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YUM - ENTER THE DRAGON?

We have been short YUM, which has been the wrong call, particularly into first quarter numbers, which came in better than both sales and earnings expectations.  That being said, I continue to have my concerns, largely related to what I recognize

as overly aggressive unit growth in China and profitability issues in the U.S. 

 

CHINA: 

 

The most surprising upside came in China with same-store sales up 4% in the quarter, accelerating 400 bps sequentially from the fourth quarter on a 2-year average basis.  Management commented that it benefited from a very strong Chinese New Year during the first quarter on top of trends that point to an improving consumer; though it would not yet call it a recovery.  The company guided to a similar magnitude of same-store sales growth in 2Q10 as reported in 1Q10.  Relative to YUM’s full year +2% same-store sales outlook issued in December, this implied +3% to +4% 2Q guidance points to upside in the full-year numbers as the company’s same-store sales comparisons get easier for the remainder of the year (management did not revise its full-year guidance).  

 

This 2Q guidance, though it may be conservative, also implies a sequential slowdown in 2-year average trends as YUM is lapping its easiest comparison from 2009.  A +4% number in 2Q10 would represent a 300 bp sequential deceleration from the first quarter on a 2-year average basis.  Maybe management is concerned that the strong holiday drove a lot of the momentum during the first quarter, which is obviously not sustainable for the remainder of the year, in addition to its concern that the consumer has not yet fully recovered.

 

Despite the strong first quarter performance, the +14% new unit growth, combined with 4% same-store sales growth, should add up to approximately 18% system sales growth.  YUM China reported 15% system sales growth which highlights a decline in new unit AUVs.  In response to a question during the earnings call, management stated that there is a $300K gap between new unit AUVs and the rest of the system, which it attributes to the fact that the company is opening in smaller cities which generate lower sales but also require a lower cost structure.  This will be an important trend, although not new, to monitor because lower new unit AUVs is typically a sign of growing too fast and cannibalized sales.

 

 

U.S.:

 

U.S. same-store sales of -1% showed marked improvement from the -8% in the fourth quarter.  Pizza Hut led the charge with same-store sales up 5%. Management attributed the strong sequential recovery at Pizza Hut to its “$10 Any Way You Want It” pizza promotion.  This promotion hurt average check, which was down 10%, but more than offset it with increased transaction growth, according to management. 

 

Although we knew trends had improved at Pizza Hut, as reported earlier by NPD, the 750 bp sequential improvement in the 2-year average trend was impressive.  Despite this better top-line performance and $5 million in commodity deflation, operating profit declined 9% in the quarter.  Although same-store sales comparisons get easier in the back half of the year after lapping the Kentucky Grilled Chicken launch from 2Q09, the commodity benefit is expected to go away and turn inflationary as we trend through the year as management is expecting costs to be relatively flat for the full year.  In addition, the operating profit growth compares get more difficult for the next two quarters as the company benefited last year from implementing a $65 million reduction in its U.S. G&A cost structure.

 

It is also concerning that more consumers at Taco Bell, YUM’s most profitable U.S. concept, are buying from the “Why Pay More” menu.  This, combined with the need for promotions at Pizza Hut that drive average check lower by 10%, will put increased pressure on U.S. profitability.  Despite easier same-store sales comparisons in 2H10, I do not find much comfort in management’s comment that it is comfortable with its full-year 5% U.S. operating profit growth outlook as the company consistently misses its U.S. operating profit targets.  To recall, YUM’s initial 2009 U.S. operating profit target was 15% and it came in at +1%.

 

All in, the first quarter was a strong start to the year for YUM.  To that end, I think it will be difficult for the company to maintain this momentum for the following reasons:

  • China’s margin performance of 1Q won’t continue - Expect moderate year-over-year improvement over China’s 21% margins in Mainland China last year
    • Commodity inflation is expected in the back half of the year (reported commodity deflation of $15 million in 1Q10)
    • YUM is facing increased wage inflation in 2H10 after facing lower than usual wage growth rates in 1Q10
  • YUM is facing its most difficult U.S. SSS comparison in 2Q10 as it laps the Kentucky Grilled Chicken launch, which drove KFC comps positive for one quarter
  • U.S. operating profit growth comparisons get more difficult for the next 2 quarters and commodity deflation with likely turn inflationary
  • After tax results will be challenged in the second quarter as the company laps the favorable 16.4% effective tax rate from 2Q09

 

 

NOTES FROM THE YUM 1Q10 CALL:


On the way to achieving 9th straight year of double-digit EPS growth

  • Worldwide 1Q operating profit grew 17%, EPS grew
  • China division’s profit grew 37%
    • SSS growth and unit growth
  • U.S. sales improved also, particularly PH
    • U.S. profits down 9%, SSS declined 1%
  • YRI system sales increased 1% and profits increased 2% prior to FX
    • Driven by new unit development

Overall, pleased with the start to 2010.

 

 

CHINA


Continue to build leading brands

  • SSS grew by 4%
  • Units grew by 14%
  • Rest margins at 27%
  • Profit growth of 37%
  • Lapping 30% profit growth in 1Q09

 

New Unit development is the major driver of growth

  • 96 units opened in 1Q
  • Surpassed 3,500 units
    • Leading position in China

KFC

  • 1.4m dollars AUV per year
  • Delivery is now available in over 110 cities
  • Developing sales layer now over 3% of sales
  • Breakfast represents 7% of transactions and continues to grow
    • Nearly 3,000 KFC units in over 650 Chinese cities

 

Pizza Hut

  • Leading western casual dining concept in China
  • Double-digit SSS growth
  • Menu appeals to Chinese consumers
    • Updating 25% of menu every six months
    • PH has 467 units in 122 Chinese cities

Other minor brands also gaining traction

 

 

YRI


Strategy is to aggressively expand

  • New unit development is a key driver
    • 109 openings in more than 40 countries during 1Q
  • Network of 1,000 franchisees
  • Goal of 900 for year
  • SSS declined 1%
  • 2% op profit growth excl FX

 

KFC

  • Expanding value menu to more markets using proven strategies
  • Incremental sales layers
    • KFC breakfast – KFC AM continues to grow

 

Pizza Hut

  • Everyday affordable prices
  • Weaker transaction trends due to check but menu is being changed

 

France, India and Russia delivered 14% system sales growth prior to FX in 1Q10

  • KFC expanding aggressively in these markets
  • Provincial cities
  • In Russia, 150 KFC units in 22 cities
  • In India there are 74 KFCs in 14 cities and 159 Pizza Huts in 33 cities
    • KFC is leveraging television advertising to build brand awareness

 

Two new Taco Bells opening in London

 

 

UNITED STATES

 

Strategy is to improve brand and returns

  • Pleased with improvement from 4Q09

 

Pizza Hut

  • Promotion has helped bring people back
  • Check was too high
  • Going from Pizza to Pizza, Pasta, and Wings
  • Turned corner on sales trends

 

Taco Bell

  • Disappointed with -2% decline in SSS as people increasingly traded down
  • Pipeline of products is strong for the rest of the year

 

KFC’s performance improved sequentially

  • Balanced options – fried and grilled chicken
  • Portable options – double down
  • Improved operations
  • Performance has improved from 4Q and company expects this to continue

 

Took a non-cash charge that basically reflects the beginning of refranchising KFC to 5% company ownership.  That is also our goal for Pizza Hut, where we’ve already begun the journey and are well on our way.

 

 

Chief Financial Officer

 

1Q results

  • Strong Chinese holiday
  • SSS of 4%, system sales growth of 15%
  • Consumer confidence in China has improved yoy the past three months
  • Benefitted significantly from chicken cost inflation vs prior year and lower-than-usual wage inflation

YRI

  • Sales results weak in developed markets like Japan and Canada
    • Dampened overall results for YRI’s quarter
  • Only 2% profit growth prior FX
    • Post FX growth was 13%

 

United States

  • Unemployment and discounting environment is difficult
  • Taco Bell experienced higher Why Pay More mix and had lower drink incidence
  • Reduced G&A by 6m dollars

 

Outlook for 2010

  • Expect moderate SSS growth in China in the second quarter
  • For the U.S. expected that positive sales growth will come in 2H10
    • Comps easier in 2H
  • China’s margin performance of 1Q won’t continue
    • Commodity inflation in back half and a bigger impact from wage inflation
  • Expect moderate year-over-year improvement over China’s 21% margins in Mainland China last year
  • After tax results will be challenged in the second quarter as a favorable 16.4% effective tax rate before special items is rolled over
  • Confident that 10% EPS objective will be met

 

Strategy for emerging markets

  • Significant growth opportunity

 

Emerging markets – China, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Brazil… collectively there markets are growing at a fast rate.  Long runway for restaurant growth in those countries.  Further, in top ten emerging markets, YUM has 1.5 units per 1m people.

  • 10,000 units in emerging markets.  55% of YRI + China units.  Larger than peers in these markets and growing fastest. 
  • 2x MCD’s emerging markets presence.  Most of YUM’s competitors aren’t even opening in emerging markets. 

 

In upcoming calls and investor meetings, YUM will provide more color on these emerging market strategies.

 

 

 

Q&A

 

 

Q:

Pizza Hut value…what is the impact on mix from the $10 promotion. How are you thinking about sustaining value there going forward?

 

A:

Posted strong sales in 1Q of 5%.  Addressed the biggest problem, which was value.  Comparable margins have held steady.  Flow through has offset the drop in price.  Brand is improving as a result of the initiative.  Working hard with franchisees on sustaining compelling value. 

 

Check was down about 10% but transactions increased at a much faster rate.

 

 

Q:

How are you responding to the consumer’s reaction to shrimp taco?

 

A:

People like it. We have some product supply issues because the shrimp tacos flew off the shelves. Made a lot of sense to have it during lent.

 

 

Q:

Detail on consumer environment in China…your results were strong, what is giving you pause in calling for the recovery in the Chinese consumer?

 

A:

Consumer confidence has gone up the last three months but still below where it was a year, year-and-a-half ago….(but they are up year-over-year?).  Other metrics are positive.  We are focusing more development on the stronger regions (coastal regions are not recovering as fast).

 

 

Q:

Seen anything from 1Q to suggest that low-to-mid single digit comp is unsustainable for the rest of year?

 

A:

No significant change from 1Q levels as yet.

 

 

Q:

The profit for 1Q was down domestically, food costs aren’t going to help going forward, how do you feel about the U.S. business, profit-wise for the year?

 

A:

Overlaps get easier in the second half of the year. Not assuming a great economic recovery for domestic business to get better.  Things are better than they were in 3Q, 4Q last year.  On the commodity side, there was some deflation in 1Q. Current guess is that it will be flat for the full year. Value, product, and managing costs are the three key focuses at our domestic brands. 

 

Still comfortable with 5% growth in U.S. outlook

 

 

Q:

Pizza category in the U.S., who are you taking share from? Is it sustainable?

 

A:

More competitive on the pricing front. Usually when YUM grows like it is right now, it comes from overall category and the “mom and pops”.

 

 

Q:

You have been running without menu pricing in China for at least six months, what’s the new opportunity in coming quarters, especially if there is inflation in 2H10?

 

A:

Labor and costs were unusually low but we’re studying what we want to do now for the back half in terms of costs. 

 

 

Q:

Update on KFC U.S. business. Last quarter some of the franchisees were behind in royalty payments – has there been improvement there? 

 

A:

Bad debt did a little better in 1Q. Hopefully we get in to a better seasonal time now.

 

Regarding refranchising, we’re on a three year refranchising program that really started in ’08.  In the first two years of that,

Long John Silver was fully refranchised.

 

KFC continues to be the biggest challenge in the US. Likely will be negative in 2Q as grilled chicken is lapped.

 

More innovation around “balanced” and “high-end” opportunities.

 

 

Q:

YRI, why have sales remained soft in key markets like Australia and the U.K.?

 

A:

Australia has had a strong run of consistency. Pipeline and innovation has fallen behind.  Expect that business to perform better. The brand is strong there.  In the U.K., pleased with the progress of KFC which had a great year in 2009.  Pizza Hut is big challenge there, not affordable.  In the early days of making a substantial change there. 

 

 

Q:

What kind of comp do you need to offset coming increases in fixed costs?

 

A:

In 2H09 the government didn’t take up minimum wages. In 1H10 Yum is benefitting from that. In 2H the company will be impacted by that.  For the full year there will be a moderate increase.  A modest comp is required to offset that. 

Normally wages in China are in the 8% to 10% level.  Rates were lower than that in the first half of the year but will be higher for the balance.  Should average 10% for the full year. 

 

 

Q:

All of the publicly traded pizza players saw big improvement in comps. Is there any other place you can get market growth from? One of your competitors said that market has been declining but it now ticking up?

 

A:

There’s nothing like the power of having the leading brand.  When you’re value competitive, your odds are better.  We’re trying to have a two-fold strategy. One is to compete better in the pizza market value-wise.  The other is to leverage variety – pasta and wings being added into the equation and marketing them primarily during the week. 

 

 

Q:

China, new unit volumes.  Are we still looking at 200k difference in new unit volumes? What is the ramp for new units?

 

A:

AUVs are 1.4m and new units come in at 1 or 1.1m.  That trend has been intact for a while.  As you get to the smaller cities, margins are similar despite lower sales because cost structures are lower there. 

 

 

Q:

U.S. Taco Bell business.  Can you talk about the -2% comp and the lower level of drink incidence? 

 

A:

Lower average guest check. Less drinks and combo meals.  Most media spend was on the value side.  The “why pay more” usage was a higher portion of mix.  More and more people are at the low end.  We did have positive transactions and we can build off that strength. 

 

Biggest challenge is to get SSS going. Easier to build off positive transactions.  Also extremely enthusiastic about results from longer term initiatives. Optimistic about the future of the brand and TB can get modest SSS growth for the balance of the year.  Sales layers being added will help TB become a net new unit developer. 

 

 

Q:

SBUX, MCD, DPZ results seem much better internationally.  If there’s anything that’s going to change from a management perspective, remodels…can you give color on that? Can you also comment on company store margins in the YRI division?

 

A:

No question that YRI has problems that need to be addressed.  Focused on value.  Looking at value menus that have been successful in South Africa and expanding into U.K.

 

Rolling out incremental sales layers.  Frozen beverages….

 

Hoping for a better second half in 2010.

 

 

Q:

Any benefit from New Year being in February as opposed to January?

 

A:

No dramatic shift between Jan and Feb.  Was check flat and transaction up 4?

 

 

Q:

Internet coupon deal that went awry in China?

 

A:

Couponing error caused some concern among customers, short term issue.

 

 

Q:

Cost for YUM in terms of healthcare? Any push back in refranchising?

 

A:

Small impact this year but the major impact of the legislation will be in 2014. We’re going to 5% ownership of KFC and PH. Lots of legislative details to be ironed out. Will cost $15k per store starting in 2014.  Plenty of time to deal with the issue.

 

 

Q:

With comps up 4% in the first quarter that was versus a +2%.  In 2Q last year it was down…can you drill down deeper and tell us why the trends won’t accelerate. Anything in 1Q that isn’t flowing through? 

 

A:

Looking at it in terms of 3, 2, or 1 years is not the point.  We expect moderate growth from 2Q last year.

 

 

Q:

Corporate expenses were down this quarter…is this $30m per quarter run rate to be expected going forward or was it unusual?

 

A:

U.S. saw a reduction in G&A.  Goal is to offset refranchising costs with G&A savings. 

 

 

Q:

Is the $10 price point important to keep for PH? Even with a change in toppings…or is the variability of getting whatever you want more important?  Separate occasions for pasta and chicken or bundling?

 

A:

Relative value is the real key here. More into separate occasions than bundling. 

 

YUM - ENTER THE DRAGON? - mainland china

 

YUM - ENTER THE DRAGON? - us sss

 

YUM - ENTER THE DRAGON? - yum yri

 

 

 

 

Howard Penney

Managing Director


CITYCENTER OF DISASTER

For a variety of reasons, the numbers for CityCenter’s first full quarter of operations were ugly.

 

 

After $9BN (or $8.6BN to be exact – since the Harmon tower was left incomplete), MGM’s Mona Lisa produced an EBITDA loss of $28MM in its first quarter of operations.  We get to adjusted EBITDA by starting with an operating loss of $255MM less $171MMof impairments plus $24MM of forfeiture deposits on condos less $7MM of pre-opening expenses.  Yes this is worse than almost anyone’s guess.   Here are some general thoughts as to why:

  • Expenses are too high – A lot of expenses need to be carried when there are a lot of unsold condos.
  • Revenues are too low – It’s difficult to leverage such a huge development with 63% occupancy.  As management stated recently, Aria opened with almost no convention business on the books... so midweek occupancy and play levels are miserable.
  • Funneling of high end players to wholly owned properties – We have no direct knowledge of this but I think MGM would rather have 100% of some Chinese tycoon’s $100k bets than 50% but that’s just a guess.  The database is all MGM and the wholly owned higher end properties did perform better than we expected (Bellagio in particular).

 

ARIA

Aria suffered an EBITDA loss of $12MM.  Disappointing but not a shock since Strip hotels are not built to be profitable at sub 80% occupancy and ADR’s this low.

  • Slot win of $28MM (we heard from a few sources that the first few months were running at $9MM/ month).  I guess Server Based gaming isn’t producing great results just yet… but there are still 7 quarters left for the trial to produce ROI results
  • Table win of roughly $45MM or $3,700 per table… not too bad.  However, we heard that the property played lucky in Jan & Feb but that volumes dropped off in March (Jim blamed it on hold).  Q1 is also a pretty big Baccarat quarter.
  • Room revenue of $44MM
  • Total revenues of $146MM, implying operating costs of $158MM. 
    • This compares to around $415MM of annual operating expenses at Venetian LV or $841MM annual of operating expenses at Venetian & Palazzo in 2009
    • $985MM annual total operating expenses at Wynn/Encore Las Vegas
    • $790MM of total operating expenses at Bellagio in 2009
    • We estimate that Aria will produce EBITDA of only $55MM in 2010 ramping to by $218MM in 2012

 

CITYCENTER

So if you back out the $12MM of EBITDA losses at Aria, that implies the rest of City Center lost $16MM of EBITDA – that is, Vdara, Crystals, Mandarin, and the cost of carrying those wonderful unsold condos.   We assume that Vdara, Crystals, and Mandarin positively contributed to EBITDA although at a very low margin since all of these assets are operating below optimal capacity.  We estimate the $16MM EBITDA loss is really coming from the carry cost of the unsold/unclosed condos, since MGM is still on the hook for maintenance, real estate taxes, and some fixed operating expenses for these condos.  Only after these close and maintenance fees start trickling in from the owners does MGM get some income to offset these fixed costs.  If MGM closes on all the condos these costs will eventually go away.  For now, we’re projecting CC will produce $19MM of EBITDA, ramping to $290MM in 2012.

 

Not much more to say.  CityCenter ain’t getting it done.  It was built for a different era and it’s unclear whether we’ll see those good times anytime soon.


MGM CONVERT CALL: "NOTES"

Surprise, surprise, MGM is bullish!  Kudos to MGM though for the timing of the convertible.  We thought it was a good idea at $12 so they are smarter than us.

 

 

MGM is starting their roadshow today for a private offering of $750MM convertible senior notes due 2015, proceeds of which will go to repay part of the outstanding debt drawn on MGM's revolver.  MGM will also enter into capped call transactions to reduce the potential dilution of the notes, when and if MGM's stock reaches levels that exceed the convert strike. Below are our notes from the call.

 

 

CALL NOTES

 

Security Detail

  • Coupon is 4.5%, (4.25%-4.75%)
  • 15% over-allotment option for 13 days
  • 2015 maturity
  • Non-callable for life
  • 100% of par put feature upon "Fundamental Change"
  • Call caps will raise premium up to 50%
  • 60 day lock up for the company and Tracinda
  • Book-runners: BoFA/ML, Barclays, JPM, DB
  • Books close at 2:30pm today and notes close & fund week of April 19th

General Company Commentary

  • Las Vegas market has stabilized
  • MGM's capital needs are minimal over the next few years - will spend less than $200MM/ year in maintenance over the next few years
  • Believes that CityCenter will be the significant driver of visitation to Las Vegas 
  • Non convention visitation to Las Vegas is up 4% (yeah but these people spend very little money)
  • Believe that the convention business in town is starting to improve and saw early signs of that this quarter
  • Apparently South West is looking to add capacity to Las Vegas in the spring
  • Domestic and play has been weak and will likely remain weak over the near term, but International is very strong
  • MGM market share, even excluding Aria, has increased in Las Vegas
  • Convention business for MGM will be up y-o-y starting 2Q2010, and convention rooms on the books for 2011 are up 20% from where they were a year ago for 1 year forward... so this favorable mix shift will help them increase realized ADR
    • Booked 508k convention room nights in 4Q09
  • Claims that MGM is starting to be able to raise rates more than they have to lower them...
    • Ok what does that even mean? Just say hey - ADR is up y-o-y in April
  • Believes that RevPAR will be up year over year in 2H2010
  • Launching a new players club in 2H2010 (launched in June)
    • database has 60MM people, of which 29MM are current Players Club customers
    • New Players Club will be more transparent with a new look, tiered cards and revealed comps
  • Operating leverage:
    • 1% change in occupancy = $36MM of EBITDA
    • $5 ADR = $54MM of EBITDA
    • $5 RevPAR = $38MM of EBITDA
  • I love how Jim describes CityCenter - "very beautiful and people love it"... well unfortunately it makes no money
  • Aria is already reaching 70% occupancy; thinks it will get to 80% by YE.  Aria had good international gaming numbers and good domestic numbers around events - otherwise it's been slow
  • Just starting closing on the condos.  Started Mandarin in the beginning of the Q, Vdara at the quarter end, and Veer will start closings in 2Q2010
  • Crystals made money in the 1Q for CC
  • This offering is another step in MGM's efforts to deleverage its balance sheet. MGM Macau's IPO in the 3Q2010 will help them in this goal, as will the sale of their 50% interest in Borgata
  • Their $380MM tax refund didn't hurt either....(in their deleveraging effort)
  • Held a little lower than last year - but still in the normal range
  • Expects that CityCenter and Aria will be the most profitable properties on the strip

Q&A

  • March revenues in Vegas?
    • Volumes were good but hold was weak
  • "Having good gaming activity in Vegas in April"
  • MGM RC covenants use CC EBITDA not just EBIT to arrive at leverage calculation
  • CityCenter - no covenants there for first 18 months anyway. There are leverage covenants kicking in 3Q2011
  • Cash infusion to CityCenter from the parent later this year?
    • Depends on business activity
  • Want to get under 5x leverage over the next 5 years
  • Will use proceeds from offerings to reduce the RC outstandings
  • Players Club:  5MM have visited over the last year and visited on average 2 properties per visit (out of the 29MM in their database)
    • 40% of MGM's total slot revenues comes from their 2 MS properties and Detroit. However, they capture very little of those customers' play when they come to Las Vegas.  So they need to be smarter on their cross marketing efforts.
    • They don't currently have a tiered card... want to be more like HET - which is the gold standard of cross marketing
  • Cash balance at CityCenter & cage cash at quarter end?
    • Will not disclose
  • Baccarat volume was up 20% y-o-y, excluding Aria
  • Borgata was included in the other unconsolidated line this quarter, but going forward it won't show up on the income statement until they get a distribution from the trust upon the asset's sale.

investing ideas

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FL: Immediate-Term Overbought

Foot Locker has been one of our favorites all year, and we think that throughout 2010 the fundamentals will support the stock heading meaningfully higher. Please check out any of our prior posts or our FL Black Book for more details there. 

 

But stocks don't trade in a vacuum. 

 

Per Keith's risk management models, FL is finally immediate term overbought here, with TRADE line support = $15.36 (about 4% lower). For those who have been watching this name go up from the sidelines, a pullback here might be your second chance.


Sorting Through Easter Noise – Easing Compares Arrive

R3: REQUIRED RETAIL READING

April 15, 2010

 

 

TODAY’S CALL OUT

 

With the Easter holiday falling a week earlier this year, it’s easy to be jolted by the considerable sequential deceleration in footwear trends reflected in this week’s data. While optically striking, it’s important to keep a few things in perspective as one week never a trend makes.

 

For starters, when looking at March-to-date trends in an effort to negate the calendar shift, industry sales are up 7%.  Importantly, this is consistent with the rate of growth we’ve seen since early February.  Additionally, it’s important to be mindful that beginning this week, the ‘tough compare’ argument becomes less credible-as footwear embarks on a 5-month stretch of easing compares.  In the near-term the most difficult compares and the calendar noise are now behind us, which gives us continued confidence that strength will persist across the athletic footwear space.  Oh, and don’t forget Nike’s big product push is still on the horizon.

 

Sorting Through Easter Noise – Easing Compares Arrive - Footwear Apparel 1 Year

 

Sorting Through Easter Noise – Easing Compares Arrive - Easter Table

 

 

LEVINE’S LOW DOWN 

 

- In an effort to keep Ralph Lauren’s new flagship store in Paris true to its American roots, the in-store restaurant has been crafted with guidance from New York restaurant icon Danny Meyer. The menu is entirely American, cooked by French chefs, trained by American chefs. The goal was to offer a truly authentic American menu and one with little French influence. The menu includes burgers, fried chicken, and beef flown in from Ralph Lauren’s Colorado cattle ranch.

 

- Genesco noted that its top priority for use of cash is to make an acquisition, grow a new concept, or to make a niche-acquisition. However, if opportunities in those areas do not present themselves, the company would then look to share buyback as a means to enhance shareholder value.

 

- Consistent with its track record for beating expectations, PVH confirmed that business trends remain robust and there’s a high likelihood of exceeding full-year guidance at a conference earlier today. Assuming a margin of conservatism with Tommy related synergies, additional upside is likely to come from better than expected growth in southern European markets. Despite being highlighted by other retailers as a challenging market, Italy is a pocket of strength for not only PVH, but WRC as well.

 

- In a prime example of chasing the trend, management of GCO mentioned that while their merchants don’t sense toning is going to become a fashion item for teenagers (their primary demographic), the category has become such a compelling trend that they are currently testing it. Sounds like the makings of a new Rock ’n Roll line.

 

 

HEDGEYE CALENDAR

 

Sorting Through Easter Noise – Easing Compares Arrive - Calendar

 

 

MORNING NEWS 

 

Long Beach Container Traffic Slows in March - March container traffic growth slowed to 13% growth from 30% in February.  The monthly container cargo count at the Port of Long Beach increased 13% in March to 422,774 twenty-foot equivalent container units compared to the same period last year. It is the fourth consecutive month of volume increases at the Port in the year-to-year comparisons. A total of 206,652 TEUs were imported through the Port last month, a 10.8% increase over March of last year. Empty containers, mostly bound overseas for refilling, was up 22.3% to 85,627 TEUs. <polb.com/economics/stats/tonnage>

 

Sorting Through Easter Noise – Easing Compares Arrive - Long Beach Container Traffic 

 

CPI Growth Slows for Apparel - Retail apparel prices declined a seasonally adjusted 0.4% in March compared with February, and dropped 0.4% from a year earlier, the Labor Department said Wednesday in its Consumer Price Index. CPI growth has been sequentially slowing since December 2009.  Men's CPI growth has been declining at a faster rate, ending March down 3.9% while women's CPI growth is slowing but holding positive at 0.6%. <wwd.com/business-news>

 

Sorting Through Easter Noise – Easing Compares Arrive - CPI History Chart

 

LTD Expanding Globally - The company on Wednesday said it is creating Limited Brands Canada, a Montreal-based company that will support all Limited Brands retail stores and strategic expansion in Canada, including La Senza, Bath & Body Works, Victoria’s Secret Pink and Victoria’s Secret, which is launching in Canada later this year. LTD will consolidate the creative and merchant leadership of its international businesses at its corporate headquarters in Columbus, Ohio. Also on Wednesday, Limited Brands unveiled a franchise partnership with M.H. Alshaya, Co. to operate stores in the Middle East. Plans are to launch BBW stores later this year in the region. <wwd.com/business-news>

 

Quiksilver Sells Swim Brands - Quiksilver Inc. agreed to sell its Raisins portfolio of swim brands to AOM Holdings, LLC. The brands, which Quiksilver has operated since 1994, include Raisins, Raisins Girls, Leilani, Island Soul an Island Escape. <sportsonesource.com>

 

ANF Pays CEO to Not Use Corporate Jet - Abercrombie & Fitch is paying its chief executive $4m (£2.5m) to compensate him for curbing his use of the company’s corporate jet. <drapersonline.com>

 

Peru Foresees a 16% Increase in Textile Exports - Peru's textile exports are expected to grow by 15% to 16% for this year, beating the industry's estimates of 10%.

Drawback rates might be reduced from 8% to 6.5% from the month of June, in case of an effective recovery of general exports. <fashionnetasia.com>

 

Target is Busy Launching Collections - The ink is barely dry on the signage for Zac Posen for Target’s Go International collection, and the retailer is unveiling the next limited edition designer for its Go franchise. Gaby Basora will launch a collection at most Target stores and target.com on Sept. 10 featuring the Tucker brand known for its exclusive offbeat and charming prints. Target is partnering with fine jewelry designer Temple St. Clair Carr to launch a limited edition jewelry collection. <wwd.com/retail-news>

 

Brooks Sports Partners with Docs for Running R&D - Brooks Sports, Inc. announced partnerships with Prof. Dr. Gert-Peter Bruggemann and Prof. Dr. Joseph Hamill, two of the world's leading running biomechanics researchers. Both Hamill and Bruggemann will join forces with Brooks' award-winning footwear team to conduct large retrospective and prospective studies, each intended to garner information that will influence footwear design.  <sportsonesource.com>

 

ColdwaterCreek.com Leads Large Retailers in High Broadband Availability - ColdwaterCreek.com ranked first in high broadband availability tests among large retailers for March, says Gomez. Last month online shoppers could access the apparel and accessories retailer’s site 94.37% of the time. <internetretailer.com>

 

MW's K&G Fashion Superstore Steps It Up - Mary Beth Blake, president of the off-price K&G Fashion Superstore, has revamped the merchandise mix, increased the percentage of women’s wear, launched a designer showcase, upgraded the presentation and adjacencies in the stores, and launched a new image-centered advertising campaign. <wwd.com/retail-news>

 

Sorting Through Easter Noise – Easing Compares Arrive - K G image

 


CLAIMS WORSEN TWO WEEKS IN A ROW - JURY STILL OUT AS LABOR DEPT SAYS DON'T PANIC

The data is getting worse, but the jury is still out until we get past the Easter anomaly. After getting positive datapoints out of both JPM's March subprime unsecured print yesterday and this morning's COF March data (and DFS for that matter), the jobless claims data this morning laid an egg (for the second week in a row). Claims climbed 24k this week, and are now up 42k in two weeks - now 484k. There was no revision to last week's number. The 4-week rolling average rose 7,500 to 457,750.  Consensus had expected just 430k initial claims.  The chart below shows the rolling average trend line. 

 

CLAIMS WORSEN TWO WEEKS IN A ROW - JURY STILL OUT AS LABOR DEPT SAYS DON'T PANIC - claims 4wk

 

The last two weeks of data have been pushing claims farther outside our 3 sigma channel. To be fair, the Labor Department said that there were significant one-time items and Easter-related distortion affecting this week's number to the upside, but that's also the reason they gave last week, which is why the consensus for this week's number was off by a mile. We've said for the last month that we expect claims to improve, and so far we've been dead wrong. We'll reserve more final judgment until we see whether the Labor Department's explanations are valid (i.e. the next two weeks). Census hiring should continue to heat up this month and next. The following chart shows the raw claims data.

 

CLAIMS WORSEN TWO WEEKS IN A ROW - JURY STILL OUT AS LABOR DEPT SAYS DON'T PANIC - claims raw

 

As a reminder, the following chart shows census hiring from the 2000 and 1990 census by month, which should be a reasonable proxy for hiring this spring. 

 

CLAIMS WORSEN TWO WEEKS IN A ROW - JURY STILL OUT AS LABOR DEPT SAYS DON'T PANIC - census chart

 

Joshua Steiner, CFA

 

Allison Kaptur


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