R3: REQUIRED RETAIL READING
March 22, 2010
There are several unrelated items out this morning on China that ultimately have implications for both the US consumer, and segments of the retail supply chain. They might not immediately matter to today’s results in your ‘space.’ But we need to manage tail risk.
TODAY’S CALL OUT
First, how can we not hit on Google. Even if Google is ‘not in your coverage space,’ you absolutely must track the implications on the Macro landscape. Per Allison Kaptur on the Hedgeye Tech team…
China is nobody’s fool. Over the weekend, Chinese state-run media sources played up connections between Google and the U.S. government, including accusations that Google feeds search data to the CIA. They’re reframing the debate on their own terms: from (Western) freedom versus censorship to (Chinese) freedom versus American imperialism. I think the quotes speak for themselves, and show exactly how Google’s slogan “Don’t be evil” is received.
From Xinhua: "Some Chinese Internet users who prefer to use Google still don't realize perhaps that due to the links between Google and the American intelligence services, search histories on Google will be kept and used by the American intelligence agencies."
From the English language website of China Radio International: “Google's relations with the US government cannot be deeper. US media has said Google was the fourth-largest supporter of Barack Obama in his election campaign. Four of the company's former executives including Sumit Agarwal, who was the product manager for Google Mobile team and is currently deputy assistant secretary of defense, are now serving the US government.”
This is purely political, folks…
Second, check out the article on Bloomberg this morning (China Accuses U.S. of Politicizing Yuan as Trade Surplus Sinks). In effect China’s Commerce Minister Chen Deming said that pressure on China to strengthen the yuan does “no good to anyone.” Tensions over China’s currency are mounting, with President Obama facing increased calls from U.S. lawmakers to step up pressure on China for keeping its exchange rate artificially low. Chen yesterday warned that sanctions against China that amounted to protectionism would hinder growth and raise the risk of a “double dip recession.”
So in effect, political tensions continue to heat up, with little sign of a light at the end of the tunnel. We’re just a couple of moves away from the Mensa Society in Washington spurring Chinese retaliation that would start to meaningfully impact prices of goods coming into this country. In the end, we could have a situation where Consumers are being hit with uncontrollable inflation while China continues to dump Treasuries and drive rates higher.
I understand that there are dozens of scenarios that could, and likely will, impact and likely complicate the simple setup here. But we need to manage around tail risk – especially given that few people seem to be putting 2 and 2 together here.
LEVINE’S LOW DOWN
- Ralph Lauren’s online fashion show for its Lauren line is the first to offer the consumer the option of actually purchasing the clothes worn on the runway- in real time. The virtual and e-commerce enabled fashion show also includes fashion commentary from four fashion editors. We wonder how long it is before other brands catch on and start showing and selling in-season merchandise simultaneously.
- Perry Ellis management noted that conservative planning on the part of most or their retail customers is resulting in low inventory levels at the current time. As a result, they are seeing increased sales that require faster replenishment and orders being pulled forward for earlier delivery.
- A study by Unica, a marketing technology provider, revealed that 84% of marketers expect to use at least one form of an Emerging Marketing Channel (rich media, mobile marketing, or social media) this year. As of now, social media is the most popular of the emerging channels with 47% of currently utilizing it for marketing purposes. Mobile marketing remains the least penetrated, with just about one-third of respondents using mobile advertising in 2009.
- According to Kantar Media, total advertising spend for 2009 was down 12.3% to $125.3 billion. However, there were just two subcategories that saw growth for the year, Internet up 7.3%, and FSI’s (Freestanding Inserts) up 3%. Newspapers and radio were hit the hardest, with declines in advertising revenues of 20% for each.
Nike and UCF Agree to Footwear and Apparel Contract - In the wake of having is footwear and apparel contract with Adidas terminated after freshman men’s basketball player Marcus Jordan, the son of hall of famer Michael Jordan, refused to wear team issued footwear in favor of his father’s Air Jordans, UCF has reached a five-year agreement with Nike to provide all Golden Knight athletic teams with footwear and apparel, according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel. "We had explored a number of different options with a number of different manufacturers and equipment providers, and ultimately we have reached an agreement with Nike," said UCF Executive Associate Athletic Director, David Chambers. As the university’s exclusive contract with Adidas will expire on June 30, its deal with Nike will commence on July 1. UCF was rumored to also have engaged in talks with Russell Athletic and Under Armour while seeking a new provider for its athletic program. Officials from Nike are expected to visit with UCF administrators next week to assess the full needs of the athletic department and have assured the school that it will be provided with all necessary equipment in time for the beginning of the fall sports season. Providing new uniform designs for each sport is expected to be one of the first goals for Nike. <sportsonesource.com>
Polo, North Face Fight Online Fakes - Polo and The North Face are on the warpath against counterfeits. In what legal observers say is the largest case of its kind, Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. and VF Corp.’s The North Face brand have used a federal lawsuit to strike at a large network of more than 130 Chinese Web sites selling counterfeit goods to U.S. customers through up to 6,500 domain names. According to court documents unsealed this week, the two apparel firms’ own investigations recently uncovered a ring of related Web sites that, since January 2008, have moved as much as $780,000 a month in fake Polo and North Face goods at domains such as polo4sale.com and outletnorthface.com. While Polo and The North Face are the only two plaintiffs in the case, the accused counterfeiters also offered goods from a varied list of brands including Dior, Ed Hardy, Coach, Gucci, Paul Smith and Abercrombie & Fitch. Such cybersquatting enterprises have gained in favor among counterfeit sellers in recent years for their comparatively low-risk level and relative anonymity. But in their joint suit, filed March 1 in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Polo and The North Face say the domain names are largely traceable to the operators of one Web site, B2BSharing.com, and an affiliate program it uses to help other parties sell counterfeit wares. Lawyers for the firms wrote the operation is “of a size and scale they have not seen before.” <wwd.com>
Penney's and Olympic Gymnast Nastia Liukin Launch Girls' Line - J.C. Penney Co. Inc. and champion Olympic gymnast Nastia Liukin are going for the gold with a full lifestyle collection for girls ages eight to 12, called Supergirl by Nastia. The line, which will retail at between $20 and $38, hits stores July 20 for the back-to-school season. It includes knit dresses with detachable necklaces, tunics, tops, pants and leggings, as well as a dance and fleece activewear collection. For Penney’s, it also represents a re-entry into the girls’ activewear category. Supergirl by Nastia is a three-year exclusive partnership among the retailer, Liukin and Warner Bros. Consumer Products, which owns the Superhero property. It will take up prominent real estate in Penney’s girls’ and activewear departments, with placement by the aisles, as well as a hot spot in the center of the department showcasing looks and images of Liukin. “We’ve seen a big trend towards activewear in our boys’ department, and this is a natural complement to that — an ‘actionista’ collection with a real style quotient,” said Clark McNaught, Penney’s senior vice president and general merchandise manager for children’s apparel. “We’re not slapping a shield on a T-shirt. We’re trying to make it more relevant to what’s happening in the market.” <wwd.com>
VF's Wiseman Sees Pay Drop 9.3% - VF Corp. chief executive officer Eric Wiseman’s pay contracted 9.3 percent last year, to $7.2 million, as a higher salary and nonequity incentive plan compensation were unable to offset the loss of a bonus and a decline in stock and option awards. Wiseman, chairman, president and ceo of the Greensboro, N.C.-based apparel powerhouse, saw his salary move up to $1.04 million from $950,000 and incentive plan earnings rise to $1.15 million from just less than $119,000 in 2008. But he received no bonus, versus a $641,250 payment in 2008, and his stock and option awards fell 27 percent to $4.2 million from $5.7 million in the prior year. Because of vesting schedules and fluctuating stock prices, stock and option awards weren’t necessarily realized but are reported when public companies submit their definitive proxies to the Securities and Exchange Commission, as VF did on Friday. Wiseman earned a total of $8 million in 2008 and $4.9 million in 2007. President of the firm since 2006, he became ceo in January 2008 and chairman seven months later. <wwd.com>
Sears spends $140,000 on lobbying - Department store chain Sears Holdings Corp., operator of Kmart and Sears, Roebuck and Co., spent $140,000 on lobbying in the fourth quarter on credit card reform legislation and other issues, according to a recent disclosure form. That was less than the $180,000 the company spent in the third quarter of 2009 but twice the amount it spent in the fourth quarter of 2008. Sears also lobbied on legislation involving pension funding, according to the report it filed Jan. 20 with the House's clerk's office covering October through December. One of the highest-profile issues Sears monitored was the Credit CARD act, now a law, which is meant to give credit card users more information and stop policies that many consider abusive. <businessweek.com>
New Look gears up for fresh IPO bid - The fashion retailer New Look could resurrect its £1.7bn flotation plans this week when its board meets to consider if market conditions have improved sufficiently since the deal was postponed last month. Executives at the group, owned by private equity firms Apax and Premira, are set to meet on Tuesday to consider the move. Any listing could come as early as June, just five months after the IPO failed to gain traction with investors for a second time in three years. The deal was pulled, along with those for the ticketing business Travelport and Legoland owner Merlin Entertainments, after only lukewarm support from investors. Since the plans were shelved, some deals have been successful, giving the New Look's owners renewed confidence. New Look shelved its planned IPO blaming volatile markets. The group, which has debts of £1.1bn stemming from its leveraged buyout, insisted that decision was a postponement rather than a cancellation. Similarly, Travelport and Merlin, which are also heavily indebted after private equity buyouts, respectively shelved £1.2bn and £2bn listing plans. <independent.co.uk>
Samuelsohn Sold to Grano Retail Investment - Samuelsohn Ltd., the Montreal-based tailored clothing brand, has been sold to Grano Retail Investments, an investment and advisory company headed by Stephen Granovsky. Terms were not disclosed, but financing was provided by BDC, Canada’s business development bank. Granovsky, Grano’s founder and chief executive officer, will become ceo of Samuelsohn, an 87-year-old family-owned business. Twin brothers Michael and Richard Samuelsohn, grandsons of the founder, will exit the company. Grano’s plan is to significantly enhance the visibility of the business, expand distribution and add product classifications. The firm produces private label suits for Paul Stuart and Harry Rosen and sells its own Samuelsohn-label goods to 250 upscale specialty stores in the U.S. and Canada. <wwd.com>
Bigger Bra Sizes Bolster Sales - Bra sizes in the U.S. are larger than ever as manufacturers and retailers try to accommodate the rising number of full-figure women. The median size a decade ago was 36C. Now there is demand for DD, DDD and G cups, and bra makers are reaching even higher with a K cup. The business impact of full-figure bras and related undergarments is substantial. Retail sales of full-figure bras from 2008 to 2009 rose 3.3 percent, to $2.15 billion, and the number of bras sold in the category gained 7.4 percent to 158.8 million units, according to research firm NPD Group. Overall sales of bras last year increased 1.1 percent and accounted for $5.8 billion of the total $10.67 billion innerwear business. Several factors are turning a traditional niche area into a flourishing category. The obesity epidemic has generated a base of consumers that is demanding a wider choice of basic, fashion and specialty product. Oprah Winfrey, whose power to make a bestseller, spawn trends and influence public opinion is unrivaled, introduced Bra Fit Interventions, explaining proper fitting, to millions of viewers on her television show. She feels so strongly about the subject that Bra Fit Tips for full figures are featured on oprah.com with the tagline, “Ladies, Rise to the Occasion.” <wwd.com>
PayPal forges an alliance with China’s largest payment card network - PayPal has struck a deal with China’s largest domestic payment card network, China UnionPay, that will enable billions of Chinese consumers to buy goods online from foreign merchants. PayPal also says it will double its Asia-Pacific workforce to 2,000 by year’s end. Chinese consumers hold 2.1 billion UnionPay cards, most of which are debit cards, according to PayPal and figures from the state-backed UnionPay. Consumers with UnionPay cards will be able to initiate PayPal transactions in the third quarter, says PayPal, the online payment processing service owned by eBay Inc. The partnership is designed to make it easier for Chinese consumers to make cross-border transactions. “PayPal’s partnership with China UnionPay removes an important friction point that exists across borders,” says Scott Thompson, PayPal president. “We are thrilled to eliminate the payments barrier so merchants can welcome millions of new Chinese customers to their sites.” PayPal says it has 81 million active accounts across the world. PayPal in China will face competition from Alipay, the online payment service operated by China-based e-commerce firm Alibaba Group, in which Yahoo in 2005 bought a 39% stake. Alipay says it has 300 million registered users. Alibaba also operates a consumer auction site, Taobao.com, which analysts have estimated controls up to 9 <internetretailer.com>
Dollar Stores, Fast Food to Add Space in 2010, Colliers Says - Dollar General Corp., Saks Inc.’s Off 5th and Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. are among the discounters and fast-food chains set to expand in 2010 as U.S. consumers embrace a “new frugality,” according to commercial property broker Colliers International. Low-cost restaurants and retailers, including Papa John’s International Inc.and TJX Cos., are planning to add stores following the loss of more than 4 million U.S. jobs last year and a reduction in consumer spending, Boston-based Colliers said today in its 2010 “Retail Trends & Opportunities” report. “The ‘New Frugality’ is here for at least five years,” Garrick Brown, national retail research director for Colliers, said in the report. “Necessity and off-price retailers will continue to fare best.” Last year’s rise in unemployment, which followed a loss of 3.1 million jobs in 2008, hurt retailers and their landlords as consumers curtailed spending. The National Retail Federation predicts that retail sales, excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants, will increase 2.5 percent this year following a 2.5 percent drop last year. Job losses likely will bottom out this quarter, Colliers said. The bankruptcies of Circuit City Stores Inc., Linens ‘n Things Inc. and Gottschalks Inc. in 2008 and 2009 contributed to rising retail vacancies across the U.S., sending rents down 25 to 40 percent, depending on the market, Colliers said. Lower rents have been “a huge factor” in the expansion of Dollar Tree Inc.; TJX’s T.J. Maxx and Marshalls stores; and Ross Stores Inc.’s Ross Dress for Less chain, Colliers said. <bloomberg.com>