Takeaway: WMT gas stations. Jordan finally runs. Fast Retailing dumps JCrew. Gap taps Philippines. 60% of consumers blame TGT. DECK brand store = fail
EVENTS TO WATCH
- GES - Earnings Call: Wednesday 3/19, 4:30pm
- TLYS - Earnings Call: Wednesday 3/19, 4:30pm
- WTSL - Earnings Call: Thursday 3/20, 5:00pm
- NKE - Earnings Call: Thursday 3/20, 5:00pm
- TIF - Earnings Call: Friday 3/21, 8:30am
Jcrew, 9983 - Merger Talks Between J. Crew, Fast Retailing Break Down
- "Merger discussions between apparel chain J. Crew Group Inc. and Japan's Fast Retailing Co. have broken down, people familiar with the matter said…Fast Retailing..walked away from discussions with J. Crew management and the company's private-equity owners soon after The Wall Street Journal and others reported on the talks in late February, the people said."
- "While it isn't clear exactly why the talks broke down, some of the people said the fact that they became public played a role. The end to the discussions could prove temporary, and both companies could renew them down the road, the people added."
Takeaway: Kinda funny how the day this story broke several weeks back, everyone assumed it was baked. Even we assumed it would go through. After all, it makes sense. Fast Retailing has been looking to buy a US concept for the better part of three years. Just because talks broke down with Drexler & Co, it doesn’t mean that Fast is done. Quite the opposite, in fact. We’d expect them to accelerate their search. There are plenty of options – at prices below the $5bn price tag rumored for JCrew. We have some ideas. Let us know if you care to discuss.
NKE - First Look At The Jordan Flight Runner
- "...the Jordan Flight Runner is the Jordan Brand's first-ever running specific model. The innovative runner aims to take comfort and performance to the next level with a Dynamic Fit lacing system and Zoom Air cushioning.
- "The Jordan Flight Runner is set to officially release May 1st, and will retail for $110."
Takeaway: This might seem odd to some people, but it actually makes perfect sense. Jordan broke out of being just a Basketball brand a decade ago. The NBA is joined by the NFL, MLB, PGA and Lacrosse, among other sports, as places where you can find athletes wearing Jordans. Then why should the brand sidestep the most popular silhouette in the US? (yes, that’s running). We’re not sure if they’re geared for fashion or to actually run in, but there are two things we know…1) they’re long overdue and 2) they’ll sell. Good move by Nike here.
FOSL - FOSSIL GROUP TO SUPPORT GOOGLE’S EXTENSION OF ANDROID INTO WEARABLES
- "Fossil Group, Inc. announced today they are working together with Google supporting the extension of Android into wearables with Android Wear. As part of the launch, Google also announced the release of a Developer Preview of Android Wear, helping them build rich wearable experiences for their existing Android apps."
Takeaway: Good move by FOSL here. It is the undisputed king of the mass-market watch. But it faces a bit of a hurdle – from a secular standpoint. Odds are that 90% of the people reading this are wearing a watch. Now go and poll a group of kids under the age of 18 – across all income and demographic groups – and come up with a ‘watch ratio’ for that group. It certainly won’t be over 50%, and our sense is that it’ll struggle to get above 25%. Kids simply don’t wear watches anymore. Their watch is their phone. Fossil is smart to team up with Google and anyone else out there that can maximize its relevance with a younger consumer.
GPS - Gap Inc. Opens First-Ever Franchise-Operated Old Navy Stores
- "Gap Inc. announced today its plans to open five franchise-operated Old Navy stores in the Philippines in 2014...The first two Old Navy stores will open in Manila in March and there are plans to open three more stores in the second half of the year for a total of five Old Navy stores in 2014."
- "Old Navy is partnering with Stores Specialists, Inc. to open the stores, which already operates Gap brand and Banana Republic stores in the Philippines."
Takeaway: We don’t like Gap for a number of reasons. But this move is fine by us. Makes sense to go into a new market like the Philippines with a partner. And Old Navy, with its low price points, is ideally suited for a poor country like the Philippines, which has a GDP less than half the size of Wal-Mart’s annual revenue base.
ADDYY - Herbert Hainer Takes New Role at Soccer Club
- "Herbert Hainer, Adidas' CEO, will become the new president and business chairman of German soccer club Bayern Munich, after the resignation of Uli Hoeness."
- "In a subsequent conference call, the FC Bayern München AG supervisory board resolved the following: Herbert Hainer (59), Adidas AG CEO and previously deputy chairman of the FC Bayern München AG supervisory board, is appointed chairman of the supervisory board, effective immediately and until further notice. This decision was unanimously approved by the supervisory board."
Takeaway: Seriously Herbert? Let’s face some facts…you’re not exactly knocking the cover off the ball in your day job. Adidas needs more of your time, not less. You already endorse Bayern Munich, so what are the added benefits of being the President of the Club? This is reminiscent of when Mike Ullman became Chair of the Dallas Federal Reserve and joined the Board of the NRF. Keep your eyes on the prize boys…
WMT - Wal-Mart Tests Convenience Store Prototype
- "The Bentonville retail giant is having a grand opening of its 'Walmart To Go' store on March 19. The store is at 1300 S. Walton Blvd., less than a mile from the corporate headquarters."
- "The store is approximately 2,500 SF, a small fraction of the size of the company’s small-format Neighborhood Market grocery stores. The store will sell gasoline as well as items usually associated with convenience stores."
- “’It’s a convenience store test concept,’ Barnett said. ‘We’re not planning any more across the country.’”
Takeaway: It’s so easy to knock Wal-Mart – that’s what happens when you get as big as it is. But the truth is that we give it credit for trying out new concepts. We wish we could say the same for other mature retailers, who seem so comfortable in their no-growth mediocrity. Our sense is that WMT sets up a few more of these concepts with one purpose in mind – to collect data about the kind of products people buy in these formats. Aside from testing new products in a very small concentrated space, it can use any insight gathered to add to its massive database that fuels merchandising decisions at its 4,000+ large format stores.
TGT - Survey: 60% of consumers blame retailers in breaches
- "Six-in-10 (60%) of those who knew about any data breaches at notable retailers, such as Target and Neiman Marcus, hold the merchant responsible for preventing future incidents of a data breach. The '2014 Consumer Reaction to Financial Data Breaches Study' of more than 2,000 adult U.S. consumers from Feedzai and Harris Interactive also found that 43% think nothing is more aggravating than getting credit/debit card data stolen."
- "Among U.S. adults who are aware of any data breaches, 60% believe merchants are responsible for preventing future incidents, while 13% believe responsibility falls on banks. Only 5% of these adults feel it is the consumer’s responsibility…"
Takeaway: We’re surprised to see that only 60% of consumers blame the retailer. Don’t get us wrong, 60% is a massive number – especially given that the survey was not confined to people that were actually harmed or in any way affected by the breach. But 40% of Americans giving retailers a free pass as it relates to blame for the risk is much greater than we thought.
DECK - Deckers Bows First Brand Showcase Store
- "Deckers' first 'brand showcase' store, located at the firm's headquarters in Goleta, Calif., opened to the public today. The 8,000-sq.-ft. location will serve as a testing ground for new product and technology, in addition to offering regular collections from Deckers labels including Ugg Australia, Teva, Sanuk, Tsubo, Ahnu, Mozo and Hoka One One."
- "The flagship also will allow shoppers to customize product in-store via iPad, with free shipping or in-store pick-up options."
Takeaway: We’re so surprised when we see companies open these ‘brand showcase’ stores. The reality is that the consumer could care less that the company Decker’s exists. They might love one of the brands, like UGG. But just because Decker’s owns a bunch of brands that help it diversify seasonally does not mean that the consumer wants to see them all. We’d rather see separate retail stores for each concept in the appropriate location to best target each consumer.
Turnstyle to Bring Retail Underground at Columbus Circle
- "The project, planned for the subway station concourse at 59th Street-Columbus Circle, envisions a 30,000-square-foot underground shopping mall populated by beauty, fashion, accessories and food shops. There’s space for 30 shops, which will be divided into three categories: grab ’n’ go, retail stores and marketplace."
APP - American Apparel Misses SEC Filing Deadline
- "American Apparel Inc. has missed the filing deadline for its annual report with the Securities and Exchange Commission as it struggles to fund its operations and pay interest on its debt."
- "The company notified the SEC Tuesday that it had missed the Monday deadline...for its annual report...because it was focusing on putting together a plan to regain compliance with the listing standards of the NYSE MKT exchange. The exchange notified American Apparel that it needed to file a plan to regain compliance by Friday and make progress toward meeting the plan by April 15."
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"I am sometimes a fox and sometimes a lion. The whole secret in government lies in knowing when to be one or the other."
The old farm yard analogy of a fox licking its chops and entering the proverbial hen house can likely be applied to many current situations. On the global macro front the situation in the Ukraine and stand-off, of sorts, between the West and Vladmir Putin is likely the most relevant.
Certainly, the foxes in the Kremlin are licking their chops since annexing the former Soviet territory of Crimea. Is this the beginning of another Cold War? It is likely not. But the ineffectiveness in combating the Russian move certainly increases the likelihood of additional and more aggressive moves by the Russians. (By ineffectiveness, I read yesterday that the current, proposed sanctions by the U.S. would freeze the assets of a mere seven Russian citizens.)
Late yesterday, the first fatality occurred as a Ukrainian military base in Crimea was overtaken by Russian / Crimean troops. Albeit only one serviceman was shot, and reports are still conflicted as to how and by whom, the response by the leadership in the Ukraine is to now allow their military to use force as needed in Crimea.
Perhaps most telling yesterday was Vladmir Putin’s hour long speech, specifically this excerpt:
“Our Western partners headed by the United States prefer not to be guided by international law in their practical policies, but by the rule of the gun. They have come to believe in their exceptionalism and their sense of being the chosen ones. That they can decide the destinies of the world, that it is only them that can be right.”
Clearly, the old Russian fox Putin is licking his lips.
Back to the Global Macro Grind . . .
Assuming hostilities don’t accelerate in Crimea, the most significant impact from the annexation of Crimea by Russia is likely to be on the upcoming midterm elections. The media has been very clearly painting President Obama and his administration to have been ineffective in dealing with the Russians and Obama’s approval rating is starting to reflect as much.
According to the RealClearPolitics approval aggregate, Obama’s disapproval rating is now 52 and his approval rating is 43, for a spread of 9. Gallup runs the longest running approval poll and the spread in that poll is even wider. Currently, according to Gallup, Obama’s approval is at 41. This is the worst approval rating of Obama’s Presidency and lower than President George W. Bush at the same time in his Presidency.
The fact that President Obama’s approval rating is in free fall is likely to be felt by the Democrats in the upcoming midterms. In fact, the generic congressional poll aggregate, which effectively asks the respondent to say whether they would vote Republican or Democrat in congressional races, is basically tied (with the Republicans actually leading in some polls). This is an inflection point as the Democrats have led in this generic poll very consistently since the last mid-term elections.
Speaking of polls, yesterday our daily Hedgeye poll asked, “Are you feeling the price pinch at the breakfast table?” More than 75% of the respondents responded, yes. This obviously shouldn’t be a surprise given the fact that coffee, orange juice and lean hog prices have had almost parabolic moves in the year-to-date. Of course, for those consumers who don’t eat breakfast (or eat for that matter), they may yet be immune to food based inflation!
As my colleague Christian Drake highlighted yesterday in an intraday note, inflation is also percolating in other parts of the economy. Specifically, CPI Services growth continues to hold above 2% and the growth trend looks similar even if you strip out the Shelter and Energy components of the Index.
Even as most consumers are seeing inflation, the bigger question will be whether the Fed sees it. Fed Chair Janet Yellen will get a chance to address this in her first news conference today at 2:30 pm (following the Fed statement at 2:00 pm). Certainly the stock market is seeing the consumer getting squeezed as well, as the consumer discretionary and consumer staples sectors are both down on the year.
Speaking of the stock market, despite the somewhat tepid return in the year-to-date, (the SP500 is only up just over 1% in the year-to-date and most major markets are down on the year), the latest US Investor's Intelligence poll shows that a predominance of investors remain bullish.
According to the poll:
- Bearish sentiment is unchanged at 17.4%;
- Those expecting a market correction increases to 30.6% from 27.5%; and
- Bullish sentiment decreases to 52.0% from 55.1%.
To be fair, it is likely difficult to envision much of a correction when the stock market is barely up on the year, but nonetheless investor complacency, at least based on this polls, seems noteworthy to say the least.
Our immediate-term Global Macro Risk Ranges are now (we have 12 ranges in our Daily Trading Range product):
UST 10yr Yield 2.62-2.74%
Keep your head up and stick on the ice,
Daryl G. Jones
Director of Research
Client Talking Points
It's mere scraps for the 2013 Nikkei bulls... The Nikkei up only +0.36% overnight (it's down over -11% year-to-date). The Yen remains strong versus US Dollar ahead of Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s first official Dollar Devaluation statement. Meanwhile, Japanese Government Bond yields are down to 0.60% on the 10-year as Japanese growth slows. Things could be better.
There's a horrifying setup ahead of the Fed's “qualitative rate guidance” (i.e., price fixing the long-end of the curve as inflation expectations rise). Sure, it may be good news for the stock market short term, but Burning Buck remains the single, biggest long term TAIL risk to the US economy. In other words?Watch out.
The only good economic news here is that options bets are way net long crude oil in the face of a TREND breakdown (+432,820 net long futures/options contracts). Oil needs to go a lot lower from here to become a consumption tax cut. But at least it's not going up. That's a start.
|FIXED INCOME||13%||INTL CURRENCIES||16%|
Top Long Ideas
Construction activity remains cyclically depressed, but has likely begun the long process of recovery. A large multi-year rebound in construction should provide a tailwind to OC shares that the market appears to be underestimating. Both residential and nonresidential construction in the U.S. would need to roughly double to reach post-war demographic norms. As credit returns to the market and government funded construction begins to rebound, construction markets should make steady gains in coming years, quarterly weather aside, supporting OC’s revenue and capacity utilization.
Darden is the world’s largest full service restaurant company. The company operates +2000 restaurants in the U.S. and Canada, including Olive Garden, Red Lobster, LongHorn and Capital Grille. Management has been under a firestorm of criticism for poor performance. Hedgeye's Howard Penney has been at the forefront of this activist movement since early 2013, when he first identified the potential for unleashing significant value creation for Darden shareholders. Less than a year later, it looks like Penney’s plan is coming to fruition. Penney (who thinks DRI is grossly mismanaged and in need of a major overhaul) believes activists will drive material change at Darden. This would obviously be extremely bullish for shareholders and could happen fairly soon driving shares materially higher.
We remain bullish on the British Pound versus the US Dollar, a position supported over the intermediate term TREND by prudent management of interest rate policy from Mark Carney at the BOE (oriented towards hiking rather than cutting as conditions improve) and the Bank maintaining its existing asset purchase program (QE). UK high frequency data continues to offer evidence of emergent strength in the economy, and in many cases the data is outperforming that of its western European peers, which should provide further strength to the currency. In short, we believe a strengthening UK economy coupled with the comparative hawkishness of the BOE (vs. Yellen et al.) will further perpetuate #StrongPound over the intermediate term.
Three for the Road
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value." - Albert Einstein
STAT OF THE DAY
A new £1 coin, billed by the Royal Mint as the "most secure coin in the world", is to be introduced in 2017. The move comes amid concerns about the 30-year old coin's vulnerability to counterfeiting, with an estimated 45 million forgeries in circulation. The Royal Mint, which believes 3% of existing £1 coins are fake, said the move would increase "public confidence" in the UK's currency and reduce costs for banks and other businesses. (BBC)
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