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R3: How Sweet It Is 

December 28, 2009

So many people fail to realize both the uniformity and magnitude of the group move in retail. Today, we’re looking at 56% of companies in the ‘sweet spot’ of our SIGMA analysis. That’s absolutely not sustainable, and  with a 95% relationship to moves in the stocks this can’t be ignored.




We’re seeing unprecedented uniformity in the triangulation between sales, inventories and margins among retailers.  While we all know this, I don’t think people realize the magnitude – which is evident by each company’s positioning in our SIGMA analysis. As a reminder, this analysis shows the trade-off a company is making at any given point in time on the balance sheet to drive the P&L, and vice versa. In a perfect world, both the balance sheet and P&L are headed in a positive trajectory at the same time. Today, we are looking at 56% of the 107 companies in our analysis in the ‘sweet spot’ of our analysis (sales growth outpacing in inventory growth, and margins headed higher), which is up from a mere 32% in 2Q. I have not seen a more meaningful positive move – ever. ‘Ever’ is a long time. As one might imagine, the stock moves associated with moves from one quadrant to the next are meaningful. Whenever a company moves out of Quadrant 1 – or even heads to a less attractive place in that quadrant, it is a negative stock move. And I’m not saying ‘sometimes it is a negative-ish move.’ We’re talking a .95x R2 with the average move usually squarely in the double digits.

What’s my point here?  Welcome to 2010. It is a stock picker’s market. Generating alpha by way of getting the group call right doesn’t mean squat anymore. Company fundamentals matter, and they matter big. When we re-run the analysis below in 13 weeks, we won’t see 56% of the companies in the sweet spot. Pick your battles…

R3: How Sweet It Is  - Ind sigma1 12 09


R3: How Sweet It Is  - sigma2 ind 12 09 


  • The longest line of the holiday season award goes to Uggs! The brand’s Soho, NY retail outlet consistently (before and after Dec 25th) had a line 20 deep with customers waiting for entry into the store. Thankfully there were “bouncers” keeping the line in order as customers waited, rain or shine.
  • Gamestop.com saw a 45% increase in its number of unique visitors for the month of November, attracting 7 million visits for the month and making it the second most visited consumer electronics site. Despite the large increase, Bestbuy.com remained the number one most trafficked consumer electronics site, with 24 million unique visitors.
  • According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, 17% of retailers were expected to tighten their return policies following this holiday season. Fraud reduction is he main reason behind more restrictive policies.
  • For the first time, JCPenney's opened at 5 a.m. the day after Christmas and offered more than 100 in-store doorbuster deals. Sales were offered between 5 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Dec. 26 in stores and online.



US Retail Sales Grew over 3% Between November and Christmas Eve - U.S. retail sales rose an estimated 3.6% this holiday season from a year earlier, helped by online shopping and purchases of electronics, data from MasterCard Advisors’ SpendingPulse showed.  The spending estimate for Nov. 1 to Dec. 24 excludes automotive and gasoline sales, the Purchase, New York-based researcher said in an e-mail yesterday. SpendingPulse measures retail sales across all payment forms, including cash and checks. The firm didn’t disclose dollar spending totals. A jump in purchases the week before Christmas helped year- over-year electronics sales increase 6 percent since Black Friday on Nov. 27, and 5.9% for the holiday season starting Nov. 1, SpendingPulse said. More shopping occurred online, with sales rising 18% from Nov. 27 to Dec. 24. “People were more comfortable doing last-minute shopping online, especially with the bad weather,” Kamalesh Rao, director of economic research for SpendingPulse, said in a telephone interview yesterday. A snowstorm on the east coast the weekend before Christmas closed some malls early on Dec. 19 and kept shoppers at home. Sales of women’s and specialty apparel fell less than 1% from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24 compared with a year earlier as gains since Nov. 27 helped mitigate the drop. Colder weather may have accounted for a pickup in purchases, Rao said, while men’s clothing and footwear sales increased throughout the season. Jewelry sales rose 5.6 percent for November and December, while luxury retail excluding jewelry edged up 0.8% , SpendingPulse said. Men’s clothing sales gained 3.9% for the season and footwear sales rose 5%. <bloomberg.com>

Retailers across Britain enjoyed a good finish to a tough year, as the number of people hunting for a Boxing Day bargain soared by almost a fifth - This will further fuel expectations, backed up by data to be released today, that 2010 will be an easier year for retailers than the one just passed, despite the likelihood that consumers face big tax increases, further unemployment and lower public spending. The UK national preliminary figures for retail sector activity published by Experian yesterday showed that the number of shoppers on Boxing Day was 18.5% higher than last year. <independent.co.uk>

It hasn’t been a cakewalk, yet after the final big shopping weekend of the year and the onset of steeper markdowns, retailers are easing out of holiday selling into clearance mode feeling OK about business and ready to bring on spring. There’s been a discernible shift in the tone among retail executives in the last few weeks. Many predict improved margins and profits for the fourth quarter even with flattish sales, a consequence of lower inventories and demand. Beyond that, some suggest real and long-awaited top-line growth occurring in 2010, most likely in the second half. The upbeat outlook stems from a more controlled, less panicky holiday season. On Christmas Eve, “We went home with big smiles on our faces,” said Bloomingdale’s chairman and chief executive officer Michael Gould. “We feel good about the business and the quality of the business we ran. Last year in December we were drastically reducing inventory to get ourselves in a better position for spring. This year we had a very good flow of receipts all season long. We will continue to bring in newness unabated. With new receipts coming in, we have a good opportunity to keep the momentum going.” “There is certainly a more positive feeling and the sense that we’re back to a normal rhythm” of business, said Pete Nordstrom, president of merchandising for Nordstrom Inc. “We are happy we made our plans.” Lord & Taylor said it’s already been building up inventory. “Taking a more aggressive stance has paid dividends,” said Brendan Hoffman, president and ceo. “We have been trending in the mid- to upper-single digits. December should end up right there. We seemed to have recovered most of what we lost in the storm” that blanketed the Northeast on Dec. 19. American Apparel Inc. founder and ceo Dov Charney said that this year’s buy-one-get-one hosiery promotion was successful, but something the company wouldn’t typically turn to, given American Apparel’s dedication to all-season, basic mainstays like T-shirts. Rain and a little snow did affect Boscov’s, the Reading, Pa.-based department store chain, the day after Christmas. “It was not a plus day,” said a spokesman. ”But it was a successful season. While it wasn’t plus volume, it was volume at a very high level,” meaning less discounting. “We are predicting to be right on our inventory plan. We won’t have problems liquidating in January and February.” As far as sales next year, “We see a gradual improvement.” <wwd.com>

Forever 21 is moving quickly to boost its footprint in Japan with plans for three new stores next year - The fast-fashion giant said it will open the units in Tokyo late next spring in three shopping districts: Ginza, Shinjuku and the LaLaport Tokyo Bay development in Funabashi City. The Los Angeles-based chain launched its first store in Japan in April, an 18,000-square-foot location in Tokyo’s Harajuku shopping area. Company executives said then the chain wanted to have as many as 100 stores in the country, although the timing of the rollout hinges on finding the right locations.  “The business in Japan has been good, things are OK,” said Larry Meyer, executive vice president at Forever 21. “That market can easily absorb more stores. The retail districts in Japan are much different than the U.S. People don’t often cross from one into the other while shopping. ” With continuing turbulence in the U.S. economy, Asian markets have been a powerful lure. In another development, the trend-driven brand will open a large-concept, department-style store in Cerritos, Calif., in January in a freestanding former Mervyns location that spans 86,000 square feet, a move beyond malls that the company began exploring with the 2006 opening of a Forever 21 in a 40,000-square-foot former Saks Fifth Avenue in Pasadena, Calif. Forever 21 and Kohl’s Corp. won a joint bid to move into 46 vacant Mervyns stores last year after the midrange department store filed for bankruptcy. Forever 21 now operates more than 450 stores in the U.S., with international operations in Canada and Japan. <wwd.com>

NFL Looking into Helmet Safety - The NFL has begun to test models of helmets worn by players to try to determine which models might best protect players from suffering concussions during on-field collisions. But an article in the New York Times states that some rivals of the league's helmet sponsor, Riddell, as well as some outside experts claim faulty testing is being used to come up with new guidelines. <sportsonesource.com>

U.K. retailers offered fewer discounted products and cut prices less in the post-holiday season this year as consumers stepped up spending.

Shoppers in Britain spent 132 million pounds ($210 million) online on Dec. 25 alone, a 29% increase from a year earlier, according to estimates by payment-processing company Retail Decisions. The number of U.K. customers on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, increased by 19%, Experian Plc said in an e-mailed statement. Retailers avoided last year’s pre-Christmas discounting by cutting inventory to “much healthier” levels. <bloomberg.com>

R3: How Sweet It Is  - R3 12 28 09 1

The sports retail group JD Sports has acquired stakes in the Australian and New Zealand distribution companies for rugby brand Canterbury - The move is a futher step by JD to increase its stake in the rugby clothing brand as well as to consolidate control of its global distribution. The retailer has taken 100% of the issued share capital of Canterbury International Australia and 51% of Canterbury New Zealand. Both companies were previously subsidiaries of New Zealand-based company Herald Island.

Ross Munro, who has control of Herald Island will hold the remaining 49% stake in the New Zealand organisation, along with CCC Nominees, and has agreed to become the CEO of CNZ. In a statement to the London Stock Exchange, JD said that it did not expect the acquisitions to be “materially earnings enhancing in the short terrm”, but that they would add to the group’s control of the Canterbury brand and its global marketing properties. Peter Cowgill, Executive Chairman of JD, said:”We are delighted with these strategic investments as they further enhance our ability to control the global development of the iconic Canterbury brand.”  <drapersonline.com>

Internet attack blocks some California consumers from reaching Amazon.com - A denial of service attack Wednesday left consumers in northern California unable to access web sites that use the Internet domain name system operated by Neustar, the company says. The sites included Amazon.com, according to the retailer.  <iinternetretailer.com>

Overstock signs a $20 million financing deal - Overstock.com has signed a financing agreement with U.S. Bancorp to provide financing of up to $20 million. The financing will be used to provide liquidity for the company`s day-to-day operations, says Jonathan Johnson, the e-retailer’s president. <internetretailer.com>

E-retail sales will grow by nearly 10% a year through 2013, eMarketer says - Online retail sales this year will be 0.6% lower than in 2008, but they will grow in 2010 and return to double-digit growth by 2011, predicts research firm eMarketer Inc. <internetretailer.com>

Chinese department store chain PCD is booming - While department stores in the U.S. face tough competition from online retailers and big-box giants, the department store chain PCD in China is booming. PCD has grown rapidly since opening its first store in 1998. PCD operates 16 department stores and one outlet mall. Earlier this month, it made its Hong Kong trading debut with shares soaring 30%, putting the little-known PCD in the industry's big leagues. The company now has a market capitalization of $1.3 billion, larger than some of the top names in the business. As the Chinese economy rebounds, shoppers are returning to the country's stores and investors are driving up the stock prices of Chinese department store chains. Those doing well include Beijing-based Parkson Retail Group, New World Department Store and Intime Department Store Group. Analysts point to how department stores benefit from double-digit growth in the country's GDP, thanks in part to nearly $600 billion in government stimulus. Beijing has also extended policies to promote consumer spending. In contrast to developed countries, China's e-commerce industry is still in its infancy and poses less of a threat to old-fashioned brick-and-mortar stores. More immediate danger might come from big-box stores. Best Buy and Walmart, for example, have ambitious China plans that could derail growth for some domestic department stores. However, the geography of Asian cities, more clustered and lacking in suburban sprawl, may mean it's harder for big-box chains to take root. <licensemag.com>

Best Buy has entered the Turkish market with a 4,200-square-meter store in Izmir. It's also the chain's first store in Europe. Ruşen Kopmaz, Best Buy Turkey president, explained the motive was that Izmir has high purchasing power. He said the company seeks to change the face of retailing in Turkey, a dynamic market with a young population. The company has founded interactive experience zones in the store and employees will provide a distinctive shopping experience. The chairman added that the "Geek Squads" of technology experts will offer consultancy to customer. "We aim to eliminate the chaos and inconsistent service mentality in Turkey's technology sector with these Geek Squads," says Kopmaz. The store is also eyeing Ankara as a store location. <licensemag.com>

The Tiger Woods saga has been very good and potentially profitable to some media companies, but there’s a new company that stands to benefit that you haven’t yet heard about. It’s called Off The Market and it’s the brainchild of some of the love partners of NFL players. The idea? To help strengthen the relationships between pro athletes and their significant others. “We want to help athletes sustain a positive and sexy relationship with their mates,” said Tia Robbins, wife of New York Giants defensive tackle Fred Robbins. Robbins will be hosting Off the Market’s first event this Monday in New York City, along with Jerika Johnstone, wife of former NFL player Lance Johnstone and Jasmine Silva, girlfriend of St. Louis Rams safety James Butler. The party is an exclusive, invite-only event that caters to the high-end athlete clientele the company seeks to draw in. The party is free-of-charge, but the company will make money by signing sponsors that will have access to the power players at the parties and through the Web site’s e-commerce page. <cnbc.com>

Anti -slavery campaigners in the UK pressure H&M and Zara - Anti-slavery campaigners in the UK are urging two high street fashion retailers H&M and Zara to stop selling clothes made with cotton from Uzbek picked by child labour. The Anti-Slavery International and the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) claim both retailers source garments from Beximco Textimes (Bextex) in Bangladesh, which has admitted it uses cotton from Uzbekistan harvested by children of 10 years old. The campaigners are urging the companies to implement an origin traceability system of the cotton in their products. <fashionnetasia.com>

Lingerie is up in the UK at John Lewis stores - John Lewis revealed this morning that sales from Sunday to Wednesday this week were up 27% on 2008 levels. Lingerie was a key drivers to the sales jump. <drapersonline.com>

South Korea’s consumer confidence was unchanged this month, reflecting concerns about the sustainability of the nation’s recovery - The sentiment index stood at 113 in December, the Bank of Korea said in an e-mailed statement in Seoul today. The gauge reached 117 in October, the highest reading in more than seven years. A figure exceeding 100 indicates optimists exceed pessimists. The central bank left its benchmark interest rate at a record-low 2% on Dec. 10 as it seeks to strengthen the nation’s economic recovery. Governor Lee Seong Tae said the bank shouldn’t wait too long before gradually raising borrowing costs, provided the recovery maintains momentum. The Korean economy will expand 4.6%bnext year, the fastest pace in three years, as a pickup in the global economy boosts demand for the nation’s goods, the central bank said Dec. 11. The bank said it would “maintain the accommodative policy stance for the time being.” While the economy remains on a “recovery trend” amid improvements in exports and consumer spending, there is “uncertainty” about the outlook, it said. Exports rose for the first time in 13 months in November. The benchmark Kospi stock index has risen 8 percent this month and the won fell 0.8% in the same period against the dollar. The consumer confidence index was based on a survey of 2,200 households in 56 major cities, conducted by mail and telephone between Dec. 11 and 18. <bloomberg.com>