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R3: REQUIRED RETAIL READING

March 8, 2011


RESEARCH ANECDOTES

  • Add Costco to the list of retailers looking to increase their presence in the bridal business.  Costco is collaborating with designer Kirstie Kelly to offer six wedding dresses priced from $700 to $1400.  Word has it that the dresses will be merchandised in a shop-in-shop manner via special four-day trunkshows.  The roaming sale events will come complete with fitting rooms, bridal consultants, and a lounge. 
  • URBN outfitters is one of the first US based retailers to note a negative impact from the increased VAT in the UK along with broader austerity measures.  While US comp momentum has improved to pre-January levels so far in 2011, Europe remains slightly below early 4Q trends.
  • Innovative marketing can still work, as evidenced by Kimberly Clark’s social sampling promo for Kleenex.  The brand shipped 1 million mini-boxes of tissues to consumers as part of its “Softness Worth Sharing” campaign.  The social media driven program let people send samples to friends and family via Kleenex.com.  Overall market share is up 3.9 points since the campaign began.

OUR TAKE ON OVERNIGHT NEWS

 

New Balance Takes on Nike in Commercial -  In one of the commercials for its new "Make Excellent Happen" campaign, New Balance Inc. makes a relatively rare move of comparing one of its shoes to its largest competitor, Nike. The Nike Lunarglide is shown on digital scale weighing 11 ounces while New Balance's new 890 is shown on a scale next to it initially weighing 11.1. After a bunch of nuts and bolts are literally dumped from the New Balance shoe, the weight of the 890 is shown reduced to 9.7 ounces. In the 16-second commercial, the narrator first intones, "Introducing the New Balance 890 with Revlight." A hand then pours out a clank of screws out of the 890 to reduce the weight from 11.1 ounces to 9.7 ounces. The narrator then continues, "It weighs practically nothing...It's about to change everything...New Balance. Let's make everything happen." <SportsOneSource>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:   Marketing aside, it’s the powerful combo of fresh marketing of fresh product that continues to keep us enthused with the athletic footwear and apparel space.

HauteLook kicks off SoleSociety - Flash sale retailer HauteLook launched SoleSociety.com today, a membership site that offers personalized recommendations and sends shoppers a new pair of shoes each month for a set price of $49.95. First-time visitors to SoleSociety.com take a quiz that uses celebrity and runway images to determine their “StyleBio.” Shoe selections are then personalized based on the bio and highlighted in the shopper’s “Closet.” Members then choose from the styles offered on the site each month. Registration and shipping are free and members have the option to purchase as many shoes as they’d like or skip buying in any month. Members have until the fifth day of each month to decline the shoe selection on the web site; otherwise the shoe selection will be shipped and the member’s credit card charged. <InternetRetailer>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: Clearly an innovative proposition that combines fashion with replenishment.  We do wonder however how many people will buy-in for a new pair of shoes each month as well as what the return rates will be given sizing inconsistencies between brands.

J. Crew Sale Completed - J. Crew Group Inc. said Monday that its acquisition by affiliates of TPG Capital and Leonard Green & Partners for $2.86 billion has been completed. The affiliates, Chinos Holdings Inc. and Chinos Acquisition Corp., paid $43.50 a share in cash. The transaction was approved by J. Crew’s stockholders at a special meeting of shareholders on March 1. The stock, which had traded under the symbol “JCG,” will be delisted. The deal spawned a lawsuit by investors against J. Crew in Delaware Chancery Court hoping for a higher price per share as shareholders complained that chairman and chief executive officer Millard “Mickey” Drexler held discussions with the private equity firms about a deal before telling the retailer’s board. The two sides reached a $10 million settlement in January, but then the shareholders tried to renege on the agreement. Meanwhile, the lawsuit is still on the court’s docket. A Delaware judge is expected to rule on the validity of the settlement. <WWD>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:  Unfortunately this means a less exciting conference circuit with one of retail’s more animated and brutally honest CEO’s no longer having to cater to the Street.  Of course there will be a road show at some point.

 

Frey Wille Opens in New York - Viennese fine jeweler Frey Wille tiptoed into the American market with the opening of its first New York flagship on Monday, on Madison Avenue. The 900-square-foot space is being subleased from handbag brand Furla. Frey Wille chief executive officer Frederich Wille said the firm was drawn to this location as it offered a four-year lease, as opposed to the standard 10-year investment.Though Frey Wille has 85 boutiques worldwide, this is only its second flagship in the U.S. The first opened in Santa Monica, Calif., in November 2005. <WWD>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:  For those less familiar, Frey Willie is primarily centered on hand-decorated enamel designs at the higher end of the fashion jewelry pricing spectrum.

 

Apparel Retailers' Pricing Power is Tested - While some retailers are starting to let clothing prices rip, others are still trying to avoid further cuts. Aeropostale, for example, is expected on Thursday to post a year-on-year drop in earnings per share for its January quarter. Surging costs on everything from cotton to fuel and overseas labor are creating headaches up and down the retail supply chain and leaving many companies with little choice but to start raising prices. That is plenty risky in the current environment, however: Morgan Stanley estimates U.S. apparel-sales volume could fall 2.2% this year if prices rise 4%. The hit could be worse for some retailers than others, as a number of earnings reports this week from specialty stores like Aeropostale and AnnTaylor Stores are likely to show. Best-positioned are chains like Lululemon and, to some degree, AnnTaylor that have pricing power: strong brands and financially sound customers willing and able to pay up. <WallstreetJournal>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:  Hard to believe Ann Taylor has pricing power since the company adopted a fairly aggressive promotional strategy a few years.  Yes the brand is being turned around, but pricing power is something we normally associate with true differentiated content such as Ralph Lauren or Nike.

 

Microsoft Partners with Dealmap, Gets into Social Shopping - Microsoft Corp. is getting into social shopping.  Thursday, the software giant said it was partnering with The Dealmap, an aggregator of local and national deals, a move that would allow it to use its 13.1% share of the search market to offer vendors bigger audiences than they currently reach. The alliance will allow advertisers to reach both desktop and mobile users of the software giant's Bing search engine. Partnering with The Dealmap, owned by Menlo Park, Calif.-based Center'd Corp., pushes Microsoft into the newly emerging group-shopping business. Social shopping allows businesses to reach larger pools of customers by offering discounts on goods and services to people who sign up for the bargains.  <WallstreetJournal>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:   Yet another player (and late adopter) to the social buying world.  With so many offers being pushed at the consumer we wonder how long this deal-spam will ultimately last.  As soon as the deals become overly restrictive or laden with fine print, we’re pretty sure the consumer will smarten up.

 

Retailers on Strike in India - More than 10,000 retailers of branded apparel — including small shops in markets and in bigger malls — shut their doors throughout India Monday in an act of solidarity with fashion manufacturers. Producers in India have been protesting since the government unveiled a 10 percent increase in excise duty on branded apparel last week. On Friday, more than 100,000 factories closed in a protest orchestrated by the Clothing Manufacturers Association of India. “We have to encourage consumption and not discourage it,” said Kumar Rajagopalan, chief executive officer of the Retail Association of India. The strike is estimated to have caused the loss of about $38 million worth of business in a single day. <WWD>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:  Certainly an odd set of events and timing with the impending rise in manufacturing costs likely to hit India as hard as any cotton producing nation.  The backlash from such a move is sure to continue beyond the protests.  Petitions to repeal the bill have already been floated.

 

Supply of Ultrafine Leather Runs Short in China- Due to the strong growth in the consumption of ultrafine PU leather in China, the sector has been experiencing a short supply, reported the China Leather Industry Association. Over seventy million square meters of ultrafine PU leather were consumed in China in 2009, it is estimated the consumption will reach 110 million square meters in 2011 and 129 million square meters in 2012. The growth rate will be above 20%, said the Association. Despite the twenty million square meters of the production capacity will be added to the industry, it still is hard to meet the increasing demand in the next two years. <FashionNetAsia>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:  For those less familiar, “Ultrafine Leather” is not leather at all .  It’s actually synthetic leather, albeit a higher quality version of vinyl.