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R3: REQUIRED RETAIL READING

April 30, 2010

TODAY’S CALL OUT

We definitely saw a meaningful divergence in Timberland’s European results vis/vis what we should be seeing based on the underlying macro climate. The company noted that every single country in the region posted growth in its most recently completed 1Q.  This is the exception – not the norm. Several people have asked me if we are hearing of any weakness overall in Europe given the volatility in financial markets. While I have not ‘heard’ of things slowing down en masse, I think that  by the time any of us ‘hear’ about any broad-based weakness, it’s probably too late. Let’s accept the premise that things will slow – and anyone who is exposed to Europe that does not at least prepare for this coming down the pike from a risk management standpoint opens themselves up to a very big day of reckoning. In other words, the questions that we should be asking managements are “what are you doing to prepare for a potential slowdown” instead of “have you started to see any weakness.”

LEVINE’S LOW DOWN 

- While some supermarket bulls have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of inflation to help reverse negative sales trends for the traditional grocers, Safeway articulated that is not able to pass along price increases in certain key categories.  CEO, Steve Burd, noted that milk, eggs, and meat are categories that are still being promoted heavily to attract traffic, and therefore recent cost increases are not being matched with commensurate or even greater increases in retail prices.  Sounds like non-traditional grocers still have the upper hand competitively.

- In a unique collaboration, Fruit of the Loom and Amazon.com joined together to launch an innovative bra.  The innovation stems from the option which allows a woman to choose the left and right cup size independently, with each half costing $5.  While the product itself is unique on a mass level, it’s even more interesting to see Amazon as the online distributor of the product while Wal-Mart is bricks and mortar partner.

- Office Max noted that April trends are tracking below Q1 results as well as March.  However, when asked about what may be the cause of the sequential  slowdown, management was unable to fully articulate the key factors.  Instead, we were reminded of how the recovery is not linear and will be filled with “peaks and valleys” along the way.  In other words, small businesses still remain under pressure.

 

 

HEDGEYE CALENDAR

 

R3: The Real Question to Be Asking about Europe - Calendar

MORNING NEWS 

JNY in the M&A Rumor Mill - Jones Apparel Group Inc. could be close to a deal to acquire a stake in Stuart Weitzman. People familiar with the matter said that a deal between Jones and Irving Place Capital, Weitzman’s minority investor, could happen as soon as today. There is also some speculation that Jones could acquire more than Irving Place’s 40% stake. One investment banker said negotiations between Jones and Weitzman have been going on for a while. Weitzman himself has been very vocal about finding a succession plan. The founder, 68, is actively searching for a CEO and a president of retail. <wwd.com/footwear-news>

NWY Declares a New CEO for Next Year - Gregory Scott, a former chief executive officer of Bebe Stores Inc., will succeed New York & Company Inc. chairman and ceo Richard P. Crystal, who is retiring when his contract expires on Feb. 11. Scott, 47, will become president of the chain on June 1, and ceo when Crystal leaves. Scott will also join the board. The last president of New York & Company was Ron Ristau, who left about a year ago and was primarily an operations executive, rather than a merchant. Crystal, 65, assumed the responsibilities of president without taking the title. <wwd.com/business-news>

Beauty Giants Upping Ad Spending - The giants of the beauty world are priming their promotional pumps as they look to grab market share in an improving world economy. Procter & Gamble Co. attributed part of the 7.4% revenue gain in the third quarter to more aggressive advertising spending, much of it tied to the “Thank You, Mom” campaign run during the Winter Olympics and Paralympics which included 18 of the consumer products giant’s brands. In the U.K., Unilever said its advertising and promotional spend, as a percentage of sales, increased 220 bps in the period and advertising and promotional spending would be “comfortably ahead” for the full year. Revlon Inc. plans to augment sales growth through advertising in the current second quarter as the firm refines its focus “to build the brands we have today,” according to Alan Ennis, president and chief executive officer. The Estée Lauder Cos. said it would increase advertising, in-store merchandising and product sampling by 35% in the fiscal year’s final quarter as the firm seeks to encourage consumers to return to luxury products. <wwd.com/business-news>

Amer Sports Sees Winter and Outdoor Grow, Fitness Decline - Amer Sports Corporation's net sales reached €372.6 mm in the first quarter ended March 31, 2010, up 5% from the same quarter a year ago. Sales rose 11% in the Winter and Outdoor segment and 2% in Ball Sports, but declined 5% in fitness. <sportsonesource.com>

Germany's Metro Group Department Store Profitable - The Metro Group returned to profitable growth in Q1 for the first time since 2008. The German cash & carry, department store, hypermarket and electronics retail group reported net profit of 3 mm euros compared to a loss of 75 mm euros. EBIT more than doubled while sales grew 2.3%  <wwd.com/business-news>

Australia's Woolworths Cuts Growth Forecasts - Woolworths Ltd. cut its annual sales growth forecast because of lower food price inflation and the absence of government cash handouts that stoked demand a year earlier. Revenue may rise 3% to 6% vs. Feb. 26 announcement of sales growth in the upper single digits. Australia’s government distributed more than A$10 billion in cash to families in 2009, stoking sales of clothing, groceries and electronics, as the country sought to avoid recession. As Woolworths’ growth slows to below second- ranked Wesfarmers Ltd. for the first time in five years, it’s also seeing food prices rises stop. <bloomberg.com/news>

Japan's CPI Falls 1.2% in March - Japan’s consumer prices fell for a 13th month in March, indicating the economy remains hampered by deflation even as the export-led recovery starts to spread. Prices excluding fresh food slid 1.2% from a year earlier, after dropping 1.2% in February. Bank of Japan policy makers will probably predict today that consumer inflation will improve to at least zero for the year to March 2012, according to 14 of 16 analysts surveyed.  <bloomberg.com/news>

Jarden Corp Grows 4% in Q1 – Sales grew 4% to $1.19 bn for the entire company, which operates three other segments that make small kitchen appliances and other home consumer products , including Oster and Mr. Coffee, Ball canning jars, Bicycle playing cards, and First Alert home safety products. Jarden Corp’s Outdoor Solutions segment generated sales of $614.2 mm in the first quarter ended March 31, up 3.9% from $591.3 mm in the same quarter a year earlier. The unit’s brand portfolio includes Abu Garcia, Campingaz, Coleman, K2, Marker, Marmot, Penn, Rawlings, Shakespeare, Stearns and Volkl. <sportsonesource.com/news>

Vail Resorts to Purchase 30% of Specialty Sports Venture - Vail Resorts Inc. agreed to purchase the remaining 30% it doesn't own to take full control of the Specialty Sports Venture group of retail stores. The retail joint-venture includes Boulder Ski Deals, Colorado Ski & Golf and Bicycle Village. Both Tom and Ken Gart will be leaving their leadership positions with Specialty Sports Venture. <sportsonesource.com/news>

Callaway Swings 11% Sales Growth in Q1 - Callaway Golf Company reported that net sales for the first quaretr of 2010 were $303 million, an increase of 11% as compared to net sales of $272 million for the first quarter of 2009. <sportsonesource.com/news>