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NKE: Holding the Conch

SEPTEMBER 30, 2009


Gotta hand it to these guys. Nike definitely has control of its business and is proactively planning for the next burst of growth. Was this a pretty quarter? Hardly. With revenue and EBIT down 11.7% and 5%, respectively, futures down mid-single digits, and the cash cycle eroding by 10 days this is hardly a ‘victory lap’ quarter for Nike. Revenue missed my number by about 500bp, but the gross margin offset much of this (this was my biggest positive take away for NKE and the group overall). SG&A more than compensated for the rest. I can go back and forth on the puts and takes of the quarter, but the heart of the matter is that there are way too many companies out there that are printing junk numbers and sound like headless chickens on their conference calls. This is not one of them. It’s all about being in control in this business, and Nike is holding the conch.

Does this change my view on the name? No. No meaningful changes to estimates – as lower revenue and higher GM% are a wash. As noted earlier this week, I still think that we’re in a period of duration mismatch. There will be fits and starts. This quarter was a start. There will be fits – I have no doubt about that. But I also think that in fall ’10 the consensus is meaningfully underestimating the ramp in the model once the organization hits stride.  Check out my note from Monday.


Some Notable Call Outs

  • Aside from a better than expected quarter, there were a couple of noteworthy callouts from Walgreen’s 4Q conference call. First, WAG confirmed that the flu season is off to a record start. The company has already distributed more than twice as many flu shots this year so far vs. the entire flu season last year. Secondly, Walgreen showed impressive inventory management. On total sales growth of 7.6%, inventories were down 6.3% overall and 11.1% on a per store basis. These results are worthy of a double take as we normally see this type of sales/inventory spread at an apparel retailer!
  • It’s no secret, but it bears repeating. Zappos is making a big push into apparel and its Chief Merchant believes it will be the company’s largest category in 5 years. We’re assuming that does not include any existing Amazon business but if they do, it will be even larger. As more details emerge from Zappos recent advertising agency review, it is becoming clearer that the strategy to tap into apparel is slowly and steadily building.
  • If you’re already annoyed by e-mail spam or a mailbox filled with catalogs, then be on the lookout for your UPS deliveryman. UPS announced that it is joining the direct-marketing business with a test, which delivers targeted promotions, premium offers, and samples from national retailers and consumer product companies. These “packages” will be delivered by hand along with orders a customer is already expecting. As most of the world looks to go “green” it seems that “Brown” is taking the opposite approach.
  • Nike's conference call highlighted action sports, basketball, and women's training apparel as strong growth categories in North America while running, football, men's training apparel, and sportswear were weak. Charlie Denson noted that overall running was down in pretty much every geographic region. Nike’s comments on the running category come as some surprise, as most U.S footwear retailers have been highlighting running (especially performance) as the top category within athletic footwear.


-ICSC retail industry report predicts holiday sales up 1% for 2009 - A retail industry report released Monday predicts holiday sales will rise by about 1% or slightly higher, marking one of the first positive holiday forecasts this year. The International Council of Shopping Centers, a New York-based trade association for the shopping center industry, forecast sales at major chain stores, excluding Wal-Mart Stores Inc., will rise 1% for the combined months of November and December and gain 1.5% for the extended November-through-January season. Retail sales at a broad base of stores, as defined by the Commerce Department, are forecast to gain 0.9% for November-December and 1.6% for the November-through-January period, the group said. <chicagotribune.com>

-Moody's Investors Service said Tuesday it lifted its outlook for the U.S. retail industry to stable from negative - Moody's still cautioned that consumers are still facing layoffs, tighter credit and low housing prices, all of which are dampening spending. The revised outlook means that Moody's expects fundamentals in the retail sector will remain stable in the next year to 18 months. But Moody's warned that consumer demand for apparel still remains weak, and department stores are cutting back on inventory. That hurts revenue for apparel companies, which stock their merchandise in the stores. The ratings agency doesn't expect this holiday season to be as promotional as last year because inventory and demand are better aligned. Moody's believes retailers that will fare better are those with somewhat less discretionary products, such as children's clothing, and those who offer clothing at cheaper prices. <nytimes.com>

-U.K. Consumer Confidence Jumps the Most in 14 Years - U.K. consumer confidence jumped in September by the most since 1995 as optimism about the economy’s prospects rebounded, GfK NOP said. An index of sentiment rose to minus 16, the highest since January 2008, from minus 25 the previous month, the market researcher said in an e-mailed statement today in London. A gauge of confidence in the economy for the next year increased 13 points to 4, the highest in more than a decade. <bloomberg.com>

-Global: Steady growth in global apparel manufacturing despite downturn - Revenues in the global apparel manufacturing industry are forecast to grow at an average annual rate of 3.5%, to $476.8bn from 2008 to 2013, according to forecasts from market research firm IBIS World. Despite the world growth will still be low due to the current financial crisis, demand for basic clothing is likely to remain fairly constant. <fashionnetasia.com>

-India: Clothing exports slid 6% in July - India's garment exports fell by more than 6% in July due to the slowdown of its major markets of Europe and the US, according to the latest figures from the country's official body of apparel exporters APEPC. During April to July, garment exports decreased by an even higher 9.3% to $3.31bn, from $3.65bn in the same period last year. <fashionnetasia.com>

-Big 5 Sees Q3 EPS at Top of Range, Comps Ahead 1.6% - Big 5 Sporting Goods Corp. said comparable store sales for the third quarter increased 1.6%. The company now expects earnings per diluted share for the third quarter to be at or near the upper end of its previously issued guidance range of 27 cents to 34 cents. For comparative purposes, the company's EPS share for the third quarter of fiscal 2008 was 21 cents.

The sporting goods chain updated its guidance in anticipation of the company's upcoming presentation at the Thomas Weisel Consumer Conference on October 1, 2009 in New York. <sportsonesource.com>

-It’s a pivotal season for the 120-year-old Modell’s sporting goods, apparel and footwear chain - The $600 million, 144-unit regional retailer hopes to score big with a prototype opening Thursday in the Post Road Plaza in Pelham Manor, N.Y., representing the first dramatic updating in 15 years for the family-owned business. Compared with other Modell’s locations, the prototype is streamlined with delineated “category shops” devoid of clutter, has more seating, wider aisles and a virtually unobstructed vista across the selling floor. “Consumers want a convenient and compelling shopping experience. Those are our two catchwords,” said Seth Horowitz, president of Modell’s Sporting Goods, during a preview of the 18,000-square-foot, one-level Pelham unit. “Although much of what we’ve done here seems simple, it’s game-changing,” Horowitz said. The project reflects extensive consumer research over the past year, including 24 focus groups, 12,000 consumer surveys by e-mail, and accompanying 200 shoppers through the stores to gauge reactions. It also reflects the Modell family’s desire to shed the chain’s outdated image and invest in brick and mortar despite the tough economy. Since the mid-Nineties, growth has stemmed from store openings. Modell’s stores typically range from 13,000 to 20,000 square feet and are located in power strip centers, regional malls and high-traffic urban locations in the Northeast. <wwd.com/retail-news>

-M&S Says Sales Are Stabilizing, Predicts Rising Costs - Marks & Spencer Group Plc, the U.K.’s largest clothing retailer, said sales are stabilizing after two years of declines and forecast an increase in costs as it takes on more temporary workers at Christmas. Sales at U.K. stores open at least a year fell 0.5 percent in the 13 weeks ended Sept. 26, the London-based company said today. That beat the average estimate of nine analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News for a 1.6 percent drop, and represented an improvement on the previous quarter’s 1.4 percent decline. <bloomberg.com>

-American Apparel has fired about 1,500 immigrant production workers in the last month - The firings occurred because the immigrant workers were unable to prove to federal authorities they had the legal right to work in the U.S.  American Apparel’s made-in-the-U.S.A. and pro-immigrant stance have become integral parts of its brand image. The 1,500 employees who have departed represent 27% of the 5,600 factory workers employed at American Apparel before the federal investigation. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, American Apparel has said the firings would not have a material impact on the company because of its healthy inventory levels and continuing manufacturing capacity. American Apparel also has hired a “substantial” number of new employees over the past year, and may seek to hire “a few hundred” replacement workers in the near future for the 1,500 who have left, Schey said. <wwd.com/business-news>

-ANN TAYLOR’S NEW SPOKESWOMAN - Catherine Fisher, former senior vice president of corporate communications at Tommy Hilfiger, has joined AnnTaylor Stores Corp. in the new post of vice president of corporate communications, reporting to Kay Krill, president and chief executive officer. The company said Fisher will be responsible for corporate media relations, internal corporate communications and philanthropic initiatives. Prior to her time with Tommy Hilfiger, she held marketing and public relations positions with Joseph Abboud Co. GFT (USA) Corp. and Calvin Klein Menswear. <wwd.com/business-news>

-Sears Holdings Corp. on Tuesday agreed to pay $6.2 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for alleged disability bias. The EEOC filed the case against Sears, claiming it failed to provide the required accommodations for employees returning from workers’ compensation leave who remained disabled, as mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act. <wwd.com/business-news>

-Wellco Enterprises will open a new manufacturing and distribution center next month - The maker of Wellco Footwear and Smith & Wesson shoes will open a new manufacturing facility and distribution center in Morristown, Tenn., next month. The 110,000-sq.-ft. facility will be used to manufacture military shoes, work boots, outdoor sporting footwear, as well as law enforcement shoes. The opening is expected to add more than 100 jobs in the area and concludes a multistage reorganization that included shifting production elements and closing a smaller facility in North Carolina. <wwd.com/footwear-news>

-Giorgio Armani SpA announced three senior management changes, which signaled an easing of the 75-year-old founding designer’s workload - Effective Jan. 1, Gianni Gerbotto will leave his post as general manager of the Italian fashion group and take board responsibility for financial management and investments. Livio Proli, currently general manager of subsidiary Simint SpA, will replace Gerbotto as general manager of Giorgio Armani. John Hooks, who is currently deputy general manager, will become group deputy chairman and will join the board of directors with responsibility for global strategy and markets and brand development. Hooks will maintain all his current responsibilities for the group’s foreign subsidiaries, Armani said. <wwd.com/business-news>

-Women’s footwear brands are taking cues from the sailing sector for resort ’09 and spring ’10 - Nautical-inspired flats and heels embellished with anchor hardware and rope and cork details make a statement in standout reds, whites and blues. <wwd.com/footwear-news>

-Alabama Retail Association honored Hibbett Sports - Statewide retailers gathered Tuesday at The Club to honor their own and hear from one of Alabama’s most experienced retailers. The Alabama Retail Association and University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Business hosted the 2009 Retail Day, where Hibbett Sports CEO Mickey Newsome shared strategy on his sporting goods company. Strong information systems and low operating costs have been key to Hibbett’s success throughout its history, as cardboard boxes are continuously reused – for a savings of about $100,000 a year – and pennies are scraped starting at the top, he said. “Water runs downhill and it has to start at corporate,” he said.  <birmingham.bizjournals.com>

-Kohl's to Launch 35 New Stores, Lauren Conrad Line - Mid-priced department store chain Kohl's will open 35 new stores at former Mervyns locations this week, as well as launch an exclusive clothing line from MTV reality star Lauren Conrad. Thirty of the new store openings are located in California. <licensemag.com>

-Nautilus to Divest its Commercial Business - Nautilus, Inc. said it is actively seeking buyers for substantially all of the assets, liabilities and ongoing operations of its commercial business. The fitness company said the move will enable it to focus its resources solely on its branded consumer businesses.

Nautilus said this is a further step in the company’s restructuring plan of improving its cost structure and focusing on the consumer market through the direct and retail businesses. <sportsonesource.com>

-Kmart Rolls Out First "Fab 15" Holiday Toy List - More than a dozen Santas were on hand to help unveil Kmart's first-ever "Fab 15" holiday toy list. A number of licensed items based on popular kids' properties made the lineup, which was revealed yesterday morning in New York City. <licensemag.com>

RESEARCH EDGE PORTFOLIO: (Comments by Keith McCullough): AZO, WRC, DKS

09/29/2009 10:45 AM


See Levine's note "The Repurchase Zone" from 9/23, and you'll get the point. Stock is up today, so we're re-shorting it on green. KM

09/29/2009 10:35 AM


Looking for names in Discretionary that have seen massive short covering. McGough made cautious comments on BofA's bullish WRC initiation this morning. Shorting high. KM

09/29/2009 10:07 AM


Keeping a trade a trade. Booking a small gain in DKS after a weak consumer confidence read-through and a solid 2-day move. KM