The war for topline market share shows no sign of abatement.  Many management teams lament the aggressive discounting environment, yet are faced with no alternative but to comply.  Favorable food costs made this strategy largely accessible in 2009, but 2010 may be a different story.


Operational cost pressures are relatively benign for restaurant operators at present.  However, starting in the third quarter, QSR chains will face significantly more difficult compares in food and labor costs.  The chart below illustrates how QSR food costs are set to place increasing pressure on margins as 2010 rolls on.  Additionally, the CRB Foodstuffs Index is trending upwards.  Although the 4Q09 year-over-year change in the Index is 15.7%, the index troughed in 2Q09 and we expect food costs to be of little help to QSR earnings in 2010, particularly in the back half of the year (as commodity contracts are renegotiated).






Labor costs have historically increased and this trend is not expected to reverse any time soon.  Healthcare premiums have been rising and, while healthcare is front and center in Washington, D.C. at the moment, President Obama has made his support known for labor-related legislation such as the Employee Free Choice Act.  The trend of unionization poses a threat to the QSR industry, as we discussed in our 1/14/10 post, “QSR: DON’T MESS WITH MACRO”.  As the chart below indicates, labor costs as a percentage of sales also troughed in 3Q09 for QSR chains.  This implies a difficult compare for QSR labor costs in 3Q10.




Accordingly, EBIT margin trends are also reflecting the difficult scenario facing QSR in 3Q10.  Margins rose 295 bps in 3Q09 year-over-year and 226 bps in 4Q09.  Examining the food and labor trends, and taking into account the magnitude of the cost-cutting measures undertaken in 2009, it is clear that earnings growth is going to be far more tightly linked to top line trends in 2010 than in 2009.



QSR – A LOOK AT SALES AND MARGIN TRENDS IN 2010 - qsr ebit margin


Top line trends in the QSR segment have been showing weakness lately, partially caused by weather, but significantly driven by the issue of unemployment.  Unemployment is being cited as an issue by most management teams.  Some operators, such as Jack in the Box, have underlined the endemic levels of joblessness among certain demographics (young males, young male Hispanics).


The discounting environment persists as companies compete for traffic.  Even as BKC’s scheduled step-down from the $1 double cheeseburger approaches, MCD’s decision to sell all fountain drinks for $1 for 100 days from Memorial Day indicates that there will be no cease-fire in the QSR discounting war in the near-future. 


The chart below shows the steep drop in QSR same-store sales that began meaningfully in 2Q09.  The bifurcation of comps and margins shows that last year’s performance was driven by lower food costs and cost-cutting initiatives; this year, in the absence of an unlikely surge in same-store sales, the margin compares will negatively affect earnings in the QSR segment.  So far in 2010, weather has been affecting comps and the stock performance has been strong; though the FSR segment continues to outperform.  However, I expect margin compares to challenge QSR earnings growth from here – particularly in the third quarter.





Howard Penney

Managing Director


There are three data points on housing today:


(1)    CNBC is flashing breaking news - “Geithner: It will take a long time to heal damage from the housing crisis”

(2)    KB Homes reports earnings numbers that do not support a housing recovery. 

(3)    Existing home sales are at the lowest level in eight months.


If the housing recovery story is not working with significant government support in place, when is it going to work?


A picture of the housing "recovery" (or lack thereof) is shown in the two graphs below - supply and demand.  We have also included a six-month moving average to remove some volatility of late to see the trends more clearly.  Regardless of volatility, existing home sales have stagnated and the supply of new homes is starting to grow again.   


Today, the NAR reported that sales of existing U.S. homes fell 0.6% in February, declining for a third month.  The 5.02 million annual rate reflects the lowest level in eight months and is significantly below the 6.5 million annual rate seen in 2H09. 


Importantly, the number of previously-owned homes on the market jumped 9.5% to 3.59 million.  At the current annual run rate, the month’s supply moved to 8.6 months from 7.8 months last month.


We have been cautious on the housing recovery story and today’s news provides no evidence to change our stance.  The Consumer Discretionary (XLY) is up 8.4% over the past month (the best performing sector in the market) and the housing names have significantly underperformed.


There is basically one month left for consumers to qualify for the current government housing support program.  Given the lack of consumer acceptance for the current program (weather related issues or not), it is hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel for housing.


Howard Penney

Managing Director






3 Takeaways from Timmy today



The Geithner portion of the GSE hearing just ended. I was able to listen in for about 75% of the hearing. Here were the takeaways I found interesting.

  • Geithner says it’s not realistic to abolish the GSEs now or at any time in the future.
  • Geithner supports the idea of having an independent agency oversee consumer protection and thinks it’s a terrible idea to put consumer protection within the Fed, as the Dodd bill now proposes.
  • Geithner was asked by Rep Scott Garrett (R-NJ) whether GSE is Sovereign Debt, and he squirmed just like Bernanke did when asked the same question. Ultimately, Geithner said “GSE debt is not sovereign debt, but it is debt that the United States is going to stand behind”. Sounds like having your cake and eating it too.

Joshua Steiner, CFA
Managing Director

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Another strong quarter by CCL and favorable forward commentary.

"We have enjoyed a very robust wave season, setting booking records during the quarter. Wave season bookings were fueled by attractive pricing in the marketplace and pent-up demand from those who postponed vacations last year. As a result, pricing continues to increase, particularly for the peak summer season. Having achieved significantly higher pricing, we expect revenue yields for the remaining three quarters of the year to increase approximately 3 to 4 percent (in constant dollars) compared to last year. Vacationers should take advantage of the current low rates now as prices are going up."

- Carnival Corporation & plc Chairman and CEO Micky Arison




  • "Since the start of the calendar year, booking volumes for the remaining three quarters are running ahead of the prior year with prices significantly higher than last year's discounted levels.  At this time, cumulative advance bookings for the remainder of the year are in line with last year at higher prices."
  • 2010 Guidance:
    • Net revenue yields, on a constant & current dollar basis:  +2 to 3% percent compared (up 2% from prior guidance)
    • Net cruise costs excluding fuel per ALBD, on a constant dollar basis: -2 to -3%  (down 1% from prior guidance)
    • Fuel costs are expected to increase $483MM, costing an additional $0.60 per share
    • Strengthening of the U.S. dollar since the December guidance is expected to reduce earnings by ~$85MM
    • EPS: $2.25 to $2.35, up $0.05 to $0.15 from compared to December guidance (Consensus is $2.23)
  • 2Q2010 Guidance:
    • Net revenue yields (constant dollar basis):  +1 to 2% percent compared (2.5 to 3.5% on a current dollar basis)
    • Net cruise costs excluding fuel per ALBD, on a constant dollar basis: -3.5 to -4.5% 
    • Fuel costs are expected to increase $176MM, costing an additional $0.22 per share
    • EPS: $0.26 to $0.30 per share (Consensus is $0.26)


  • Better revenue yields due to better expected pricing on last minute bookings and better cost controls
  • Capacity increased 9.6% for the fourth quarter of 2009, with the majority of the increase once again going to our European brands. Our European brands grew 14.5% while our North American brands grew 5%. As I previously mentioned, overall net revenue yields in local currency declined 2.3%
  • Net ticket yields saw 4% in local currency.  North American was down across all itineraries.  European was down 6% - primarily due to Brazil - which had large capacity increases
  • Net onboard and other increased 3%, however, excluding some unusual items onboard would have been flat - and that's what they are assuming for the rest of the year
  • Expect the sequential improvement that they saw in the first quarter to continue through the rest of the year
  • Rising fuel prices masked good cost controls. However, fuel consumption per ALBD decreased over 3%
  • During the last 9 week period, bookings are up 9% and pricing is up 17%. North American up 23% and European pricing is up 6%
  • North American brands (3% increase for balance of 2010), Alaska pricing is showing some improvement. All itineraries are showing improving yields. Seabourn - is forecasting lower yields but they will experience 57% capacity
  • Europe: Costa and AIDA pricing is expected to be slightly lower for the year given the capacity increases, the rest is expected to be flat. Ibero cruises is expected to have stable yields for the rest of the year despite challenges in the Spanish economy
  • 2Q2010 Guidance: 8.3% increase in capacity for 2Q2010. 13% in European brands, 4% in NA. Forecasting local currency yield increases of 1-2%.  North American: 53% Caribbean. NA brand pricing is slightly higher - by 2% with very little left to sell.  Europe: 57% in Europe.  Pricing is slightly lower, with very little less to sell, occupancies down a little too.
  • 3Q2010 Guidance:Capacity up 6.2%, 3.2% in NA and 8%in Europe.  Fleetwide occupancies are higher across the board. NA capacity: 40% Caribbean. Pricing and is also higher for virtually all itineraries.  Only slightly higher in Alaska - with their tour business down.  Forecasting significantly higher yields in NA (high single digits): Ticket revenues - low double digit increases while onboard and other is forecasted to be flat.
    • Europe: Forecasting flattish to slightly lower local currency yields given the sluggish economy and capacity increases.  
  • 4Q2010: NA brands: 50% in Caribbean, 20% in Long and Exotic.  Pricing is higher in all itineraries but occupancy is a little lower. Europe: 73% in Europe.  Occupancy and pricing is higher in Europe.  Forecasting that yields will be nicely higher in the 4Q.


  • .75% benefit for the $19MM settlement in the 1Q2010 on yields
  • What changed with regard to cost guidance?
    • About half of the change has to do with the gain on the sale of P&O Artemis
    • The other half is just savings across the board... sounds like they sandbagged on cost guidance in Dec
      • Basically operating companies tend to underestimate their ability to reduce costs
  • Alaska head tax issue (governor is proposing a repeal)
    • If the proposals pass, then they would give passengers onboard credits which will hopefully increase onboard spending. It won't pass in time to impact this summer season through
    • The session only has 4-5 weeks left to run, and if the governor's proposal doesn't pass then it won't pass this year
    • Their itineraries are in place for 2011 (not sure what the competitors are doing)
    • Alaska is 15% of overall capacity in 3Q
  • Europe- they don't have the Brazil business for the rest of the year, only in 1Q.  So their forecast for the rest of the year is consistent with the current down 1% yields, ex Brazil that they saw this Q.
  • In the UK they've been very pleased with the business. 
  • Seabourn is their highest priced product and they are taking capacity from 600 beds to 1500 beds, and that capacity will take some time to absorb.
  • The guarantee items aren't necessarily 1x items.  It's just that all the reconciliations are done every year in January. In good years they never kick in so they are irrelevant.
  • Holland and Princess both made strong comebacks that are close in actual #s
  • Are forecasting a 1.5% decrease in fuel consumption - but they will likely beat that number
  • Selling and building new ships? What are they seeing on pricing
    • Working on the Princess deal for a long time - taking 2 years.  Hope that final contracts will be signed by April. Not working on any other deals - so it'll take a while before you see anything else.
    • Prices to build are more attractive now. Even a 10-15% decrease in pricing isn't going to make them build ships they don't need.  Probably will add 2-3 ships per year in the long term
  • Historically, when they give guidance, the next quarter is usually 85-95% booked, and the following 55-75%, and the 3rd 30-50% booked. 
  • They baked in the litigation expenses when they gave guidance in December, but not on the taxes.
  • The timing of some expenses is difficult to predict - especially in SG&A.  Some expenditures were pushed out to further quarters, hence 1Q was lower than normal.
  • Onboard spend in the EU vs. NA brands. EU brands still have lower onboard spend than the NA. They drink more and gamble less than NA.
  • Thoughts on reimplementing fuel charge
    • No present intention to reinstate it
  • They are not seeing any changes in booking windows. They are purposefully waiting to book a little closer in to try to get pricing.  Booking curve is similar to what was in 4 of the last 5 years, with the exception of 2008.
  • They are surprised by the strength of pricing so far this year.  Things are coming back a lot faster in NA but Europe is slower. They still offer the best "value" vacation out there
  • Commissions and passenger yield costs? Why were they down so much?
    • Air / Sea mix was down 25%.  Only 12% of people purchased air from them this year vs. 16% last year (and that's a pass through expense).
  • Why are they guiding flat onboard spend? Is it the mix shift with Europe?
    • Partly Europe, but operating companies are typically conservative because they have no visibility.  In theory, higher ticket prices should indicate an increase in onboard spend- but they have no visibility there.  People are also spending differently - like casinos - which have become so prevalent on land that they are less popular onboard. There is also a seasonality issue - since Europe is more seasonal than the NA business
  • They had a $0.25 swing in total impact due to fuel & currency -both fuel and currency moved against them. 10% on fuel is still $0.20 on earnings
  • How sustainable are these cost declines? Will you see a big rebound when things get better?  Think that they are getting more bang for the buck on advertising.  Search costs declined because they won the use to their trademarks on Google. They are just becoming more efficient on their ad spend.  Also it's hard to predict inflation, right now there is no inflation. 
  • Is there a structural impediment to getting yields above 30%?
    • Not on the cost side
  •  They may hedge Brazil with more capacity from Argentina
  • Continental European brands focus on an upper-middle market, can't say if the premium customers are doing better there

In Search of a Binding Agent

Position: Long UUP; Short MUB and HYG


Ahead of European leaders meeting in Brussels this Thursday and Friday for an EU Summit, the media frenzy continues to beg for guidance on how Europe and/or the international community will respond to Greece’s sovereign debt issues.  However, if German Chancellor Angela Merkel has her way—and she recently said there’s no need for EU leaders to make any “concrete decisions” on Greek aid at the Summit—we’d expect to see continued volatility in markets deemed to have sovereign debt issues, and carry-over weakness in the EUR versus the USD.    


With respect to the work we’ve done outlining Sovereign Debt in recent weeks, both at home and abroad, we recently came across a great chart from Stratfor (first chart below) that outlines unit labor costs across Europe, including the US as a frame of reference. What the chart helps quantify is one of the many metrics that demonstrate the uneven nature of Eurozone countries, in this case regarding labor efficiency, or lack thereof in terms of the PIIGS. Note the ~ 25% spread between Germany and Greece.


While we don’t have a crystal ball to predict how this will all end, we’ve positioned ourselves in our model portfolio to take advantage of, or steer clear of, some of these macro moves.  We’re long the US dollar (UUP), a proxy for taking advantage of EUR weakness; short US municipal bonds (MUB) and short high yield corporate bonds (HYG).


The second chart below of Greece’s 10YR bond yield and Greek 5YR CDS prices demonstrates that heightened fears surrounding Greece (and the PIIGS) persist, even post PM Papandreou’s global road show to garner economic support earlier in the month.  You’ll note that we covered our tactical short position in Spain (via the etf EWP) at an oversold level on 3/22, which coincided with a lower high in Greece’s 10YR yield. 


Matthew Hedrick



In Search of a Binding Agent - gfor


In Search of a Binding Agent - Gnoch


R3: WSM - Contemplating Post Peak Upside


March 23, 2010


With many retailers nearing or exceeding peak EBIT margins following a year of incredibly tight inventory management, cost cutting, curtailed store growth, and capital preservation, there are few companies that standout as candidates for moving beyond prior margin highs.  One such name that stands out in this camp is Williams-Sonoma. 




With many retailers nearing or exceeding peak EBIT margins following a year of incredibly tight inventory management, cost cutting, curtailed store growth, and capital preservation, there are few companies that standout as candidates for moving beyond prior margin highs. One such name that comes to mind is Williams-Sonoma. After reporting another strong quarter of upside across the top and bottom lines, one key item stood out to us. Management explained how it believed the company could achieve prior peak margins and ultimately exceed them. We agree.


The formula to achieve EBIT margins of 10-12% (vs. peak of 10.2%) is the by-product of a few key variables.


  • For perspective, 2009 reported EBIT margin was 5.2%, or 500 bps below 2005 peak levels. The bulk of the decline is confined to gross margins, of which 415 bps has been negatively impacted by occupancy expense. Within occupancy expense, 50% of the impact is due to escalating costs and 50% due to sales deleverage. The remaining gross margin degradation is the result of a 225 bps hit on selling gross margins offset by 140 bps of supply chain efficiencies.
  • Leverage on central infrastructure, which has seen capacity reduced by 1.2 million square foot in 2009 should continue to drive supply chain efficiency/gross margin improvement. At the very least, leverage should continue through the first half of the year given that capacity reductions have not been fully anniversaried. After that, modest sales growth on a substantially reduced distribution network will continue to yield gross margin gains.
  • Recognize that advertising costs reductions are permanent. Recall that the company substantially reduced catalog circulation over the past year and is in favor of lower cost, higher return digital marketing. It is clear that the ecommerce business is the most profitable growth vehicle the company has and the legacy costs associated with catalog distribution are a way of the past. Circulation was down 20% for the year, representing a permanent cut to costs.
  • Close marginal stores that are saddled with rent escalations that would otherwise pose a drag on overall margins. This is a 150-200 bps opportunity alone. Clearly the current real estate environment affords flexibility and opportunity to reduce costs. Furthermore, growth opportunities in the highly profitable direct business takes pressure off of management to grow retail for the sake of growth. Management is focused on closing stores and we expect this to continue over the next 1-2 years, at least.
  • SG&A is not really a key variable here, provided it remains consistently well managed. Over the past 5 years, SG&A is actually down 10 bps as a % of sales, despite the major decline in total topline sales.
  • Positive mix shift towards higher margin, higher turning home furnishings vs. a more traditional reliance on furniture. While still early in this process, this should be gross margin accretive vs. the historical mix which was more in favor of lower margin furniture.
  • Importantly, on a lower cost structure (primarily supply chain and advertising), topline assumptions do not need to be heroic to continue to drive margin expansion. A low single digit increase in sales over the next three years would allow margins to expand to near peak levels. Clearly momentum is stronger at the current time (and compares are still easy), which suggests the ramp should be steeper in the near-term (even after the huge move off the bottom).

 R3: WSM - Contemplating Post Peak Upside - WSM SIGMA 





  • Tiffany noted that it will launch its collection of leather accessories and handbags later this year. Recall that the line is being designed by Richard Lambertson and is the first line to be brought to market since TIF acquired Lambertson’s company out of bankruptcy just about one year ago. The line will launch with limited distribution in the US stores as well as online.
  • Wal-Mart is adding back some SKU’s it recently cut as part of its effort to rationalize underperforming brands, reduce clutter, and improve profits. Apparently consumers have lashed back, and have expressed their displeasure with the company’s efforts to eliminate SKU’s. Interestingly, Hefty’s One-Zip sandwich bags are on the list of items to make their way back onto the shelves. Recall that we originally flagged the company’s decision to narrow the bag assortment to one national brand (Ziploc) and their own Great Value offering.
  • An interview with J Crew’s creative director, Jenna Lyons, revealed that the company is focused on developing a partnership with a beauty brand. She went on to note that she is seeing “an insatiable appetite for nail polish”. While no deal or strategic partnership is imminent, it won’t be surprising if we begin to see some limited beauty products making their way into the stores. Importantly, if done properly, beauty can be a high margin, traffic driving business.





Supply Chain Forum - The recession forced executives to reexamine their supply chains and find new efficiencies. Cutbacks in inventories and the culling of suppliers that brands and retailers engaged in to survive the downturn present a challenge to growth. Today, companies are scrambling for capacity. The industry is in a classic bullwhip effect. Companies have relied heavily on Asian sourcing for decades; however, Asia, and China in particular, are quickly developing into powerhouse consumer markets which has significant ramifications for sourcing. Commodity inflation is a likely result of an economic recovery and a surging Asian consumer population.  “In a world where the source countries are seeing GDP growth at a rapid rate, and the mature countries are having slow to no growth, the pinch point becomes clear,” McBreen said. Companies are focusing on improving its speed to market and implementing product life cycle management techniques that allow it to break away from a seasonal delivery mind-set. Retailers have adjusted by focusing on its supply chain and moving away from areas where deliveries had been unreliable, such as Pakistan. Such thing as reducing time spent unloading containers became critical.  “You may think that you’ve got down to your source and this is the best you can do with your supply chain. I feel there’s still a lot of work to do,” he said. “The U.S. is far behind the Europeans. They’re closer and they have their supply chain rates and percentage much more economical and understandable.” <>


Supply Chain Forum 2: Sourcing Companies - The economic downturn has forced retailers to reevaluate how to utilize the role of the sourcing company, resulting in suppliers being under greater pressure to inject more value into the overall packages they deliver to boost their competitiveness. Rockowitz said manufacturers will have to increase investment in technologies such as automated equipment in production lines, advanced management systems and computerized systems for research and development in order to boost overall capabilities. There also will be a greater push toward connectivity. Li & Fung has developed a wireless system that gives all those involved in the supply chain access to real time information for improved efficiency. Christina Ong, textiles and garments division director at HSBC, believes developing product design capability is essential to survive in the supply chain in the coming years. Bundling design and merchandising services will enable sourcing companies to attain higher profit margins and customer loyalty. This also helps fend off competition as buyers become dependent on the agent for product development. New technologies now have become inextricably linked with sustainability. Ong said consumers are more aware of environmental matters and expect retailers to provide products manufactured by compliant factories and will have to look to reforming highly polluting and resource-consuming industries such as tanning, dyeing and electroplating. <>


China's long term growth plan recovery - China has started to regain momentum in manufacturing and exports this year, both of which were dealt heavy blows by the global financial meltdown. But the longer-term damage of the world economic crash may lie in disrupting the central government’s ambitious plans to transform China’s economy into one based on innovation by 2020. The first two months of this year show a fledgling recovery taking root in China’s manufacturing sector, with renewed growth in exports, according to recent government statistics. The index used to measure manufacturing output held steady, while China’s exports during January and February soared 46 percent from the same months last year. Yet, as Premier Wen Jiabao warned in his annual state of the union address on March 5, the future is littered with mine fields. Amid its drive to balance exports and imports and rebalance the entire economic structure, China faces an uphill road in improving the content and quality of its exported goods. The central government, Wen said, will commit special efforts to 10 key industries in 2010, including textiles. But there’s no denying the downturn somewhat derailed China’s detailed economic development plans, which could mean more of the same in manufacturing. <>


New Leather Tannery Cluster to be Built in Fuxin, China: The China Leather Industry Association (CLIA) has confirmed the country's official policy to locate new tanneries to specialised tanning clusters as it aims to tighten up the regulations to build new sites. China has been promoting the new tanning cluster in Fuxin, Lioning province of Northern China. The Fuxin cluster so far has three or four new tanneries either planned or under construction including the new beamhouse plant for Shanghai Richina Leather. A new central effluent treatment plant is also under construction to cater for the tannery waste. The Lioning cluster is due to be fully operational by 2011 and is close to the shipping ports, which is ideal import and export of goods. The CLIA spokesperson said that in the future it will be more difficult for tanners to obtain permits to build new plants and therefore the tanning clusters offer the best chance to a permit to be granted. The Association also added that the growth of new tannery construction in China is expected to slow down in the future as they focus on improving the environmental performance of existing tanneries. <>


China: Li Ning bullish on the mainland sportswear retail market - Chinese sportswear retail giant Li Ning reported an impressivley strong 2009 performance and said the market also looks strong for 2010. The company expects to increase sales by more than 16% this year with a 10% rise in same-store sales as the company produced an impressive set of fiscal 2009 figures, with group revenue increasing by 25.4% to RMB 8,386.9m for the year ended December 31.  "2009 was an extremely challenging year with economies around the world swept by the global financial crisis. China was also impacted by this crisis in 2009, especially in the first half of the year. In addition, the post-Beijing Olympics effect impacted the pace of growth of the sporting goods industry during the year," said Li Ning, Chairman of the Group. "Against the backdrop of a challenging operating environment, the Group, under the excellent leadership of the management and relentless efforts of our staff, reinforced its financial strength and boosted its competitiveness in key areas including its brands, products and new sports category, thus achieving solid business and financial growth." As the Group's core brand, LI-NING brand sales accounted for 91.7% of the total revenue, grew by 21.1% to RMB 7.69 billion. Sales of LI-NING brand footwear products, apparel products and accessories grew by 19.1%, 22.3% and 27.4% respectively.  <>


Japan Fashion Week: Two factors are working in local designers’ favor — a growing contingency of buyers and consumers from other Asian countries and Japanese department stores’ newfound willingness to place orders and decrease their dependency on European luxury labels. "Every single store carries the same names, the same merchandise, and the customers and the buyers are a little bit tired of seeing the same,” he said. “The market condition is terrible, but it’s in a good condition for the young designers.” About 40 runway shows, along with dozens of presentations and other related events, will take place this week around the city. Like in seasons past, small home-grown brands with names such as Somarta, Mint Designs and Motonari Ono dominate the lineup. But a growing number of men’s labels, such as Discovered, Factotum, Phenomenon and Yoshio Kubo, also is joining JFW’s ranks, underscoring a widely held belief that men’s designers here are overshadowing their women’s wear counterparts, both in terms of buzz and commercial success. <>


REI Profits - REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.) released its audited 2009 financial results showing it earned net income of $29.8 million, up 106% from $14.5 million in 2009. The company's direct sales channel, which includes online and catalog sales, grew by nearly 5%, while comp store sales declined by 3.5%, outperforming an expected 5% decline. <>


NRF Makes Statement on Health Care Legislation - The National Retail Federation in a statement expressed extreme disappointment at the House's passage of sweeping health care reform legislation over the weekend, saying added labor costs under the bill will cost many retail workers their jobs.  <>


Dick's Sporting Goods has declared May as Dick's Sporting Goods National Runners' Month with the sponsorship of ten major running-event sponsorships.   <>


Protests Against Nike - Maryland University became the latest college to see campus protests erupt against Nike over the closing of two factories in Honduras that had been operated by Nike subcontractors. Activists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Cornell University and Purdue University have also protested alleged illegal wage practices following the closure of the Hugger de Honduras and Vision Tex factories in January 2009.  <>


UK Retail Sales Grow 2nd Month in a Row - Retail sales have grown for the second consecutive month, and growth is expected to continue at a similar pace through Easter, according to the CBI Distributive Trades Survey. <>


Zappos’ customer service draws raves in a new report - The online shoes, clothing and accessories retailer had the top-ranked customer service in a new study commissioned by customer service ratings agency StellaService. <>


Tiger Woods and Sponsors - Tiger Woods may have lost a few key sponsors since his November car accident and the resulting fallout, but he continues to draw attention for those that have stood by him. Woods, who granted five-minute interviews to ESPN and Golf Channel, wore a Tiger Woods hat, Nike sweater and Tag Heuer watch during the interviews. Eric Wright of Joyce Julius & Associates claimed the branding exposure for the combined Nike brands is worth an estimated $2.4 million. Tag Heuer, which received a four second close-up as Woods modeled his new Buddhist bracelet, received $5,000 worth of exposure. <>


Google Cleared of Trademark Infringement in Vuitton Case - Google Inc. did not violate trademark law by allowing advertisers to buy keywords corresponding to registered names such as Louis Vuitton, the European Union’s highest court has ruled. However, the court said advertisers who use such keywords must make patently clear to Internet users where the goods they are selling originate, a victory for luxury goods makers vying to stamp out counterfeits online. <>


Rapper T.I. Sued Over Apparel Line - An Illinois media firm has brought a trademark lawsuit against rapper T.I. over the name of his apparel line, Akoo. Akoo International Inc. says it has used the name since 1999 and trademarked it in 2007. The company, based in the Chicago suburb of Elmwood Park, provides music video programming to public spaces such as malls, restaurants and college campuses. TI launched his clothing line under the moniker — short for A King of Oneself — in 2008. <>



Tod's SpA Gains in 2009 Driven by Footwear and Asia - Tod’s SpA noted performance of its footwear division and growth in Italy and Asia as drivers behind revenue and profitability growth. Approached 2009 with rigorous control of discount sales and a more and more selective wholesale distribution. Shoes, the group’s core business, continued to grow, with sales rising 4.2% percent to $506.1 mm in 2009 while leather goods and accessories showed a 12% drop to $154.8 million, sales of apparel inched up 0.5% to $132 mm. Geographically, sales in Italy gained 5.5%, while Europe fell 6.4%. Revenues in North America declined 21.7%, Asia saw sales rise 7.5%. <>


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