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April 29, 2010



For the first time this year, we're seeing a meaningful divergence between sales trends in the athletic space and the rest of retail – with athletic underperforming. Perhaps chalk it up to a disproportionate increase in more fashion-forward apparel given 23 months of suppressed demand -- yes, athletic is ‘lower beta’ as it relates to being impacted by changes in consumer spending, and therefore did not decline as much last year.  But regardless, a fact is a fact. The numbers for the past week were mixed, but we always look at the trailing 3-week trend – as it’s proven to be the most consistent tell tale sign of what’s really happening out there.

We wouldn’t be surprised to see the group take a breather as long as a chart like this exists. We’re ok with that. In fact, we think that the most power trend in retail over the next 2-years has already begun, which will be a resurgence in the athletic space as a whole. This is largely Nike driven – with a helping hand from Under Armour and Foot Locker. It will help everybody from Dick’s to Finish Line and will even be a backstop to bring a dog like Sports Authority public again. See our Nike Black Book for full details on why we think this theme is so powerful.

So why are sales weak today? The fact is that the product in the market right now is a function of the prior R&D cycle – think 9-12 months ago. By summer, there will be a meaningful turn in top line. In fact we’re already started to see it in order levels and manufacturing activity.

If this group takes it on the chin over such near-term concerns, as well as some wind coming out of the sail after Nike’s analyst meeting, there’s going to be some great entry points around a powerful multi-year call.

R3: Athletic Divergence - Sports Apparel and Footwear Chart


R3: Athletic Divergence - Table


- Carter’s indicated that sales to off-price retailers, including ROST and TJX are down dramatically this year in large part to growing demand and better inventory management for the company’s brands. Upon further clarification, management noted that sales to the off-pricers are down 70-80% year over year. Clearly this speaks the big year over year shift in availability of branded goods for the off-price channel.


- JNY management noted that while inflation in cost of goods is likely to remain minimal in the back of the year, it may become a bigger issue in 2011. In an effort to combat cost pressures, the company expects to take price in areas where “value” supports it, focus on product differentiation and fashion which can command higher price points, and shift the assortment towards higher margin items. Cotton and leather were both mentioned as areas to watch over the next 12-18 months.


- In an effort to emphasize and highlight that change is potentially on the way for Sam’s Club (yes, we’ve heard this many times before), CEO Brian Cornell expressed in detail the number of new executives the WMT division has hired over the past year. These hires include a new CFO, new chief merchant, the former President/COO of Michael’s Stores, and the former CEO of the military’s worldwide retail operation.


- With Skechers nearing the anniversary of its Shape-Ups sales ramp, it’s time for the next growth category – apparel. Through various licensing deals, management spoke of aspirations to have consumers dressed head-to-toe in Skechers on Wednesday’s earnings call. Following the launch of kids apparel in Q1, it sounds like there is more in works for the whole family.





 R3: Athletic Divergence - Calendar


China Commodity Demand on the Rise - The country posted its first trade deficit in six years in March mainly because of the surge in imports of raw materials. Exports dropped due to Chinese factories were slow to reopen after the Lunar New Year holiday. Exports surpassed $112 billion in March, up 24% year on year, while imports increased by 66%.  <fashionnetasia.com>

Weyco Acquires Umi Brand - The Grafton, Wis.-based children’s brand Umi has been acquired by Weyco Group Inc., which markets footwear under the Florsheim, Nunn Bush and Stacy Adams brands, among others. Weyco will also acquire Umi’s U.K. operations. The head of Umi will join Milwaukee, Wis.-based Weyco, where he will continue to helm the Umi brand. Umi’s existing design and development teams will also remain under the transition. A new Umi sales team is expected to be announced shortly by Weyco. All fall ’10 orders will be processed and shipped from Weyco’s Glendale, Wis., warehouse. <wwd.com/footwear-news>

Walking Co Exits Chapter 11 - The Walking Company Holdings Inc. has emerged from Chapter 11. The firm, as previously reported, said it exited bankruptcy with 207 of 210 former locations in tact. It also plans to pay off all debts and credit obligations. <wwd.com/footwear-news>

Kobe Bryant Tops NBA's Most Popular Jerseys - The Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant once again topped the NBA's list of most popular jerseys, where he has reigned as No. 1 since the start of the 2008-09 season. The list is based on sales at the NBA Store in New York City and on NBAStore.com since the start of the 2009-10 NBA season through April 2010. <sportsonesource.com>

US CEOs of Multinationals Concerned Over Earnings Estimates Due to Euro Weakness - United Technologies Corp. finance chief Greg Hayes sets aside some wiggle room in his profit forecast every year for swings in the euro. By March, half his safety net had already evaporated. The maker of Otis elevators and Pratt & Whitney jet engines, which gets about a quarter of its sales from Europe, started 2010 assuming a $1.48 euro exchange rate. Hayes cut it to $1.37 last month as concern mounted that Greece would default on its debt. This week, the euro dropped below $1.32 for the first time since April 2009. Terex Corp., DuPont Co., McDonald’s Corp. and Johnson & Johnson also said in the past two weeks that the euro’s slide is affecting profit or may hold back growth. The 8.2 percent decline in the currency so far this year makes U.S. exports more expensive and lowers overseas sales when euros are translated to dollars, threatening a potential rebound in revenue and a lift to the economy. <bloomberg.com/news>

Unilever Sees a Tough Environment Ahead - Unilever reported its first-quarter profits increased 31% on sales that grew 6.7%. “We showed strong momentum across all geographies with continued strengthening of our competitive position in line with our strategy,” stated Paul Polman, chief executive officer of the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant. “We will face a tougher environment as the year progresses, and thus it is more important than ever to stay focused on the consumer. Commodity costs will increase in the second half, economies remain sluggish and competitive intensity will remain high." <wwd.com/business-news>

Hugo Boss Posts Earnings and Sales Decline in Q1 - Despite decreases in both earnings and sales in the first quarter, the Hugo Boss Group reasserted it will “return to growth” in 2010. Net income declined 11% in the three months ended March 31 while group sales slipped 8%. Boss said lower pre-order volumes from the recession year 2009 continued to impact its wholesale business, but noted sales from directly operated stores surged 25% to reach 83 million euros, or $115 million. For 2010 as a whole, Boss is forecasting single-digit sales growth, with adjusted EBITDA expected to increase somewhat more strongly than sales.<wwd.com/business-news>

Levi's to Launch Chinese Brand at Lower Price Tag - Levi's has announced plans to launch a new global brand in China and other selected Asian markets this autumn, marking the first time the brand is to be launched in markets outside America. The company has not revealed the name of the brand, but said the prices of the new products may be lower than its existing products. The new products are designed for the Chinese market, but the company will also develop the new brand into one of its major brands, targeting well-educated young people ages 18 to 28. Levi's plans to open about 20 new stores under the new brand and will increase the number to 1,000 by 2015. <licensemag.com>

Sears's Lands' End Styles - Since introducing Lands’ End Canvas, the company’s younger, more stylish collection in November, Lands’ End has quietly been testing a few other initiatives that were detailed at its fall preview. First, the Heritage Collection, a range of perennial Lands’ End classics such as the Squall jacket and the Drifter sweater, was introduced in the catalogue and online three months ago. Updating and expanding on the company’s roots appear to be priorities for Coe, who oversaw an overhaul of the classic down outerwear, redesigned for fall with an eye toward more modern fits, a broad range of colors and three groups: everyday, luxury and chevron. <wwd.com/retail-news>

Hiking Shoes/Boots Declined 16% in 2009 - Sales of hiking shoes/boots declined 16% to $873 million in 2009, according to NSGA’s soon-to-be-released “Sporting Goods Market in 2010.” The study found that despite a 4% decline in unit sales, the overall athletic and sports footwear market reached $17.1 billion in 2009, down just 1% in dollar terms from 2008. <sportsonesource.com>