok's EasyTone toning collection. Other endorsers include supermodel Helena Christensen and British actress Kelly Brook. "I feel better when I'm in good shape, and that's what I like about Reebok EasyTone - it gives me a little extra as I go about my daily activities," said Mendes in a statement. "Between long days on the set and travel, it's not always possible to get a full workout in, so I have to make the time I have count. As an actress, being fit is important, and EasyTone is my great secret!" Uli Becker, President of Reebok International, added: "Eva Mendes fits perfectly with Reebok and EasyTone - she's fun, inspirational, committed to fitness and a style icon to women around the world." <SportsOneSource>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: The latest move to one up each other in the toning endorsement in the battle (recall Skechers just added Kim Kardashian), it appears the brands are looking to squeeze what remains of demand for the category.

 

Retailer Demand for Real Estate Rising - U.S. retailers are ramping up store expansion plans on the strength of a rebound in consumer spending, according to ChainLinks Retail Advisors, a retail real estate advisory services firm serving retailers, landlords, and investors in North America. The firm’s recently published National Retailer and Restaurant Expansion Guide reports retailer demand for real estate up across the board.  “As 2010 came to a close, growth plans were up 30% from the levels we recorded last year,” said ChainLinks Research Director, Garrick Brown. “Following the strong performance during this year’s holiday sales season, many chains further upped their growth plans.  <SportsOneSource>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: Retailers have been increasingly more optimistic about store growth plans since the 2H of last year as sales results and visibility improved. The question now is how they’re looking at 2012 with top-line concerns secondary to tighter margins over the intermediate-term.

 

Advances in Technology Drive Activewear Market - Get me a doctor! That’s a cry activewear brands are making as they continue to push the technology envelope with products such as carbon fiber bicycle shorts, water-resistant running jackets and light-as-air skiwear. From medical doctors to engineers, companies are hiring experts outside the industry to develop new ways to protect athletes from both the elements and the rigors of sports — all while keeping comfort in mind.  For Under Armour, that translates into Charged Cotton, which is being billed as the first true performance cotton apparel, while at Asics, it’s battery-operated jackets that light up to make the wearer visible in the dark.  <WWD>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: Still waiting on the next generation “wellness” apparel line that shrinks the waistline while stationary.

 

February e-commerce Spending Jumps 13.2% - Shoppers spent $13.8 billion online in February, a 13.2% year-over-year increase, according to an estimate released today by MasterCard Advisors, the credit card company’s consulting arm.  Consumers spent $13.1 billion online in January. February is the fourth consecutive month with double-digit online spending increases.  Plus, customers spent more money online in February this year than February last year in every category measured except department stores, MasterCard says, though the payment card network did not release figures for all categories. The SpendingPulse unit uses surveys and data from its credit and debit card network to estimate all retail transactions.<InternetRetailer>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: Echoing improved sales we’re seeing in weekly athletic sales data, growth in online sales is a bit more modest as consumers were undoubtedly more anxious to get out of the house following an anomalous January.

 

 


MCD – GOT JAVA?

Including today’s performance MCD is down about 1% year-to-date and has underperformed the S&P 500 by roughly 5.0%. 

 

The underperformance is testing the willpower of the BULLS as we are headed into a very tenuous time for the company - the reporting of 1Q11 EPS.  Before we learn about earnings, we will get one more monthly reading on same-store sales trends for February. 

 

Yesterday, Bloomberg ran an article that highlighted one of primary our concerns for MCD, which is that the advertising strategy for the company has moved too far away from the core customer and is now too focused on selling a drink rather than a burger.

 

The article focused on Ronald McDonald and the company’s move away from using him as part of the advertising strategy.  While I agree with the premise of the article, the focus on Ronald McDonald misses the point.  Kid’s meals have been declining in importance for 20 years as evidenced by the removal of most playgrounds from suburban MCD stores six years ago.  In addition, Happy Meals have become an afterthought on the marketing calendar.  Ten years ago you would hear rumors that one market or another ran out of a particular toy in the middle of a promotion; that doesn't seem to happen anymore.

 

Lastly, when was the last time you heard management give credit to a Happy Meal promotion for increased same-store sales growth?

 

We have seen in some markets that MCD has been pushing to sell the basic Happy Meal for $2.99 instead of $3.50 to help improve sales; this price reduction won't be implemented nationally because with rising food costs and the cost of toys, the Happy Meal becomes a money loser for franchisees.  Since Happy Meals are a low profit sale for the company, it’s just not a focus.  In addition, a parent can spend less by ordering off the dollar menu. 

 

As I highlighted in the MCD Black Book, the dollar spend on beverages has shifted significantly over the past three years.  Advertising on beverages as a percentage of the company’s total U.S. marketing spend has gone from 3% in 2008 to 43% in 2010.  As hard as MCD tries, they are not going to be as successful as Starbucks in creating that third place.  Consumers are just not going to use the restaurant the same way. 

 

Domino’s new and inspired pizza launch is the most recent example of a successful new product that can’t “comp the comp.”  MCD’s smoothie/frappe launch will fall prey to the same phenomenon.  To recall, I estimate that the incremental frappe and smoothies sales combined contributed about 5.7% of the reported 2Q10 3.7% U.S. comp growth and 5.9% of the 5.3% growth in 3Q10.  If my estimates are close to being correct, that would imply a decline in the company’s core business of about 2.0% and nearly 1% in 2Q10 and 3Q10, respectively. 

 

Given MCD’s consistently strong performance, a negative comp for MCD is a bigger deal than it is for Domino’s (DPZ has only reported five quarters of positive domestic company-operated comp growth after eight quarters of declines).  MCD has spent significant time and effort trying to grow its beverage franchise.  With the “hot” part of the McCafe strategy already a bomb, any concern about the “cold” side will have an outsized impact. 

 

MCD has one more month of easy comparisons in the U.S. in February.  Come March, the comparisons get much more difficult and we would not be surprised to see the company report negative monthly comp growth.  And, the comparisons get increasingly more difficult during the summer months when MCD laps its smoothie/frappe launch from last year.  I am currently modeling negative U.S. same-store sales growth in Q2, Q3 and Q4 of 2011.  Even if my estimates prove overly bearish, MCD’s U.S. comp momentum will likely slow in 2011.

 

Howard Penney

Managing Director


TALES OF THE TAPE: WEN, DIN, MCD, PEET, GMCR, DPZ, CBRL, MSSR

Notable news items/price action from the past twenty-four hours.

  • WEN reported $0.01 ex-items versus the Street, in line with prior guidance from January 26th.  The company is guiding below the street on EBITDA but assuming the sale of Arby’s.  Affirming Wendy’s longer term target of 10% to 15% EPS growth, beginning in 2012.
  • WEN is to reopen stores in Japan, a market it quickly exited in 2009.  The company sees at least 71 stores in Japan in five years.
  • DIN reported 4Q EPS of $0.59 versus consensus $0.64.  Earnings included a $7.7M charge related to the default of an IHOP franchise.  Guidance for FY11 is for Applebee’s domestic system-wide same-store sales performance to range between 1% and 3% and company-operated restaurant level-margin of between 14.8% and 15.2%.
  • MCD traded poorly yesterday as headlines highlighted a decrease in its advertising spend and the movement of the brand from its core business to lattes and other beverages.  This is all confirmative of my Black Book of mid-January.
  • PEET continues to trade strongly following an upgrade yesterday that boldly stated that a deal would be done between PEET and GMCR by March 6th for Peet’s to enter the k-cup market.
  • DPZ gained on strong volume. 
  • CBRL gained 60 bps on accelerating volume following a difficult fortnight of trading.  Gasoline prices have been pressuring this stock.
  • MSSR traded down sharply on very high volume yesterday.  The stock was downgraded this morning.   On Tuesday, 4Q EPS came in at $0.22 ex-items versus $0.24.

 

TALES OF THE TAPE: WEN, DIN, MCD, PEET, GMCR, DPZ, CBRL, MSSR - stocks 33

 

Howard Penney

Managing Director


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CLAIMS FALL SHARPLY - NOW AT A LEVEL WHERE UNEMPLOYMENT CAN START TO FALL

Initial Claims Fall to 368K

The headline initial claims number fell 23k to 368k (20k after the 3k downward revision to last week’s data).  Rolling claims fell 13k to 388.5k. On a non-seasonally-adjusted basis, reported claims dropped 33k WoW.  In most years, this week of the year sees an uptick in non-seasonally-adjusted claims.  This year, that increase has not occurred, and the strength is showing through in the seasonally adjusted series. 

 

We are now seeing claims enter the 375-400k range where unemployment can begin to come down. Claims will need to hold this level and improve further in order to see any real movement in the unemployment rate, but this is clearly positive on the margin. It is worth noting an important caveat. This recession has been different in that it has pushed the labor force participation rate down by ~200 bps, which has had a correspondingly positive improvement on the unemployment rate. In other words, the unemployment rate isn't really 9%, it's 11%. So when we say that claims of 375-400k will start to bring down the unemployment rate, we are actually referring to the 11% actual rate as opposed to the 9% reported rate.

 

CLAIMS FALL SHARPLY - NOW AT A LEVEL WHERE UNEMPLOYMENT CAN START TO FALL - 1

 

CLAIMS FALL SHARPLY - NOW AT A LEVEL WHERE UNEMPLOYMENT CAN START TO FALL - 2

 

CLAIMS FALL SHARPLY - NOW AT A LEVEL WHERE UNEMPLOYMENT CAN START TO FALL - 3

 

One of our astute clients pointed out the relationship between the S&P and initial claims shown below.  We show the two series in the following chart, with initial claims inverted on the left axis.

 

CLAIMS FALL SHARPLY - NOW AT A LEVEL WHERE UNEMPLOYMENT CAN START TO FALL - 4

 

In the table below, we chart US equity correlations with Initial Claims, the Dollar Index, and US 10Y Treasury yields on a weekly basis going back 3 months, 1 year, and 3 years.

 

CLAIMS FALL SHARPLY - NOW AT A LEVEL WHERE UNEMPLOYMENT CAN START TO FALL - 5

 

Joshua Steiner, CFA

 

Allison Kaptur


THE M3: MACAU GOVT ASKS FOR LVS DETAILS; SANDS SUIT AGAINST JACOBS; WYNN; S'PORE GST

The Macau Metro Monitor, March 3, 2011

 

 

MACAU GOVERNMENT ASKS SANDS CHINA FOR REPORT ON US INVESTIGATION macaubusiness.com, Macau Daily Times

Secretary Tam said the Macau government has asked Sands China for a “detailed report” on the LVS investigations. Tam added that Sands China’s operations in Macau appeared to have proceeded “without problems” in recent years.  DICJ Director Neves said DICJ has received a report from Venetian Macau regarding the investigation. Venetian Macau stated that the case will not affect company operations and the company will cooperate fully with investigations. SJM CEO Ambrose So said he was aware of the investigation and stressed that SJM operations abide by local laws and follow the operating guidelines of a listed company. He said it is still too early to comment on whether the case will affect the development of Macau’s gaming industry in future. 

 

Meanwhile, Sands acting CEO Leven said that Sands China has dropped its CEO search and will maintain its current structure, with president and COO Edward Tracy leading the operation supported by Chief Casino Officer President David Sisk.  Nevertheless, Sands China is still looking for a representative to liaise with the government. “The person would have some government experience,” Leven remarked.

 

SANDS CHINA FILES CRIMINAL SUIT AGAINST JACOBS Macau Daily Times

Sands acting CEO Leven said, "Sands China has filed a criminal complaint (on Jan 21) in Macau for defamation and with evidence of extortion” against Steven Jacobs.  Leven confirmed he was aware of talks between Jacobs and representatives from Caesars Entertainment on a possible partnership in Macau, but he argues he told Jacobs a decision like that couldn’t be made without the involvement of Adelson. Leven said, “Gary Loveman eventually came to see us and did have a conversation with us. We talked about it, possibly for one of the sites here [on Cotai] – 3, 7 or 8 at the time – and then we tested it with some people here in Macau. The comment that we got [here in Macau] was they [Caesars Entertainment] wouldn’t get the licence. I delivered that message back to Gary Loveman. It never got to a negotiation, it was just a matter of enquiry."

 

WYNN POINTS OUT SOME KNOWN-UNKNOWNS Intelligence Macau

While it is a concern, IM says its smart for Wynn Macau to disclose in its annual report that it cannot guarantee that its room operators are always going to be in full compliance with Macau gaming regulations.  Room operators, given their murky backgrounds, are difficult for anyone, even the most compliance-minded concessionaire, to manage perfectly.  But it is interesting that Wynn Macau decides to disclose this risk in the midst of the LVS investigation.


GST FINE THE WAY IT IS, SAYS THARMAN Strait Times

Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam rejected calls by opposition Parliament member Low Thia Khiang to cut the goods and services tax (GST) from 7% to 5% or tweak it to combat inflation.  Tharman said this is not the solution since the bulk of GST is collected from higher-income groups and foreigners, so cutting the rate would benefit them more.


CLAIMS FALL SHARPLY - NOW AT A LEVEL WHERE UNEMPLOYMENT CAN START TO FALL

Initial Claims Fall to 368K

The headline initial claims number fell 23k to 368k (20k after the 3k downward revision to last week’s data).  Rolling claims fell 13k to 388.5k. On a non-seasonally-adjusted basis, reported claims dropped 33k WoW.  In most years, this week of the year sees an uptick in non-seasonally-adjusted claims.  This year, that increase has not occurred, and the strength is showing through in the seasonally adjusted series. 

 

We are now seeing claims enter the 375-400k range where unemployment can begin to come down. Claims will need to hold this level and improve further in order to see any real movement in the unemployment rate, but this is clearly positive on the margin. It is worth noting an important caveat. This recession has been different in that it has pushed the labor force participation rate down by ~200 bps, which has had a correspondingly positive improvement on the unemployment rate. In other words, the unemployment rate isn't really 9%, it's 11%. So when we say that claims of 375-400k will start to bring down the unemployment rate, we are actually referring to the 11% actual rate as opposed to the 9% reported rate.

 

 CLAIMS FALL SHARPLY - NOW AT A LEVEL WHERE UNEMPLOYMENT CAN START TO FALL - rolling

 

CLAIMS FALL SHARPLY - NOW AT A LEVEL WHERE UNEMPLOYMENT CAN START TO FALL - raw

 

CLAIMS FALL SHARPLY - NOW AT A LEVEL WHERE UNEMPLOYMENT CAN START TO FALL - NSA

 

One of our astute clients pointed out the relationship between the S&P and initial claims shown below.  We show the two series in the following chart, with initial claims inverted on the left axis.

 

CLAIMS FALL SHARPLY - NOW AT A LEVEL WHERE UNEMPLOYMENT CAN START TO FALL - s p

 

Yield Curve Remains Wide

We chart the 2-10 spread as a proxy for NIM. Thus far the spread in 1Q is tracking 42 bps wider than 4Q.  The current level of 278 bps is slightly wider than last week (274 bps).

 

CLAIMS FALL SHARPLY - NOW AT A LEVEL WHERE UNEMPLOYMENT CAN START TO FALL - 2 10 spread

 

CLAIMS FALL SHARPLY - NOW AT A LEVEL WHERE UNEMPLOYMENT CAN START TO FALL - spreads QoQ

 

Financial Subsector Performance

The table below shows the stock performance of each Financial subsector over four durations. 

 

CLAIMS FALL SHARPLY - NOW AT A LEVEL WHERE UNEMPLOYMENT CAN START TO FALL - subsector perf

 

 

 

Joshua Steiner, CFA

 

Allison Kaptur


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