Two-Horse Toning Race Update

The two horse race between Skechers’ Shape Ups and Reebok’s Easy Tones continues (albeit it’s still early in the race), with a bit of a post holiday pause in momentum.  The latest data for the month of February suggests that sales recently peaked in December for both brands, although we’re beginning to see a slight ramp as the Spring season begins.  Anecdotally, retailers have suggested that inventories have been low, especially for Reebok, coming out of 4Q.  As result, sales have likely been constrained by out of stocks and broken assortments.  New shipments are expected to hit retail shelves in over the next few weeks. 


With less than a year into the wellness/toning trend, it is still too early too tell how long this newly defined footwear category will continue to grow.  Importantly, even with early signs of lower-priced competition entering the marketplace (Payless, GH Bass, Avia, LA Gear) we are seeing ASP’s hold steady for the two leaders in this 8 month old category.  Pricing stability continues to be something we’re watching closely as a key sign of any change in demand.  For now, there are no marterial signs of discounting impacting either of the two brands.



Two-Horse Toning Race Update - SKX 3 10 Easy Tones and Shape Ups     and Units Chart


Two-Horse Toning Race Update - SKX 3 10 Easy Tones and Shape Ups ASPs chart



- Eric Levine


The Week Ahead

The Economic Data calendar for the week of the 22nd of March through the 26th is full of critical releases and events.  Attached below is a snapshot of some (though far from all) of the headline numbers that we will be focused on.


The Week Ahead - cal1

The Week Ahead - cal2


We have very healthy degree skepticism of Government, Politicians and the market’s current levels….


Market sentiment:

(1)    Our daily Hedgeye Risk management models have been to the negative side all week.

(2)    Volatility is broken on all three durations - TRADE TREND and TAIL

(3)    We have moved higher in the S&P500 this week with both fear and complacency


The economy:

(1)    February’s inflation data is misleading - March CPI will see an acceleration from February

(2)    The balance sheet of the US is no different than the other P.I.G.S.

(3)    Market rumors of LBOs and the like are reminiscing of 2007


Interest Rates:

(1)    Are headed higher - exceptionally low is unreasonable

(2)    The high yield market is at levels not seen since 2007

(3)    Today’s move higher in treasury yields is scaring the horses



(1)    Oil prices are at levels not seen since Q408’ (bullish TREND)

(2)    Copper prices continue to be in a Bullish Formation (bullish TRADE, TREND, and TAIL)

(3)     Gold prices continue to break down in anticipation of higher bond yields (bearish TREND)


The consumer:

(1)    Obama’s approval rating is at all time lows (Rasmussen was -21 today!)

(2)    Consumer confidence is stuck at very low levels (last week’s University of Michigan survey made a lower-high)

(3)    Job creation is anemic


I guess that’s why Keith runs a 27 factor risk management model.!


Have a great weekend,


Howard Penney
Managing Director


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VF Loss is PSS's Gain

This is the second time this week we’ve seen a top leader depart VFC’s most profitable Action Sports business. It could be coincidence – perhaps not, but at the very least it’s notable.


In today’s news Bill Bettencourt, previously the VP of Product and Marketing at Vans is joining Sperry Top-Sider. Tuesday it was Steven Murray President of VF Action Sports leaving to head the Urban Outfitters Brand. Top talent getting bid away simply happens at good companys, but two in a week will have an impact VF.


An important note is the addition of Bettencourt at PSS – it’s a move that’s tightly aligned with the company’s strategic plan to become more relevant with America’s youth. Top-Sider is a great brand with strong ties to the 30+ demographic, but has struggled to resonate with younger consumers. The addition of a VP of Product from one of the more relevant brands in that demographic over the last 10-years is certainly a step in the right direction.



Casey Flavin



The Macau Metro Monitor, March 19th, 2010



Analysts at Citi believe gaming revenue for the first 16 days in Macau reached ~MOP 7.5bn, up 58% from last year. Assuming the current run-rate, Macau's gaming revenue could reach a new high in March of ~MOP 14.5bn.The firm said SJM is the only winner in terms of market share gains for the month; Wynn, MGM and Melco-Crown have lost 1% each in market share in March so far versus February.



After the release of the report by the New Jersey state attorney general's Division of Gaming Enforcement connecting Stanley Ho Hung-sun to organized Chinese crime, MGM CEO Jim Murren made these remarks:

"The DGE's report acknowledges there is no evidence that Pansy Ho has engaged in any wrongdoing or been accused of any illegal activity. MGM Mirage structured its business relationship with Pansy Ho to ensure the highest standards of operation and compliance with all applicable gaming laws and to protect against any improper influence. We have had a very positive working relationship with Pansy Ho and have a spotless operating record at MGM Grand Macau."


According to the report, throughout 2001, with its eye on one of the three casino licenses to be awarded upon the opening up of the Macau market, MGM held talks with New World Development chairman Cheng Yu-tung about a joint bid.The report says Cheng and Chan Siu-hung already operated three VIP rooms at Stanley Ho's casinos, and MGM explored a partnership in which the US firm and New World would each take a 40% stake and Chan the remainder. However, negotiations fell apart and when the three winning bids were announced in February 2002, MGM had come in fifth. "We licked our wounds for a bit and then tried to analyze whether there were any other opportunities for us to enter the Macau market," former MGM executive vice-president and general counsel Gary Jacobs told the DGE investigators.


In April 2002, Stanley Ho along with business associates and family members including Pansy Ho and Daisy Ho, traveled to Las Vegas at the invitation of MGM. Stanley Ho had dinner with Wang, MGM's then chairman and CEO Terrence Lanni and billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, the report says. Stanley Ho agreed to continue negotiations and appointed Pansy Ho as his representative to broker a deal with MGM. The aim was to create a 51-49 joint venture to be led by Shun Tak Holdings, where Pansy Ho was managing director.


By July 2003, Pansy Ho and Lanni had exchanged formal letters acknowledging the structure and basic terms of the proposed joint venture.But the following month, MGM executives including Lanni and Jacobs were called to a meeting with Nevada Gaming Control Board member Bobby Siller, who informally advised them regulatory approval from Nevada would be a "very difficult path" and said he would not approve any Macau partnership that involved Stanley Ho or his firms Shun Tak, SJM or Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau (STDM).


New Jersey was never MGM's main market, but the firm was Nevada's biggest taxpayer and the largest private employer in Las Vegas. Stanley Ho "was upset by the news", Jacobs told New Jersey investigators. But in November that year, MGM was negotiating a new and separate partnership with Pansy Ho directly, in her individual capacity.

The new joint venture between MGM and Pansy Ho was formally agreed in June 2004 and called for an initial cash contribution of US$360 million. MGM executives were worried that US regulators would take umbrage if Pansy Ho received her share of the funds from her father.


MGM increased its contribution to the venture by US$100 million "as a 'premium' to Pansy Ho for the ability and opportunity to be in business with her in Macau", and thereby reduced her share of the burden by US$50 million, the report says. So Pansy Ho's initial contribution was US$80 million, and the report concludes that US$72 million, or 90% of that, was tied back to her father. The partners purchased a "subconcession" casino license from SJM in April 2005 for US$200 million.


The DGE report concludes: "MGM's compliance failings ... were pervasive and persistent, suggesting that the company's fervour to [enter] Macau compromised its commitment to regulatory compliance." The Nevada regulators unanimously approved MGM's partnership with Pansy Ho in March 2007.



In 2009, Macau's GDP grew by more than 8% with a near 10% increase in casino revenue. With a budget surplus of nearly MOP 24BN, CEO Chiu has maintained his predecessor's policy of cash handouts to everyone.  Chui intends to give out bonuses of 6,000 patacas for permanent residents, 3,600 for non-permanents and a subsidy of 5,000 for the elderly enable people. In January 2010, it injected 10,000 patacas into the central provident fund accounts of 330,000 residents aged over 22. Although continuous cash handouts will represent social value, they are not the long-term solution to the social side effects of a gaming economy, including the wealth gap, inflation, high housing prices and illegal workers. The financial crisis was a reminder that Macau must rethink its social priorities and develop a broader economic strategy. Focusing on the development of education and tourism infrastructure would do a lot to improve skills and create jobs.



Hainan, China's only tropical island, will not follow Macau's example of becoming a gambling hub, according to Tan Li, vice governor of southern China's Hainan Province. With aspirations to be a top tourist destination, Hainan will focus on developing its lush tropical gardens to become an "all-seasonal" hot spot.

R3: Sisyphus Meets Retail


March 19, 2010


The Greek myth of Sisyphus is personified in what we’re seeing in retail today.  Retail as a whole has rolled the rock up the hill and shortly approaches the period where we find out who gets crushed and who reaches the top. 





As a punishment from the gods for his trickery, Sisyphus was compelled to roll a huge rock up a steep hill, but before he could reach the top of the hill, the rock would always roll back down again, forcing him to begin again. The maddening nature of the punishment was reserved for Sisyphus due to his hubristic belief that his cleverness surpassed that of Zeus.


The Greek myth of Sisyphus is personified in what we’re seeing in retail today.  Retail as a whole has rolled the rock up the hill and shortly approaches the period where we find out who gets crushed and who reaches the top.  With most retailers having reported 4Q numbers, we aggregated the positioning in our SIGMA analysis – which measures the triangulation between sales/inventories and margins for each company.


We’re seeing unprecedented uniformity in the positioning among retailers 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 61% of the 108 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 and the 50% in 3Q. We 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 squarely in the double digits.


What’s our point here?  Welcome to 2010. It is a stock picker’s market. Generating alpha by way of getting the group call right doesn’t matter anymore. Company fundamentals matter, and they matter big. When we re-run the analysis below in 13 weeks, we won’t see 61% of the companies in the sweet spot. Pick your battles…


We have a SIGMA book with 108 companies, which helps our team (and our exclusive Retail vertical subscribers) focus on which companies are interesting and at what time do they become actionable.  Let us know if you’re interested. We’ll be around all day.


R3: Sisyphus Meets Retail - SIGMA Positions Chart 2


Zach Brown

Hedgeye Retail




  • In a subtle but notable move, Barnes & Noble founding family members, Len and Steve Riggio, passed the CEO torch to William Lynch. Lynch has been with the company just over a year and has been running the .com and digital business. While the company remains committed to retail, it was noted that the future growth of the company is likely more rooted in the digital business. While there are no plans to close stores in a meaningful number, there are also no plans to add meaningfully to the 900+ store base. 
  • Ross Stores expects to expand square footage by 4-5% in 2010, with an increasing emphasis on the company’s lower-price format- DD’s Discount. Interestingly, the company expects to ramp up growth to about 7% in 2011, with an increased focus on entering new trade areas. DD’s expansion is forecast to be P&L neutral in 2010 from a margin perspective. 
  • GameStop made two notable points on the composition of its inventory. First, used game inventories coming out of the holiday ended up lower than expected which has prompted management to use promotions to drive trade-ins. Second, management noted that there is still a shortage on the hardware side of the equation, with PS3 and Wii still experiencing supply constraints. Management believes it will be a couple of months before adequate supply is available. 




Anthropologie to Launch International Site - Anthropologie is ready to reach a global audience with the launch on Saturday of its first international Web site. The new site,, will be priced in a variety of currencies, including euros, pounds and Swiss francs, and will deliver internationally from a U.K. warehouse. James Bidwell, Anthropologie’s managing director for Europe, said the site would have the same product assortment as the company’s London stores, the second of which opened Friday on The King’s Road. He said the site offered an opportunity to gauge the interest of the international market in Anthropologie. Depending on the response, he said, foreign language versions of the site may be launched. Bidwell added that an Anthropologie mobile phone application was also in the pipeline so international customers could shop from the road. Bidwell said the launch of the site is a major step toward positioning Anthropologie as a “global, customer-focused, channel-neutral brand.”  <>


Sperry Top-Sider Hires Bill Bettencourt as SVP, Sales and Marketing - Sperry Top-Sider, a division of Collective Brands Performance + Lifestyle Group, announced that Bill Bettencourt has joined the Sperry team as senior vice president of sales, marketing and business development. Since 2004, Bettencourt was with Vans, Inc., where he most recently served as vice president, product and marketing. He joined Vans as vice president, footwear and equipment. In his role, Bettencourt will serve as the senior leader for Sperry's global marketing and sales effort and is responsible for the development and execution of authentic marketing programs and new business initiatives that will support and amplify Sperry Top-Sider's global brand position as the nautical lifestyle brand dedicated those with a Passion for the Sea.  A key part of the role includes managing and expanding the brand's wholesale partner network and identifying new strategic opportunities to expand the brand in the global marketplace.  <>


Columbia Sportswear extends its e-commerce strategy into the mobile arena - After introducing its first e-commerce site last summer, outdoor sportswear manufacturer and retailer Columbia Sportswear Co. has launched a mobile commerce site built on the same on-demand technology platform from Demandware Inc. “We’ve gotten a great response already on our mobile site as well as on our e-commerce site,” says Paul Zaengle, senior director of e-commerce for Columbia Sportswear. “Traffic on both sites is growing dramatically.” Columbia quickly picked up on the demand among its customers for a mobile site soon after launching last August, as tens of thousands of customers per week accessed the new e-commerce site through their mobile phones. “Mobile visitors were still in the low single digits in terms of percent of all visitors, but it was still a significant number of customers—and they weren’t getting a great shopping experience on our web site,” Zaengle says. <>


Planning a mobile ad campaign? Google says mobile search ads won’t be cheap - Following a fivefold increase in the number of Google searches conducted on mobile phones in the last two years, the leading search engine said this week that it expects mobile ad rates will surpass PC-based search ad rates. Speaking in a conference call with analysts Monday that was webcast on, Google Inc.’s engineering vice president Vic Gundotra noted that mobile search ad rates had grown “dramatically” in recent years and can be expected to continue growing until they surpass desktop search ads rates. At the same time, Google plans to aggressively develop mobile applications to support online ads as well as more useful mobile search results. omplementary technology developments like GPS location, for example, are helping Google to develop more relevant mobile ads, Gundotra said. For instance, Gundotra demonstrated during the webcast how consumers with GPS-capable mobile phones can touch a “Near Me Now” link on their phone screens, then touch a category like “Restaurants” to pull up a list of natural and paid-search listings featuring nearby eateries.

“Google has bet big on mobile,” he said. <>


Senate Bill Aims To Penalize Currency Manipulation - A group of 16 U.S. senators, including four Republicans, announced bipartisan legislation this week to penalize countries like China that undervalue their currency to artificially discount their exports.The Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act will require the U.S. Departments of Treasury and Commerce to take action to support American businesses and workers. The legislation includes provisions from Senator Stabenow's Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act, which she introduced last year. "Our workers are losing their jobs because countries like China continue to place artificial discounts of up to 40 percent on their products and then sell them here in Michigan at a cheaper price," said U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). "This unfair practice puts our manufacturers and businesses at an extreme disadvantage and costs us jobs. That's why I have joined with my Democratic and Republican colleagues to introduce this bill to require the Departments of Treasury and Commerce to take action and stop these countries from cheating." <>


FedEx sees economic recovery spreading - FedEx says the global economic recovery is broadening, as the U.S. economy gains steam and Asia continues to show strong growth. For the U.S., FedEx confirmed what economists have been saying and what government reports have been showing: Manufacturing is leading a slow economic recovery while consumers are keeping purse strings tight. Last month, U.S. industrial production grew more than expected and the services sector accelerated at the fastest clip in more than two years. But consistently high unemployment and stagnant pay have so far held off any surge in consumer spending. For FedEx, the company is expanding service in Asia to capitalize on growth there. In the U.S., it's pursuing more commercial business because that's where the growth is at the moment. The adjustments, along with huge cost reductions, are paying off. On Thursday the Memphis, Tenn., shipping company reported its first year-over-year profit increase in five quarters. FedEx also raised its earnings forecast for the fiscal year ending in May, seeing "a continued modest recovery in the global economy." FedEx, considered an economic bellwether because of the variety of products it ships for businesses and consumers, said Thursday it earned $239 million in the three months ended in February compared with $97 million a year earlier. Revenue rose 7 percent to $8.70 billion. The results exceeded Wall Street expectations. <

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