Commodities, in general, went higher over the last week as the dollar weakened slightly. Corn and chicken wing prices posted the largest week-over-week gains while cheese and pork prices were the decliners.
Chicken Wings – BWLD
Buffalo Wild Wings’ stock has been volatile of late, trading below $60 as recently as one week ago and now trading at $66. Wing prices remain a concern for the stock in 1Q12. Following comments from Sanderson Farm’s earnings call yesterday, we are confident that the first half of 2012 will represent a difficult commodity environment for BWLD. Corn prices are likely to remain elevated for 2012 and food processors like SAFM are being forced to cut production in order to turn profit margins positive. SAFM assured listeners to its earnings call that the industry would cut production by however much is necessary in order to turn a profit. The food service industry seeking to shift mix away from beef products may also provide some support for chicken prices.
Beef – WEN, TXRH, JACK, CMG
Beef prices gained week-over-week as incremental data points pertaining to the price of beef support high prices. On the demand side, exports of US beef were up a record 27% year-over-year at the end of September. Japan and Korea were responsible for most of this growth. There could be further growth from Japan as the country looks to ease age restrictions on U.S. beef imports to the country that were implemented in 2003 due to BSE. Supply side dynamics are equally bullish in that a shrinking U.S. herd and elevated feed costs point to tighter supplies in 2012. It is estimated that cattle numbers in Texas have decreased by 600,000 or 12% of the state’s roughly 5 million cows.
Coffee – SBUX, DNKN, GMCR, PEET, THI, CBOU
Coffee costs are dropping below last year’s line for the first time all year. 2011 has been difficult for coffee retailers from a cost perspective; Starbucks and others increased prices during the year, but the stronger brands like Starbucks did so successfully. Economic concerns have kept a lid on prices recently and retailers will be hoping that Brazil, the world’s largest coffee producer, is heading for an increase in its harvest size next year. Spot market prices heading lower would not pass on to the consumer immediately, however, as contracts and inventories are worked through, but will provide a boost to the coffee stocks.
Dairy – CAKE, TXRH
Cheese prices moved lower over the past week despite beef prices and milk prices increasing. Cheese remains up 18%
year-over-year but that number has moderated throughout the quarter, providing some relief to The Cheesecake Factory. Dairy will likely have a negative impact on CAKE’s gross margins in 4Q11.
Chicken – Whole Breast
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While yesterday European equity markets ripped ahead of today’s opening of the ECB’s first 3YR Long Term Refinancing Operation (LTRO) facility, with 523 banks expected to take up €489 billion in loans at 1% (vs initial estimates of €293B from Bloomberg and €310B from Reuters), European equities have turned down today and sovereign yields actually increased day-over-day. (Italy’s 10YR rose 20bps to 6.85%; Spain’s 10YR rose 6bps to 5.16%; and the Greek 10YR gained over 100bps nearing 36%!)
This is an initial indication that the LTRO will not be the panacea that the market had hope for yesterday. What a difference a day makes!
While we’re bullish on the LTRO as a facility to help reduce risk by providing more liquidity to European banks, we’d caution against an absolutist view that banks will be buying all European sovereign paper issuance going forward as they’ll stand to benefit from the carry trade, or spread. After all, these same banks have taken significant measures to sell their Europig debt holdings in the last 6-12 months. Why would they jump back in now?
A more likely scenario is one in which banks look to take care of their own houses first before looking to participate in sovereign bond buying. European banks have an estimated €230 Billion maturing in Q1, or around €720 Billion in 2012, to meet. In this light, we’d expect the ECB’s SMP secondary bond purchasing program to remain critical to arrest sovereign yields, especially in the periphery, despite mandates from the ECB that it is meant to be a temporary facility with limited firepower. To date, the SMP has purchased €211B.
In the face of the inability to lever up the EFSF and no change on the ECB’s position to print money, we do think the opening of ECB’s LTRO facility is bullish, yet we don’t think we’re going to cross some magic bridge that will firewall the major issues. We’ve yet to see one or a collection of definitive programs to really put an arrest to the sovereign and banking crisis in Europe. The Fiscal Compact of the December 8-9 Summit meeting still leaves a lot of questions unanswered, and the sovereign and bank downgrades of the ratings agencies (though lagging indicators) will continue to drag markets lower. Therefore, we do not expect to see sustained European capital market gains over the intermediate term.
We’d short the EUR/USD on any bounce to $1.33.
Fact…I was wrong headed into this quarter. My estimate was high by a nickel, as I thought that the company would start to show meaningful SG&A leverage and gross margin improvement (sequentially), which would offset a modest deceleration in top line.
This is one of those very rare instances where I’m cool with being wrong. Why? Both the top line and futures looked fantastic, and inventories improved on the margin. Our long-term TAIL duration call remains unchanged (see below). But as it relates to our TREND and TRADE duration, everything lives in changes on the margin. Those changes were net positive.
It was somewhat surprising that half of the Q&A focused on the company’s Gross Margin. Admittedly, this came in 60bp below guidance, and presumably about 100bp below Nike’s real internal plan. Some of this was FX, some was lingering labor cost pressures, some was clearance-related, but all was easily digestible intellectually. But what was amazing is that no one seemed to care that Nike is one of the very few (i.e. I can count them on one hand) multi-nationals that is actually printing such tremendous top line growth numbers – ie 18% for a $24bn company – in the midst of a global economic
slowdown. This is what happens when a company invests continuously in its business (i.e. over the past 3-years) when everyone else is harvesting and cutting costs.
As a kicker,
a) futures growth of 13% is more heavily weighted towards the back-end of the 5-month window,
b) this only partially reflects pricing increases that are in the midst of going into effect. In other words, futures will accelerate simply bc of pricing in 2H (this is one of the very few times in the better part of 15 years that I can recall the company having the confidence to actually guide futures), and
c) the company is looking at an outstanding event year, with assumption of the NFL license in April, European Football Championship (Euro 2012) , and the Olympics from July 25 to Aug 12.
d) rest assured, as we do, that these events will simply not come and go, leaving Nike with a tough revenue hurdle in 2013. The company will use each of them to build sustainable businesses to take share long after the games are complete. In fact, Charlie Denson noted several times that there are a few ‘surprises’ coming down the pike later this year. This is the same kind of posturing we saw around major launches like Air 180, Free, Lunar and Nike +. Again, these are platforms, not just products.
So, gross margins were definitely weak. But consider the following. Futures look extremely healthy. Futures lead revenue. Inventories improved sequentially. When those things converge, gross margins almost ALWAYS improve. The following two charts spell it out. And that’s not to mention the positive impact pricing is having on the equation, or the fact that we’re about
to anniversary meaningfully higher raw materials and shipping costs last year (labor costs continue to rise).
So what’s the punchline? Though the company missed our estimate by a nickel, we remain 15-20% above consensus for the next three years.
The biggest risk here is the ‘can things really get any better’ factor. Sales momentum is strong, margins are on the mend, inventory is coming down, the event schedule looks great, capital intensity is moderating, and Nike is showing greater focus in returning capital to shareholders. But the reality is that we don’t have to worry about that for another year – at least.
If the S&P 500 is your benchmark and you have to at least have an opinion on Nike, how can you afford to miss this? A bear case is very difficult to build.
Again, the crux of our call is that investors are underestimating both the duration and intensity of this growth story. We’re
looking at 3-years of 20% EPS growth after having lived through 3-years of 7.6% avg growth. We had a 3-year setup, now we’re in year 1 of harvesting and taking share. That’s not bad in this market by even the strictest of standards.
A lingering consideration for you…remember 3 quarters ago when Nike scared the Street and numbers came down by 15% across the board? Each quarter since the company has overdelivered, and guess where numbers are today? Yes, they are above where they were before the earnings scare became reality. Great example as to why you gotta keep the big picture strategy and motivation for compensation (i.e. to crush both competition and expectations simultaneously) front and center for this company.
Here are some of our notes from the call:
Footwear performance by category:
- Basketball up DD in the quarter
- Lebron 9 combines flywire and high perfused technology
- Running up DD in the quarter
NA continues to outperform:
- Growth driven by DD growth in every category except action sports which declined MSD
- DTC up 17%
- Store productivity drove 14% comp
- Online sales +16%
- Have yet to launch NFL product – April partial launch. Fall full force.
- Category offense now fully developed
- NA is most developed retail marketplace with own stores, wholesale partners and online
- Thanksgiving weekend
- In-line and factory stores delivered DD comp store gains
- Growth in part due to changes in shipping timing LY
- Fueled by growth in running, football, women’s training and basketball
- Partially offset by lower sportswear revenues
- DD growth in AGS territory (Austria, Germany and Switzerland) partially offset by declines in other territories
- EBIT margin decline due to unfavorable FX rates and higher product costs which more than offset DTC and higher pricing
- Remains a challenging economic environment
Central & Eastern Europe:
- Growth driven by higher revenues across all categories:
- DD running, football and men’s/women’s training
- DD growth in Russia, and turkey more than offset lower revenues in southern and central European markets
- Apparel +34% due to shift in timing from Q2 to Q3 of last year
- Apparel would have been up 20% excluding the shift
- Gross margins down due to higher costs and increased promotional activity to clear inventories
- Revs down 7% reflected holiday futures orders taken in immediately following the natural disasters
- Sales declines in most categories, running up DD
- Every category and territory posted higher revenues with Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Korea driving the largest share of the growth.
- Revenue declines in 4 of the “other” businesses were offset by 20% growth in Converse
Gross Margins down 260 bps:
- Took more meaningful price increases in spring and summer
- Expected discounting to moderate but it did not which NKE expects to continue into 2H12
- Primarily due to higher products costs, partially offset by growth in DTC, moderate price increase in fall and holiday and benefit from cost reduction strategy
- Futures increased at a double-digit rate for all categories except sportswear and action sports which grew at a mid-single digit rate.
- Unit orders increased 7% while ASP added six points of growth (due to price increases that take effect in Spring and Summer 2012)
- Future order were more back weighted in the window due to price increases- did not see a significant change in unit velocity
Q2 Inventory growth:
- Nike inc up 35%
- 39% up on the Nike brand side
- 20 pts of the growth due to unit increase (vs. 34% increase in Q1)
- Remaining 19 points due largely to increased cost per unit
- Don’t expect costs to continue up or expect it to go down
- Spring 2011 was the peak
- Won't come down until the tail end of summer 2012
- “We continue to expect inventory balances to remain stable over the remaining quarters of the fiscal year with the rate of inventory growth declining sequentially and coming more in line with revenue growth by Q4”
T12Mo ROIC: 22.6%, up 1.4 pts YoY-
Free Cash Flow: Generated $360mm of FCF in Q2 and expect levels to normalize as inventory balances stablize
- Revenues: Mid Teens (due to Q2 results and future order)
- Q3 and Q4 revenues expected to grow slightly above the reported futures growth in 2Q
- Gross Margins
- Down 160 bps for the full year
- Down 150 bps in Q3
50 bps in Q4
- Material Costs
- Holiday 2011 and Spring 2012 seasons will reflect peak material costs seen earlier in CY2011
- Expect COGS to reflect lower material costs moving into Summer 2012
- Price increases:
- Spring and Summer 2012 price increases are more significant than those that have already taken effect
- SG&A Spend:
- Expect demand creation investment weighted in Q4 with operating overhead growth in Q3
- 24.5% tax rate expectation for the full year
- Q3 tax rate will be slightly higher
- 1 : FX is a big factor
- 2: in 2Q, expected to see an improvement in discounts which was actually flat and expect trend to
- Keeping discounting focused by had to move through some excess apparel in China
- Want to keep inventories clean
- 3: seeing strength in NA vs. international which has a mix shift to the downside
Converse China license:
- Positioned very differently than the Nike brand
- Have seen good steady healthy growth in FW in China
- Looking to build a good apparel base in China for converse
- Bullish on China and feel great about the brand
- Looking to be locally relevant while having the right brand at the right time
- Looking to get better on the apparel side- great appetite for apparel in the Chinesemarketplace
- Still more work to be done
- DC-pleased with overall performance
- Greenest building in china
- Have been short term hickups getting it up and raining but provides huge competitive advantages moving forward
Western Europe into 2012
- Certainly one of the more challenging geographies
- Keeping a sharp focus on inventories
- Large part of the impact on GM from FX in the quarter
- Most pleased with the performance product which is performing well
- Opportunity to get more market share on the sportswear side in both FW and APP
Direct to consumer:
- Seeing Stronger growth out of inline stores- both formats up on a comp store bases
- Strong growth out of digital as well
Western Europe futures:
- More acceleration in the back half due to events?
- European championships come at the end of the FY with olympics in FY2013 neither of which is reflected in futures
- Will see initial products go into market place in April
- Won’t see material impact until the Fall season
Price increases: Completely reflected in futures order already?
- Current futures number 7% increase in units, 6% increase value per unit
- Next futures window will be spring and summer and will reflect full impact from price increases
- Manage and measure sell through with wholesale partners to monitor reaction to price increases
- Thinking differently about pricing than in the past by season and expect to see improving gross margins improve in the long term
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