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PSS: WMT Price Gap Widening

The WMT price point gap is the key call-out of our ongoing survey of like-for-like product in the value-zone. PSS seems to be more closely aligning its competitive price positioning with TGT, KSS and JCP.

 

 

Interesting change this week in our survey of price points on like-for-like product at a select group of low-price/discount footwear retailers.  We track this specifically as it relates to Payless, as its strategy is to sell at a 20-30% discount to its competition. That’s when it has historically realized optimum traffic and conversion.  The one thing that did not change is something that is really worth calling out, which is the consistency in price movements between Payless, Target and JC Penney. As the chart below suggests, PSS sells consistently at a discount to Kohl’s, but in a more volatile range. The big notable, however, is Wal*Mart is tracking at a 32% discount to PSS. This is starting to turn into a head-scratcher for me. Over time, I want to see PSS’ price gap with WMT widen and move closer to the TGTs, KSSs, and JCPs of the world, but that won’t happen overnight. But such material fluctuations so quickly require that I at least stay on guard to ensure that I’m not missing something. It helps that we’re so early in the season. If it was December and we saw this price gap, or I did not have the confidence that Rubel and team are proactively managing this price strategy, then I’d be raising a yellow flag about now. But I'm not. Numbers still need to come up.

 

And yes, I completely realize that our survey can’t adequately forecast the comp in such a complex business with thousands of stores and hundreds of thousands of SKUs. But not only has this been a directionally accurate tool for us, but most importantly it helps us make sure we’re asking the right questions.

 

Darius Dale and Brian McGough

 

PSS: WMT Price Gap Widening - 10 25 2009 8 50 30 PM


JNY: The Quantamental Shark Line

JNY: Bullish Formation

 

Oh the irony that Keith mentions 'The Shark Line' while I sit here watching Jaws on cable with my kids (while going through earnings models). I gave my take on JNY. Here's his...

 

TRADE = 18.35, so pretty close here – the catalyst will decide its fate

TREND = 15.22, a lot lower… so this one isn’t for the faint of heart as we are testing the TRADE shark line


JNY: Every Dog Has Its Day

 I will put JNY in the top 3% of worst-managed retail companies of the past decade.  It was so textbook how the company was robbing its brands of capital, acquiring marginal content to give the optical illusion the its top line was growing, and printing unsustainably high margins. But we all know that already. That fateful July day when Boneparth was ousted in the Summer ’07 and the Street realized that $3.00 in EPS was only a pipe dream and the stock subsequently plunged to $13 is proof enough of that. What we also know is that every dog has its day, and even though the current management team is average at best, the trajectory of the P&L here is still a winner.

 

We’re coming in at $0.36 for the quarter versus the Street at $0.28, and we’re 35% above the Street next year at $1.50.  A couple of things to consider on the model that people might not be considering…

 

1)      First, Liz Claiborne is walking away from about $400-$500mm in business at wholesale with its new deal with JC Penney. JNY is the obvious beneficiary. Not a 3Q event, but it’s on the immediate horizon.

 

2)      The most powerful part of this story is that JNY is accelerating its store closure program – simply because the commercial real estate market (or lack thereof) has created a window for JNY to bail on money-losing businesses.  We’re talking 240 stores out of about 1,000 – and the stores in question are losing money to the tune of a -10% EBIT margin. You do the math…$1.5mm per store *240 stores *-10% EBIT mgn. Yes, that’s about 5points in margin accretion to retail – even with the sales base dropping by a third. This is a business that had a -7% EBIT last year.

 

3)      Not sure if anyone noticed, but t his is the best boot cycle we’re seen in years. A primary beneficiary? 9 West – about a billion in sales.

 

Do I love this company? Course not. But my feelings about a company have nothing to do with my analysis of its financials.  Numbers need to head higher here. Mr. Market knows this to a certain extent, as short interest is sitting at a measly 5% of the float – low for JNY.  But an offsetting factor there is the simple fact that (until late last week) no one has asked me about the company in six months.

 

JNY: Every Dog Has Its Day - 10 25 2009 8 03 46 PM 


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UA: $1.5bn Roadmap

To all ye ‘Under Armour is too Expensive’ detractors, simply keep in mind that not only does UA have $400/$500mm in growth over 3-years, but a plan to get there.  Here’s our S-Curve…

 

 

We already put out a note on our thoughts on the quarter to be reported on Tuesday (10/10: UA: How Have Expectations Changed?), so I won’t rehash that now.  But as we head into UA’s quarter, let’s keep an important backdrop in place. That is that this is a company that can grow – for a long time – and it has the plan, the people, and the infrastructure to do it.

 

The biggest pushback we get on this name is ‘it’s too expensive.’  If you want to look at p/e or EBITDA, then be my guest. Yes, on those metrics, it’s expensive. But if you stuck to trading ranges of those multiples with UA in the past – well – you’re probably not one of the ones making the ‘valuation’ case to me today. As we’ve noted several times, when looking at EV/Total Addressable Market Value, it’s tough to find something cheaper in consumer.

 

We admit…it’s easy for someone to throw out a large dollar number as to market size and then claim a company as ‘cheap’.  We, of course, did not do that. We went into each category of UA’s business, and ramped each one according to realistic expectations based around the capital UA is deploying into its business. Ultimately, we map out how the company gets to $1.5bn in sales in 3-years (vs. sub $800mm in 2008), a glimpse of which is below. Details behind our analysis are available to our Premium Access subscribers. Please contact for more depth.

 

UA: $1.5bn Roadmap - 10 25 2009 6 34 24 PM


CARPOOL TO VEGAS?

Gas prices are due to become a headwind for gaming markets all over the country, having been a massive tailwind for much of the past year. Some markets will be hit much harder than others.

 

 

 

We’ve proven that gasoline prices are a statistically significant variable in driving gaming revenues.  While the coming surge in year-over-year gas prices will negatively impact gaming markets around the United States, some markets are worse off than others.  The chart below illustrates the spread between the respective areas and the national average price of gas.  The most notable outlier is California and it’s big.

 

 

CARPOOL TO VEGAS? - GAS spread

 

 

 

If current gas prices stay constant, California will be hit far harder by the year-over-year growth in prices than other areas of the country.  As the second chart (below) demonstrates, December would bring a 70% y-o-y hike in gas prices in that state.  Gas prices are highly significant in influencing consumer behavior.  California has its own tribal casinos which will no doubt be impacted.  California also provided 28% of the visitation to Las Vegas in 2008, with Southern California being the origin of 24% of visitors in the same period.  Despite the economy, car traffic from California has been positive every month since March due in part to huge YoY declines in gas prices.

 

 

CARPOOL TO VEGAS? - GAS by market

 

 

It is clear that all gaming markets in the United States will be hit by the effects of the gas price inflation in the back end of this year and the beginning of next year.  The East Coast and Gulf Coast markets will have more moderate increases in the price of gasoline, but the increases of 47% and 44% respectively are certainly not to be dismissed. 

 

On a relative basis, Las Vegas’ auto-traffic should suffer more than other gaming markets.  Even given the steep sequential drop off in the monthly year-over-year increases in gas prices, the increase in California’s February gasoline prices will still be almost an average of 10% higher than the other markets depicted in the chart above.


The Eurozone, On the Margin

Research Edge Position: Long Germany (EWG)

 

We’ve been writing about improving fundamentals in Western Europe for months now, and have recently cautioned that we expect this improvement to slow sequential due to the rate of the ramp itself, a strong Euro, and the headwind of rising unemployment. Below are the salient data points from the Eurozone this week:

 

Reuters PMI data for the Eurozone, Germany, and France in October show sequential improvement, excluding a second straight month of contraction in German Services. Importantly the numbers are all above the 50 level that signals expansion, yet as noted we expect the rate of improvement to slow in the coming months as the aforementioned macro factors weaken confidence and future expectations. 

 

For the region’s largest economy, German business and investor confidence are showing signs of slowing.  Last week the German ZEW survey of investor and analyst expectations fell to 56 in October from 57.7 in the previous month. And today, in a survey from the Ifo institute, German business confidence rose to 91.9 in October from 91.3, while Current Expectations gained a meager 20 bps to 87.3 in October. If tops and bottoms are processes, not points (Keith McCullough), we’re noticing a sequential deceleration in improvement, and we’ll be looking for confirmation over the next two months.

 

Across much of the data the tail from stimulus packages—especially the auto rebate programs—is noticeable. French consumer spending rose 2.3% in September M/M, with spending on automobiles up 10%.  And Germany reported today that construction orders rose 3% in August Y/Y, from -8.4% in July, indicative of a boost in road construction. Manufacturing numbers as well as confidence have been receiving a sizable boost from stimulus incentives.

 

                Inflation

Eurozone inflation fell to -0.3% in September year-over-year, from -0.2% in August Y/Y. As stated in previous work, we expect inflation to increase at a relatively stable rate. As we come off of last summer’s manic energy prices on an annual compare in back half of Q4, energy prices should yield inflationary numbers.  We still contend that the uneven rate of inflation/deflation across the region will remain a political football for the ECB when it considers raising rates as certain countries are experience lower levels, like Ireland at -3% or Portugal -1.8%. We continue to like Germany’s mild deflationary environment right now, at -0.5% in September Y/Y, as a catalyst to stoke consumer spending as the economy melts up.

 

                Unemployment

Unemployment tipped higher to 9.6% in August.  In our post “Jobless Recovery in Europe” on 10/8 we argued that a jobless recovery in the Eurozone may be more bullish than in the United States because of the significantly stronger foundation of social services than those available to US citizens and due to the historically higher levels of unemployment throughout Europe.  That said, we expect rising unemployment to dampen sentiment and spending in aggregate.

 

                Euro

A “weighty” Euro remains on our radar screens for as a macro catalyst it makes Eurozone exports less competitive. Although rear-view, Eurozone exports were down 5.8% in August sequentially, which dropped the trade balance to 1 Billion EUR from 6 Billion EUR in the previous month when exports rose 4.7% month-over-month. Rhetoric is heating up from the likes of Trichet that the Euro is too strong versus the USD, however if we’re right on our call on the USD (we’re currently short UUP in our model portfolio) the Euro should continue to melt high as the Buck burns.  Currently the Euro is trading at $1.5032.

 

 

Matthew Hedrick
Analyst 


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