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Quiet research day (the first in a while). The buzz today is coming from MAGIC in Vegas. The early word from MAGIC is actually pretty decent. The mood is largely more upbeat – even after accounting for the general hype that surrounds these trade shows. Trade rags suggest that ‘buyers are more hopeful’ this year. That’s kind of a scary thought when we have to rely on ‘hope’. As we say at Research Edge, ‘hope is not an investment process’. But exhibitor attendance is up 15% for the event- a sign that both companies and buyers are feeling slightly more confident than they did 6 months ago.


  • While not quite the same level of buzz generated by Michelle Obama’s fondness for J Crew, the First Lady was recently photographed wearing Crocs on her vacation in Martha’s Vineyard. This was not the first time the First Lady was doing her part to help generate some free publicity for the brand. Back in June, she was also photographed on the South Lawn at the White House wearing a different pair of Crocs.
  • Seasonal operator of pop-up stores, Spirit Halloween, is having no problem finding temporary locations for its 10 week per year concept. The store which sells Halloween merchandise from Labor Day through early November expects to operate 700 locations this year. The number of locations has grown from just 63 back in 1999. Additionally, the company is occupying bigger boxes ranging from 25-30k square feet, reflecting a large amount of former Linens N Things and Circuit City locations in this year’s portfolio.
  • Other call-outs from MAGIC.  The more sober times have created a desire among consumers for classic looks — suits and preppy-retro influences in men’s and clean, feminine looks for women. Value continues to be the buzzword as, which is consistent across retail. As a result, promotions are still a necessary evil, as they always are, but per the buyers ‘the markdowns are planned and not panic-driven like they were at the end of last year.’  That’s kind of laughable, no?  “We don’t plan to panic like we did last year.”  Women’s buyers cited the need for novelty in their merchandise mix while keeping an eye on cost; wholesale prices in the $15 to $40 range were those most embraced by retailers looking to keep recession-friendly merchandise on their racks. Retailers across the board were also watching their inventory levels closely and were maintaining the 10 to 20 percent decrease in orders they had instituted for fall. Young men’s business has been good for back-to-school at Macy’s accourding to its GMM. Specifically, T-shirts, woven shirts and denim were standouts. In the men’s area, everything old is new again for the retro style.


-A look at August Retail Sales and the impact of a later August - U.S. retailers are likely to get an "incomplete" mark for the key back-to-school season when they report August sales this week, as a later Labor Day is expected to pull some sales into September, pressuring August results. Retailers that report August sales  are expected to deliver a comp decline of 3.9%. Investors are looking for signs that consumers, who account for about 70% of U.S. economic activity, are loosening their purse strings after pulling back during the worst recession since the Great Depression. The sales view is likely to be distorted by the shift of Labor Day -- which falls on the first Monday in September -- to September 7 in 2009 from September 1 in 2008. That shift means seven more pre-Labor Day selling days, including the entire holiday weekend, will be in the September sales reporting month this year. Last year, the Saturday of Labor Day weekend fell in August. Many people traditionally postpone back-to-school shopping until the weekend of Labor Day, which could result in a couple of percentage points of sales growth could be lost this August. <reuters.com>

-The slowdown in the UK footwear market is expected to have faster sales growth expected in the following years after the current global recession - According to market intelligence provider Key Note, consumers who have cut their spending in 2009 are likely to purchase replacement shoes when the recession is over. The footwear market in the UK reached a record high of over US$11.3bn in 2008, with spending on footwear up by 17.7% between 2004 and 2008 due to the thriving high-street retailers. Key Note forecasts that the value of the UK footwear market will contract by 0.3% in 2009, but will recover well in 2010. The overall growth will reach 17.9% over the period from 2009 to 2013. The report also identifies future trends in the UK footwear market such as a more serious approach to innovative and functional footwear as well as "green" products, and predicts that market leader Clarks is likely to continue performing well, despite downturns on the high street. <fashionnetasia.com>

-Vietnamese footwear exports to UK up, leather exports down - While Vietnam's footwear exports to the UK saw substantial increase, leather exports have shown a downturn trend in the H1 of 2009. Shoe exports hiked 21.1% in the six month period compared to the prior year, with export turnover for shoes rose to GBP211.54m, but leather product exports decreased 11.1% to GBP9.163m. However, the Vietnam Leather and Shoes Association said footwear exports to the UK decreased 33.35% in June compared to same period last year. Steady growth in the previous months offset this decline though. Exports of leather products were down by 62.8% in June. <fashionnetasia.com>

-Wildfires in California threaten Los Angeles retail - A fast-moving wildfire north of Los Angeles that has burned more than 85,700 acres could be another blow to California’s faltering economy. The latest natural disaster, along with rising unemployment, plunging real estate values and a hemorrhaging state budget, is causing more than 10,000 homes to be evacuated. Four major shopping centers are located south of the Station Fire: Glendale Galleria and The Americana at Brand in Glendale, Westfield Santa Anita in Arcadia and Paseo Colorado in Pasadena. All remained open on Monday. A spokeswoman for Westfield Santa Anita, an enclosed mall, said there were close to double-digit traffic increases over the previous weekend, most likely because of people seeking air-conditioned refuge from the triple-digit temperatures and smoky air. Business could be non-existent for retailers that depend on shoppers who have evacuated their homes. Because of the intensity of smoke and soot, public health officials warned the public to avoid outdoor activities. <wwd.com/business-news>

-Japan may be inching its way out of a recession but specialty retailers and fashion brands are still forging ahead with their retail expansion - Over a two-week period, a flurry of new stores are opening here including Opening Ceremony, Ron Herman, Tom Ford, Rick Owens, Tila March, Brooks Brothers Black Fleece, Kitson and a new retail concept from Issey Miyake. A large retail and entertainment complex called Marunouchi Brick Square also will open in the city center to house tenants like Land of Tomorrow, Cath Kidson and Brooks Brothers. Although most observers agree Japan’s future growth prospects are limited as its aging population shrinks and it emerges from a long period of macroeconomic stagnation, it’s clear the country remains a critical market for luxury goods, worth something close to $20 billion. Plus this is an advantageous time to expand here as real estate prices and rental rates linger in the doldrums. <wwd.com/retail-news>

-German Retail Sales Increase for First Time in Three Months as Prices Ease - Retail sales in Germany rose for the first time in three months in July as lower prices boosted purchasing power and consumers grew more optimistic about the economic outlook. <bloomberg.com>

-Barneys Said to Weigh Debt Swap, Bankruptcy as Holt Renfrew Shows Interest - Barneys New York is weighing a debt restructuring or bankruptcy filing that may wrest control from the Dubai government-owned firm that loaded it with debt in a 2007 leveraged buyout, three people briefed on the matter said. <bloomberg.com>

-Wolverine World Wide made exec changes to enhance product development, innovation, and grow its apparel and accessories business - Wolverine World Wide made two executive appointments to its Outdoor Group this week. Bill Dodge, formerly GM of the Rockford, Mich.-based company’s Patagonia brand, has been named VP of footwear product development. Dodge will be replaced by former national sales director Jaime Barbor. Mark Sandquist has joined the Outdoor Group as president of global apparel from Columbia Sportswear, where he served as VP of global apparel, equipment and licensing. Sandquist, who will eventually transition from Portland, Ore. to the Wolverine headquarters in Rockford, will oversee apparel, bags and belts. Both Dodge and Sandquist will report directly to Jim Zwiers, president of the Outdoor Group. According to Zwiers, the Outdoor Group is focusing on three main categories, which is where the new appointments will be devoting their energies: connecting with consumers, raising brand awareness and product leadership and innovation. “With the acquisition of Chaco,” by Wolverine earlier this year, he said, “[we] believe this to be a compelling set of brand opportunities.” <wwd.com/footwear-news>

 -Oxford Industries gets an Executive Vice President - Oxford Industries, Inc. is pleased to announce that Scott Sennett, formerly Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing at StyleMark, Inc., the world's largest diversified accessories and eyewear company, has joined its Oxford Apparel Group as Executive Vice President. Mr. Sennett brings to Oxford Apparel over 24 years of leadership and general management experience in brand strategy, sales and marketing, licensing, merchandising, product development, supply chain and risk management as well as a consistent record of positive results working with leading retailers for both licensed, branded and private label fashion accessories and eyewear. Previous to his position with StyleMark, Mr. Sennett held key positions with the Lantis Eyewear Corporation and Motive Eyewear, Inc., both now a part of StyleMark, Inc. <prnewswire.com>

-Tommy Bahama has launched a new footwear division - The company had previously licensed out the category to Phoenix Footwear Group, though Tommy Bahama terminated that agreement last March. The company will now bring footwear sales, marketing and distribution in-house, while Jimlar Corp. will oversee the development and manufacturing of the collection, and collaborate with the Tommy Bahama design teams. The line will debut for spring 2010 and will be on display at this week’s Magic tradeshow in Las Vegas. <wwd.com/footwear-news>

-Under Armour is looking for an ad agency for a project involved its expanding women's line - An internal team has supported Under Armour's advertising efforts for most of its history. According to adage.com, the company has narrowed its review to  Omnicom Group's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and independent Cramer-Krasselt. Adage noted that it wasn't clear whether those agencies would be competing against Under Armour's internal team, led by creative director Marcus Stephens, or would eventually be collaborating with UA's internal team. Adage.com noted that while Under Armour has not previously worked with a full-service outside agency on a creative assignment, it has collaborated with various creative production and design shops, such as Shilo and Asylum. It also retained Deutsch for PR and consulting work in 2007. Under Armor VP-Brand Steve Battista confirmed the company was talking to agencies and added, "As our brand grows and our business scales internationally, we're open to any and all partners that we can find in the advertising and marketing world." <sportsonesource.com>

-Check out the new Crocs core styles recently released - Crocs, Inc. has introduced a new Crocband Collection that combines the features of its Beach and Cayman styles with the appeal of retro sneakers. <sportsonesource.com>

-Marks & Spencer has launched its Indigo casual womenswear sub-brand in store today - The casual clothing line, aimed at women aged 30-plus, had been introduced to 100 stores and on the chain’s website. The label was devised to increase M&S’s share in the increasingly competitive womenswear market after research showed that women in this age bracket wanted a dedicated range, rather than having to select casual pieces from across its other ranges. The range has a heavy focus on denim and was designed to offer good value on quality fabrics. <drapersonline.com>

-Wal-Mart Marketplace was launched on Monday - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has launched Wal-Mart Marketplace to bring a million new products to walmart.com and enable a select group of retailers to offer additional products on the site. The goal is to give customers access to expanded assortments in categories such as apparel and accessories, home, baby, toys, sporting goods and sports memorabilia. Wal-Mart has selected three retailers for the launch of Marketplace. CSNStores.com, which consists of hundreds of specialty stores, from Diaper Bag Boutique to MacLaren Strollers at CSN and Every Room Divider to Shoes Got Soul. The latter offers brands such as Aerosole, Nina, Etienne Aigner and Franco Sarto. The remaining two retailers are Ebags.com, which sells Michael Michael Kors Fulton shoulder bags for $348, Kate Spade Bloomington Liannes, $179.99, and Cole Haan’s Village bucket tote, $348, and Pro Team, a subsidiary of Dreams Inc., which manufactures licensed sports apparel and collectibles. “It’s been a program we’ve been working on for some time,” walmart.com spokesman Ravi Jariwala said of Wal-Mart Marketplace. “We were very diligent about carefully selecting these partners. It differentiates our program from other programs out there. Rather than open up our marketplace program to everyone, we did our homework to find select retailers known for their customer service and ability to offer large assortments.” Purchases will be handled by walmart.com’s secure check-out process, with fulfilment, order support, shipping, customer service and exchanges the responsibility of each Marketplace retailer, Jariwala said. “It’s a nice way to extend our assortment and give customers the comfort of walmart.com, which they trust,” she said. The Wal-Mart Marketplace business model seems similar to Amazon.com, which years ago created a marketplace of third-party sellers. Amazon receives a commission on products sold via its marketplace. Wal-Mart declined to discuss the arrangement with Marketplace retailers. “We don’t disclose details of our partner relationships,” Jariwala said. <wwd.com/retail-news>

-Fred's gets a direct store delivery receiving system from SofTechnics - SofTechnics, the premier provider of mobile price and inventory management solutions for the retail sector, announced today that Fred's, Inc. (Nasdaq (GS): FRED), one of the nation's leading discount stores, is rolling out Direct Store Delivery receiving. The solution is comprised of the in-store receiving application; a module within SofTechnics' SoftGrocer suite that is tightly integrated with Fred's host and internal accounting systems. The Memphis, Tennessee-based discount chain operates over 650 stores in 15 states and will have SoftGrocer fully rolled out to all stores by September, 2009. Fred's is utilizing in-store receiving for improved gross margins, accuracy, and control of their entire line of direct delivery products, which is an ever-expanding assortment of items within their stores. <reuters.com>

-Target ads nine new vinyl billboard ads in Times Square on Friday - Target is cutting against the grain of digital-age flash with nine new vinyl billboard ads going up in Times Square on Friday that will eventually be repurposed into tote bags designed by Anna Sui. Iconic images, such as the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, and words conjuring up the city such as “coffee,” “knish” and “Cheers New York,” will be splashed across the vinyl panels, in a combination of bold graphic symbols, pop art and verbal cues. Target anticipates offering about 1,600 Anna Sui totes fashioned from the vinyl billboards, Basgen said. Between 300 and 575 bags will be made from each of the panels, which vary in size from 3,256 square feet to 5,942 square feet. Black vinyl handles, black enamel studs and a black metal zipper will complete the items. The unlined bags, 15 inches high by 17 inches wide, are priced at $29.99. Marketing the totes via the Times Square campaign reflects Target’s mission to give its customers “style and value,” Basgen said, as well as its efforts to “recycle and create excitement about Target exclusives, like its design partnership with Anna Sui.” <wwd.com/business-news>

-Dan Bazinet has left his post as CEO of Birkenstock USA - Bazinet was named to the top spot at the firm last fall. During his short tenure, he worked to carve out unique identities for each of the company’s brands as well as bolster relationships with retailers. The company has been plagued in the past by inventory problems, but Bazinet said earlier this year that it had resolved its supply-chain issues. <wwd.com/footwear-news>

-Adidas uses US Open as way to market its Mi Adidas online make your own website - Tennis stars Sam Querrey and Melanie Oudin are gearing up to unveil their signature Mi Adidas shoes on the U.S. Open courts when the tournament kicks off this week. The elite athletes used miadidas.com, the athletic company's customization site, to put their own twist on their respective pairs of Adidas' Barricade V tennis shoes. Querry's Barricade V's feature a bold primary color scheme with his name emblazoned on the side, while Oudin is expected to don a neon pink, yellow, and blue set with her competitive mantra "believe" enscripted on the surface. Although Querrey and Oudin's shoes won't be available to the public, Adidas offers customization options for its tennis, basketball, running, and soccer performance footwear on Miadidas.com, with prices ranging from $95-240. <wwd.com/footwear-news>

-Professional tennis player Maria Sharapova recently unveiled her Cole Haan-branded handbag and footwear line in New York City, home of the upcoming U.S. Open Championships. Maria Sharapova by Cole Haan features a ballet flat, an ankle-wrapped stiletto, a flat over-the-knee boot, an ankle bootie and a strappy platform sandal. Handbags include a small frame clutch, a lambskin hobo and a signature chain-link satchel. The line retails from $138 to $328. <licensemag.com>

-Roger Federer works closely with Nike in designing and creating his custom tennis shoes -The process starts in the Nike Sports Research Lab, long before Federer ever laces up his signature shoe, the Lunarlite Vapor Tour. Federer asked for responsive shoes, and Nike provided him with Lunarlite foam, a light and resilient patented material. The foam is placed in the middle of the sole, along with a carbon-fiber shank that supports Federer’s arches. Nike also uses what it calls Flywire, which was first introduced during the 2008 Olympics in track spikes and borrows from suspension-bridge technology to stabilize the top part of Federer’s shoe and lock his foot in place. Nike also designs shoes for Rafael Nadal, Federer’s chief rival. The company focuses on power for Nadal and speed for Federer. A Nike representative explained the difference in an e-mail message: “Roger’s playing style consists of nimble footwork that is forefoot intensive, and a style of play that covers the entire court, while Rafa is a more explosive player with a more heel-focused game consisting of primarily lateral movements on the baseline.” <nytimes.com>

-Given the economy, high-end bridal designers and upmarket bridal salons are scrambling for new ways to woo their clients, whether it’s introducing lower-priced collections or beefing up marketing. At the same time, they’re tightening their own purse strings by establishing summer hours to cut back on overhead expenses and steady their businesses. Already, a handful of venerable retailers have shuttered, or are looking to close, their doors in the face of slumping bridal interest, fast on the heels of Saks Fifth Avenue, which eliminated 16 out of 18 of its bridal salons earlier this year. Philadelphia-based Suky Rosan, known for lines such as Vera Wang and Romona Keveza, closed earlier this summer. Others planning to phase out later this month include Yolanda in Boston and Louise Blum in Houston.  <wwd.com/retail-news>

-The Walt Disney Co. has agreed to buy Marvel Entertainment Inc. in a deal worth $4 billion - Indicating the potential licensing and media benefits of the business combination, Robert A. Iger, Disney’s president and chief executive officer, said on a Monday conference call that the “popularity of Marvel characters and stories transcends gender, age, cultural and geographic boundaries, and can be told successfully across a wide range of both traditional and new media platforms.” The addition of Marvel’s portfolio of more than 5,000 characters “presents Disney with a unique opportunity to strengthen its strategic position as a leading global provider of high-quality branded content.” Tom Staggs, Disney’s senior executive vice president and chief financial officer, noted on the call that the acquisition includes “rights to Marvel’s vast library of characters; many of these are not yet widely known. Over time, we expect to more fully develop these characters across multiple platforms and territories.” <wwd.com/business-news>