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AUGUST 3, 2009



By no means could anyone call the PSS -7.3% comp good, but after seeing PSS, DSW and Famous Footwear (BWS), one thing that is clear to me is that the family footwear space has probably seen its bottom. The charts herein speak for themselves.












Some Notable Call Outs


  • While the benefit of lease negotiations has been talked about on just about every call this earnings season, management mentioned that Collective Brands is realizing 15-20% reductions on leases.  With rent accounting for ~15% of COGS and roughly 20% of the store base up for renewal each year. One of PSS’s tailwinds heading into 2010 just got stronger.


  • Oxford Industries (owner of Tommy Bahama) noted that demand for their Spring/Summer 2010 lines are stronger than expected. While most wholesalers have taken a more conservative approach to inventories heading into the 2H, improving business is resulting in the pulling forward of deliveries and what inventory happens to be on hand. With OXM in a similarly under-inventoried position, they too are having to ramp business to meet demand.


  • Among the regions of strength noted on OXM’s call was…Hawaii? It was suggested that the swine flu could be impacting retail as vacationers decide to reroute plans from destinations like Mexico where the epidemic is in full swing to alternative destinations. Florida was also highlighted as having a notable rebound through August.  





-Samsonite files for bankruptcy and reorganization - Samsonite Company Stores, the U.S. retail division of Samsonite Corp., filed both a Chapter 11 petition for bankruptcy court protection and a prepackaged plan of reorganization on Wednesday in a Delaware bankruptcy court. The store division, based in Mansfield, Mass., said it expects to exit Chapter 11 in 45 to 90 days. Under the terms of the reorganization plan, creditors would receive 100 percent of their claims. The plan includes cutting Samsonite’s 173-store count by 47% and streamlining operations. Parent company Samsonite Corp. is not a party to the filing. Donald E. Walden, vice president for finance and chief financial officer of Samsonite’s store division, said in an affidavit filed with the bankruptcy court that U.S. sales in 2008 were $108.1 million, down from $112 million in 2007. <wwd.com/retail-news>


-Banglaesh's exports of finished garments to Japan increased over 100% - Banglaesh's exports of finished garments from Bangladesh to Japan has increased over 100% in the fiscal year 2008-09, valued at US $74.381 million ascompared to $28.035 million in the previous year. The country has reduced its finished garment imports from China, which helped its industry to increase its sales in Japan, according to Fazlul Hoque, President Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA). Hoque said that Japan is a ready market for Bangladesh as it produces high-quality products which are exactly what the Japanese market need. The ongoing trend indicates that the apparel exports of Bangladesh will reach billion dollars in the next five years. Japanese leading retail chains Uniqlo has also been purchasing from Bangladesh and is planning to make an initial investment of $100 million, added Hoque. <fashionnetasia.com>


-Chinese ambassador urged the EU to relax its anti-dumping measures - Chinese ambassador has recently urged the EU to restrain its use of anti-dumping measures against imports from China and called for more dialogue and cooperation. "We saw re-emergence of anti-dumping cases against China recently. We're very concerned about an increasing number of Chinese enterprises received unfair treatment," Song Zhe, Chinese ambassador to the EU said. "But we believe between China and Europe, there is more cooperation than competition, more opportunities than challenges. At present, it is urgent to strengthen economic and trade cooperation by maintaining mutual flow of trade and investment and creating more business opportunities," he added. Faced with the worst economic crisis in decades, the EU has launched a series of anti-dumping actions against China this year, covering a wide range of Chinese products. As from late July, the 27-nation bloc took five separate decisions in just three weeks. <fashionnetasia.com>


-Hundreds of American Apparel employees must leave due to illegal immigration status - Hundreds of American Apparel Inc. workers must leave the company because they were unable to prove their immigration status or fix problems with their employment records, the company said Wednesday. The terminations come two months after the Los Angeles manufacturer and retailer announced that a government inspection had found that about 1,600 of its workers didn't appear to be authorized to work in the U.S. About 200 more had been found to have discrepancies in their employment records. Among the infractions found were some employees' use of fake Social Security numbers. "There are approximately 1,500 workers facing termination during the month of September," said Peter Schey, a lawyer for American Apparel. The company "is very disappointed and disheartened at having to terminate a very large number of workers who by and large have been reliable contributors to the success of the company." All of the affected workers are based at the company's manufacturing facility in downtown Los Angeles, Schey said.  Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, declined to discuss American Apparel specifically, saying the federal agency was "not at liberty to discuss fines levied in work site enforcement cases until the fine amount becomes final." <latimes.com>


-Retail sales for all core outdoor stores combined (chain, internet, specialty) declined 4% in July - Select equipment, outerwear and several footwear categories grew this July. Year-to-date sales totaled $2.6 billion, down 4% from the same period a year ago. <sportsonesource.com>


-China Resources Says It May Sell Stake in China Joint Venture With Esprit - China Resources Enterprise Ltd., the local partner of SABMiller Plc, may sell its stake in the venture it has with clothier Esprit Holdings Ltd. as it seeks to focus on retail, food and beverage businesses. <bloomberg.com>


-New Balance and aerie by American Eagle Launch Fitness/Lifestyle Shoe - New Balance and aerie by American Eagle announced the introduction of the New Balance 600, a new fitness lifestyle shoe. The NB 600 is available beginning today exclusively at all aerie standalone stores across the country. Offered at $65, the shoe is designed to complement aerie f.i.t.™, aerie’s fitness and workout wear line. The NB 600 features a comfort molded EVA sole unit, Abzorb (a proprietary cushioning foam that resists compressions for all day comfort) and a lightweight mesh upper. The 600 is available in two trendy color combinations of grey/pink and white/lime, the perfect solution for the girl who wants an athletic look without sacrificing fashion. “With this program we have the opportunity to reach a style-savvy consumer with fashionable athletic footwear that merchandises with the incredible range of aerie,” says Steve Gardner, strategic business unit manager for New Balance Lifestyle. “It’s a program that brings a fresh perspective to product and merchandising, while synergizing these two great brands.” <corporate-ir.net>


-Chico’s tries on a new distribution center - After making an investment of $15 million and adding about 189 full-time jobs, Chico’s in August made the move to a new 300,000-square-foot distribution facility that will give the retailer room to expand through 2016. <internetretailer.com>


-ColdwaterCreek.com leads the e-retailer pack in August response time - For the seventh month running, ColdwaterCreek.com gave shoppers the fastest high broadband access time among large web retailers, says Gomez. In August ColdwaterCreek.com produced a high broadband response time of 4.04 seconds.  <internetretailer.com>


-Cato brings on new board member - The Cato Corporation reported that on August 27, 2009 the Board of Directors appointed Mr. Bryan F. Kennedy, III to fill a vacancy on the Board effective September 1, 2009. Mr. Kennedy is President and Chief Executive Officer of Park Sterling Bank. Mr. Kennedy currently serves on the board of Park Sterling Bank and as Chairman of the Board of Hospice and Palliative Care-Charlotte Region. <prnewswire.com>


-Quick look at expectations for today's same store sales - August same-store sales results, being reported today, are expected to be better than July’s and mark the last month of difficult comparisons with 2008 dating back to the days before last September’s financial crisis. August comps will provide a better idea of how this year’s later back-to-school season has shaped up.  In retailers’ favor is a series of state tax holidays that shifted to August, putting more pressure on July, but working against them is a later Labor Day than in 2008, sales for which will fall into September. One factor could neutralize the other. According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, retail sales for the week ended Aug. 29 fell 0.5% from the prior week and 0.7% from the comparable week in 2008. The first week of August came in flat versus the prior week but sales were up 0.4% on a year-over-year basis. ICSC predicts August comps declined between 3.5% and 4%.  <wwd.com/business-news>


-Fast Retailing Co. Ltd. wants to be the biggest around - Tadashi Yanai, chairman of the firm, said Wednesday that the Japanese apparel company aims to grow its annual sales by more than seven times to 5 trillion yen, or $53.7 billion, by the year 2020. And analysts don’t think the goal is that far-fetched. “We hope to become the biggest maker and retailer in fashion,” Yanai said during a press conference. “The dream will come true if we can grow our business by at least 20 percent each year.” The executive reiterated Fast Retailing is eyeing potential acquisitions, especially in Europe, but said there are few attractive companies on the market right now. Even without acquisitions, he said he thinks the company can reach 1 trillion yen, or $10.74 billion, in sales by 2010. <wwd.com/business-news>


-Thom Browne offers new line of clothes with lower price points - Thom Browne is establishing two new ranges that will be priced 30% to 40% lower than his fashion-forward runway offerings, making him the latest men’s designer to adopt a strategic focus on lower prices and repositioned staples — as Tim Hamilton, Duckie Brown and others have also done recently. The new Thom Browne ranges, launching for spring 2010, do not have distinct labels but are known unofficially as Thom Browne “classics” and Thom Browne “red/white/blue.” Initiating with a few styles, they are expected to grow to 50 percent of the collection and broaden the market for the brand. <wwd.com/retail-news>



RESEARCH EDGE PORTFOLIO: (Comments by Keith McCullough): BBBY, KSWS


09/02/2009 03:25 PM


McGough and Levine continue to have a very high level of conviction that the earnings recovery will be there for BBBY. KM


09/02/2009 03:18 PM


So far, this dog has acted exactly like what McGough called it - a dirty wet dog. There is value here, and that's why I am buying more of it on red. KM

Big Water

“When supper time came the old cook came on deck
Saying fellows it's too rough to feed ya”

–Gordon Lightfoot, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald


This week I have been writing my morning missives from our family house on the Big Lake that the Ojibways call “Gitchigumi”, meaning "Big Water".


Thunder Bay is at the head of Lake Superior. Canadians call it The Lakehead. It’s a much safer place than CNBC. It’s quiet and you’d really have to look long and hard to find any finance oriented groupthink. That said, there are plenty of other things to worry about up here – lots of bears and Big Water.


Gordon Lightfoot wrote that the Big Lake “never gives up her dead.” We locals are always mindful of that and we’re always managing risk appropriately.


As most of you know, in addition to hockey, I’m big on metaphors. In the past week we’ve somehow successfully traversed the Big Water of a US stagflation unwind with the following Early Look titles:


“Part of Hell” = 8/26

“Ball Underwater” = 8/27

“Numb is The New Deep” = 8/28

“Duration Mismatch” = 8/31

“Circumstances Rule” = 9/1

“Danger Ball” = 9/2


This, of course, all started with one of our favorite behavioral strategists, the late George Carlin, reminding us that, “I'm not concerned about all hell breaking loose, but that a PART of hell will break loose... it'll be much harder to detect.”


We then moved toward marking our own bottom in what we’ve labeled the Burning Buck (covering our short position in the US Dollar and selling mostly everything, other than Gold, that was priced in those Dollars). Then the Ball Underwater (the US Dollar) shot to the upside, and everything else is history. The SP500 has been down for 4-straight days, correcting -3.5% from her YTD high of 1030.


Whether you agree with us or not that that the ISM Prices Paid report was a Danger Ball (stagflation preview), or that the US Dollar remains THE driving factor in global macro right now, is up to you. This morning, US Dollar down (pre-US market open) has US Equity futures indicated up, and no matter where you go this morning, there’s that Big Water again.


The Buck started to Burn again intraday yesterday (see our midday note titled “US Dollar Update: Pandering Politicians”) for 2 reasons: Tim Geithner spoke and the Fed’s FOMC Minutes were released. As predictable as the sun rising on the East of our Big Lake this morning, Geithner will trot his squirrel hunting gear out to the G-20 meetings in London and tell the world of revisionist financiers that it’s “too early” to raise rates or remove free money stimulus. Get this guy some Sapporo.


The Fed’s Minutes were just an analytical shame. There is no credibility in a currency which is dominated by a US Federal Reserve that is as politicized as this one. If you changed the script to Japanese, you wouldn’t be able to discern which bureaucratic nation penned the outlook. Bernanke’s group-thinkers said that there was “uncertainty” about nearly everything other than the Great Depression Part 2 being a certainty. Gee, thanks guys.


Yesterday, I spent most of the day covering shorts and buying equities. To be clear, I was already playing with a lead here in September and consciously opted to play that move aggressively. I was doing so with tight stops. With the US Dollar down this morning, I suspect that I might get some good prices to sell into, and I will. The $30/oz monkey chase in Gold was a little much for me yesterday, so I sold into that strength too.


When there is Big Water like this coming on deck, there are no established rules. The first Nobel Prize in Economics wasn’t handed out until 1969. This game of managing global market risk is far from an established science.


The Big Water I see this morning has nothing to do with anything other than what’s there. I’m not one of those Wall Street “strategists” who is being rained on that will say with a straight face that he isn’t getting wet.


If I end up selling everything I am long in the US this morning, I’ll probably smile and go on with my day. The Thunder Bay Firefighters Golf Classic is tomorrow, and my Dad is retiring. I’m sure I can learn a thing or two about managing risk from the boys who fight the real stuff with Big Water every night.


My risk management model hears that ole cook coming on deck saying “fellas it’s too rough to feed ya.” So I have shifted our Asset Allocation to a very defensive posture. We are long low-beta sectors and low-risk income generating macro positions (Healthcare, Utilities, TIPs, and Chinese Yuan). I think selling strength today, taking a step back from the Big Water, and watching it settle for a few days is the best way forward.


My immediate term TRADE resistance line for the SP500 is 1004. For the Nasdaq, I’m up at 1991.


Best of luck out there today,






XLU – SPDR UtilitiesWe bought some low beta dividend yield on its lows on 9/2. Utilities traded down 1% and they should act ok during stagflation fears. 


XLV – SPDR Healthcare We’re finally getting the correction we’ve been calling for in Healthcare. It’s a good one to buy into. Our Healthcare sector head Tom Tobin remains bullish on fading the “public plan” at a price.


EWH – iShares Hong KongThe current lower volatility in the Hang Seng (versus the Shanghai composite) creates a more tolerable trading range in the intermediate term and a greater degree of tactical confidence.


QQQQ – PowerShares NASDAQ 100We bought Qs on 8/10 and 8/17 to be long the US market. The index includes companies with better balance sheets that don’t need as much financial leverage.


CYB – WisdomTree Dreyfus Chinese Yuan The Yuan is a managed floating currency that trades inside a 0.5% band around the official PBOC mark versus a FX basket. Not quite pegged, not truly floating; the speculative interest in the Yuan/USD forward market has increased dramatically in recent years. We trade the ETN CYB to take exposure to this managed currency in a managed economy hoping to manage our risk as the stimulus led recovery in China dominates global trade.


TIP– iShares TIPS The iShares etf, TIP, which is 90% invested in the inflation protected sector of the US Treasury Market currently offers a compelling yield. We believe that future inflation expectations are currently mispriced and that TIPS are a efficient way to own yield on an inflation protected basis, especially in the context of our re-flation thesis.





LQD – iShares Corporate Bonds Corporate bonds have had a huge move off their 2008 lows and we expect with the eventual rising of interest rates that bonds will give some of that move back. Shorting ahead of Q4 cost of capital heightening as access to capital tightens.


EWJ – iShares Japan While a sweeping victory for the Democratic Party of Japan has ended over 50 years of rule by the LDP bringing some hope to voters; the new leadership  appears, if anything, to have a less developed recovery plan than their predecessors. We view Japan as something of a Ponzi Economy -with a population maintaining very high savings rate whose nest eggs allow the government to borrow at ultra low interest levels in order to execute stimulus programs designed to encourage people to save less. This cycle of internal public debt accumulation (now hovering at close to 200% of GDP) is anchored to a vicious demographic curve that leaves the Japanese economy in the long-term position of a man treading water with a bowling ball in his hands.


SHY – iShares 1-3 Year Treasury Bonds  If you pull up a three year chart of 2-Year Treasuries you'll see the massive macro Trend of interest rates starting to move in the opposite direction. We call this chart the "Queen Mary" and its new-found positive slope means that America's cost of capital will start to go up, implying that access to capital will tighten. Yields are going to continue to make higher-highs and higher lows until consensus gets realistic.



Las Vegas Sands Corp announced yesterday that it had secured commitments to raise up to US$600 million through the sale of exchangeable bonds.  The bonds will be mandatorily exchangeable into shares when it spins off its Macau operations in an initial public offering in Hong Kong early in 2010, an exercise the company hopes will raise a further US$2.5 billion.

The convertible bonds were offered at interest rates of up to 16%, according to “people who had seen the documents prepared by Goldman Sachs, LVS’ appointed investment bank.  Sheldon Adelson was quoted as saying, “the completion of this financing, which we expect to occur in a matter of days, will enhance our current liquidity position and further our efforts towards reaching long-term financial stability.”

The company owes US$10.8 billion to its banks, including US$3.3 billion of Macau debt largely originating from the construction of the Venetian and Four Seasons resorts in Macau.  Following a recent credit agreement amendment, and this bond sale, the company has bought time to either repay debt or restart lots 5&6. 

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MACAU: 18% ON TOP OF 40%

Total table revenue in July grew 18% y-o-y, driven by 21% growth in the Mass and a 17% increase in the VIP market. The growth was even more impressive given the 40% comparison.



Macau is rolling, and not just the Rolling Chip segment.  An 18% table game increase - the best in a year - driven by VIP and Mass, is impressive enough.  Considering the difficulty of the comparison - +40% last year, the August 2009 performance is stunning.  Going forward, the catalysts remain positive:  11 straight easy comparisons beginning in September, high probability of a gaming tax reduction by the summer of 2010, excess demand, and more junket credit availability.  We remain concerned about the significant increase in Mass supply in 2010, but for these stocks that issue is light years away.


Crown, LVS, SJM, and MGM were the clear winners this month, all experiencing table growth in excess of market growth.  Crown gained more share as City of Dreams (CoD) continued its ramp.  SJM and MGM had strong growth despite weaker year-over-year hold comparisons.  LVS benefitted from high hold and growth at FS (although still too tiny to move the needle).  WYNN was the only operator which experienced a decline in table hold this month.




Y-o-Y Property Observations:


LVS table revenues up 19%

  • Sands was up 12%; with the entire increase driven by 24% growth in VIP win
    • VIP RC decreased at Sands (~25%),  however hold comparisons were very favorable
  • Venetian was down 4%; Mass down 6% and VIP down 3.5%
    • VIP RC (Rolling Chip) was down 18%, but hold was favorable
  • Four Seasons had a strong ramp in revenues with estimated table revenues of $50MM compared to an anemic July
    • RC more than doubled compared to July, hold was also very high

Wynn table revenues were down 10%

  • In a reversal from July, Mass was up 6%, offset by a 14% decline in VIP
    • Lower VIP revenues were due to a combination of lower RC volume and lighter hold

Crown table revenue up 33%

  • Altira was down 33%, RC volumes were down 35%
  • While not as strong as July, CoD had another good month, generating an estimated 110MM of revenues
    • Mass ramped to $20MM from $17MM in July
    • VIP RC grew 18% sequentially (so much for sell side reports claiming that Macau properties don't ramp)
    • Hold was above MPEL's "normal" 2.85% at both properties, but not as high as the huge hold % we saw at CoD in July

SJM was up 28%

  • Mass was up 30% and VIP was up 25% despite very weak hold
    • RC increase a whopping 58%

Galaxy table revenue was up 15%, entirely driven by a 19% increase in VIP win

  • Starworld continued to perform well with table revenue up 11%, driven by a 13% increase in VIP revenues despite weaker hold (on a easy comp)

MGM table revenue was up 23%

  • Mass revenues were down 2%, but VIP revenue was up 32%



Market Share:


-LVS share increased to 24% from 21% in July

  • Sands' share declined to 7%
  • Venetian & FS' share increased to 17.1%  from 12.3% in July
    • Most of the increase was driven by VIP up 6.7% to 16.5% from 9.9% in July

-WYNN had its weakest share month since we've been tracking this data (March '08) with share of only 12.6% vs 14.5% last month

-Crown market share wasn't as good as July at 17.8%, but still up materially at 16%

-SJM share was back up this month at 26.4% from 23.8% in July

-Galaxy lost a little share, ending at 10.1% vs 10.6% in July

-MGM's share decreased to 10.5% from 12.4% in July, but the company had one of its best share months since opening


                                                               MACAU: 18% ON TOP OF 40% - Macau Total Bac Marketshare


                                                               MACAU: 18% ON TOP OF 40% - Macau MM Rev Share Aug


                                                               MACAU: 18% ON TOP OF 40% - Macau RC Turnover Marketshare




The per key valuation of recent hotel transactions are starting to look interesting (for buyers).



We've got a pretty extensive database of hotel transactions over the past several years.  We can make that available to interested clients.  The chart below provides a look at the price per key trends.  We've presented it on a rolling basis and have excluded trophy assets to smooth it out.  Included are transactions ranging from economy to upper upscale where prices were disclosed. 


The declining values are instructive.  While clearly not a positive for the sellers, the industry as a whole may benefit from a more liquid transaction market.  Transfers of ownership to buyers with lower costs of capital and better balance sheets is a natural and efficient outcome of a severe demand downturn.



LODGING DEALS - Hotel transactions

PSS: Numbers Need To Go Higher

Black Book thesis solidly intact. No changes to our estimates on PSS or the view we articulated in our Black Book (let us know if you are interested in a copy) about how and why PSS has $2.00+ in EPS power over 2-years – about 65% ahead of the Street’s expectation.


The quarter in itself was kind of a yawn. Probably more puts than takes – which is one thing we outlined in our Black Book, but it was definitely not anywhere near as bad as it could have been given the circumstances and the sentiment. Comp was right in line (but still weak at -7.3%), GM a 100bps worse than we had in our model.  SG&A in line.  Tax rate helped, but will be a benefit on an ongoing basis. Working capital and cash flow was really solid – the CF trajectory was better than I modeled, and inventories are in check.


As for the outlook, the only thing that was new to me was that mgmt quantified a 20%+ decline in rent on leases being renegotiated during the course of business. This is above the mid-teens rate I had in my model (you do the math – rent is 15% of COGS, and 20% of stores up for renewal per year at 20% price cut).


Rubell probably kept earnings in check for 3Q by noting that product costs (68% of COGS by my math) will be down only low-single-digits in 3Q and then will accelerate to 10%+ in 4Q.  I think the 3Q is a low-ball number. Even with better meat on the bone from PSS on financials, my sense is that numbers won’t go up anywhere near as much as they should.


As for other items that lead to my 6% margin and $2.00 in EPS power number… nothing really changed. Own out of the print, not into it.  This continues to be a BIG idea.


 PSS: Numbers Need To Go Higher - PSS S 9 09

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