What a difference one month can make. After blowout results in March in which everything went right for retailers, April was a letdown. Chalk it up to poor planning, “normal” weather, the Easter shift, and a pull forward in demand for seasonal apparel. Is the consumer dead (again) after one month? Absolutely not. However, the perfect alignment of March’s positive factors are going to be hard to replicate in the near-term absent another leg up in consumer demand. All said, April appears to have been a case where expectations ran a bit wild coming out of March and for most of the month were probably fairly accurate. However, momentum did ultimately slow from the solid trend we had seen over the prior 6 weeks leaving the mall and strip centers with a dose of reality.
Upside to expectations: M*, LTD, JWN, KSS*, FRED, URBN, COST
Downside to expectations: GPS*, ROST, ANF, AEO, ARO*, BKE, HOTT, WTSLA, ZUMZ, BONT, DDS, JCP, SKS, SSI, BJ, TGT*, SMRT
LEVINE’S LOW DOWN
- Nike noted that it’s NikeID custom program has been very successful and has grown to become a $100 million annual business worldwide. Considering each pair is individually designed by the consumer, this is an incredibly large business built on a pair by pair basis. Management also noted that some stores with ID studios on premise are seeing approximately 20% of sales generated from the custom effort.
- Kenneth Cole noted that it’s launch of Reaction sportswear, an exclusive men’s apparel line for Macy’s, has been met with enthusiasm in advance of the product hitting the floor. In fact, the initial plans for a 150 door rollout at launch have now been expanded to 200, even before a single piece of apparel has been sold.
- As fast fashion retailers have gradually taken market share from more traditional branded retailers as well as higher priced designer offerings, their efforts have largely been centered on apparel, footwear, and accessories. However, Top Shop has just rolled out a line of color cosmetics at modest price points. While it’s still too early to declare the demise of the cosmetic counter at the local department store, it’s certainly worth watching this trend.
JNY Acquires Stuart Weitzman - Jones Apparel Group inked a deal to acquire 55 percent of shoe and accessories firm Stuart Weitzman Holdings for an initial payment of about $180 million to the current owners, including Irving Place Capital. Weitzman, who will be the principal owner of the remainder of the company, will continue on as executive chairman. The selling shareholders will receive additional cash payments at the end of 2012, based on a formula that determines the value of the business at that time. Irving Place took a stake in the company in 2005. Jones will fund the transaction with cash on hand or other alternative financing. The deal is expected to be accretive to earnings, exclusive of accounting adjustments. Last year, Weitzman’s revenues totaled about $193 million. <www.wwd.com>
Sean John Exclusive in Macy's - Sean John, has inked a transformative deal with Macy’s Inc., similar to the one Hilfiger signed in 2007. Beginning with the spring 2011 season, Sean John men’s sportswear will be only available at Macy’s stores and on macys.com, as well as in the Sean John flagship on Fifth Avenue in New York and eight Sean John outlets. The first exclusive product will begin hitting 400 Macy’s doors even earlier, in October, and Macy’s executives believe distribution will expand to almost all of its 850 stores in coming years. “We started a relationship with Macy’s 11 years ago. They truly supported us from Day One and now we are taking our relationship to the next level,” said Sean “Diddy” Combs at the Standard Hotel Wednesday morning, where the deal was unveiled. If Macy’s is excited, the likes of Dillard’s, Bon-Ton and Belk — plus specialty stores such as Man Alive, Jimmy Jazz and Underground Station — won’t be. Sean John men’s sportswear — which, according to Sean John president Dawn Robertson, accounts for more than half the firm’s $525 million in retail sales — will be pulled out of those stores. <www.wwd.com>
Coach's First Men's Store - The brand’s men’s sales are dwarfed by those of its women’s products, but Coach wants to rectify that. A major part of that plan is the opening of men’s-only stores, the first of which will be unveiled Friday at 370 Bleecker Street in Manhattan, joining men’s powerhouses Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs, Black Fleece and Tommy Hilfiger on the trendy West Village shopping strip. That platform is a 550-square-foot jewel box of a store that incorporates many Coach signature elements but tweaked in a masculine way. For example, instead of the color scheme being grounded in white with brown accents, the men’s store reverses the hues, using mahogany as the primary focus. The floor is an end-on-end fir that mimics the original in the company’s headquarters on 34th Street, as does the exposed duct, which is also found uptown. Coach’s cantilevered shelves, in dark brown here, are used to display the small leather goods, business and travel accessories for which the company is known. The store also carries an assortment of canvas boat shoes and flip-flops along with nylon and leather jackets. Swimwear is also offered. In total, 30 percent of the mix is exclusive to this store and includes such items as graffiti-printed canvas totes and the leather cuffs with metal hardware. The company will also use the store as a testing ground for new products as it seeks to grow its men’s business, which is much smaller than women’s. <www.wwd.com>
Uniqlo’s Same-Store Sales Disappoint - Fast Retailing Co., Ltd. said Thursday that Uniqlo’s same-store sales slumped 12.4 percent in April, marking their second consecutive month of decline. The company blamed unusually cool temperatures for slow sales of spring and summer items. Uniqlo’s March comps slid 16.4 percent- a development that caused Fast Retailing’s shares to shed almost 11 percent of their value on the stock market the day after the news was announced. <www.wwd.com>
L&T Men's Business Revamped - The senior vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s for Lord & Taylor is overseeing a major renovation of the flagship’s 37,000-plus-square-foot men’s store that is expected to boost sales by 30 percent annually when completed this fall. “The men’s business has a lot of opportunity here,” he said during a walk-through of the main and 10th floors at the landmark Fifth Avenue building. “So far we’re up 28 percent for the season, but I’m not too excited. We gave up a lot of business over the past several years and it’s time to get it back.” Right now, men’s accounts for 12 percent of L&T’s annual sales of $1.2 billion, a figure that is lower than many of its competitors, whose men’s sales can be as high as 20 percent. And Greller is feeling the pressure. The flagship, too, lags many of its competitors in productivity, bringing in only around 11 percent of the company’s annual sales. Saks Fifth Avenue’s flagship, for example, accounts for 19 percent of its volume of $2.6 billion. <www.wwd.com>
Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th Concept Expanding - Saks Inc. plans to grow its Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th concept this year with new stores in Pittsburgh, Portland, Houston and the Raleigh/Greensboro region of North Carolina. The firm is also renovating its store in Riverhead, N.Y. The new and updated stores will mirror the firm’s Orlando prototype store, featuring a “luxury in a loft environment” with open floor plans, moveable fixtures and brighter lighting. The doors will also have updated offerings in the jewelry, shoes, sunglasses and skincare areas. <www.wwd.com>
Dress Barn Expands into Canada - Dress Barn Inc., after decades of quietly building a business with a price-conscious, conservative shopper, is raising its profile. The Maurices and Justice chains, acquired in 2005 and 2009, respectively, are planning to expand to Canada next year. The Dress Barn division is remodeling stores, eyeing mall locations in a switch from its strip-center concentration, displaying younger fashion and planning e-commerce for fall. And, collectively, Dress Barn, Maurices and Justice, executives say, represent a triple play of value that will continue to capitalize on consumers’ trading-down mind-set and steal market share. “Maybe people were used to shopping a department store or some fancy specialty store. Now they try us and say, ‘This is nice and it’s an attractive price,’ ” said David Jaffe, president and chief executive officer of the $2.5 billion Dress Barn Inc. “I use the Starbucks analogy. Two years ago, everybody had to have a Starbucks. Now, maybe they get their coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s or the cafeteria.” <www.wwd.com>
Hermes Results Indicates Improved Demand for Luxury Goods - Hermes International SCA, the French maker of luxury handbags and silk ties, said first-quarter sales rose 19 percent, surpassing analysts’ estimates, on demand for leather goods in Asia. Revenue increased to 507.7 million euros ($648 million) from 428.4 million euros a year earlier, the Paris-based company said today in a statement. The average estimate of eight analysts surveyed by Bloomberg was 464.8 million euros. The luxury-goods industry is recovering from its worst slump on record as consumers spend more on designer apparel and accessories, and distributors increase orders. Last month, the fashion and leather-goods business of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA reported an 8 percent increase in first-quarter sales, excluding currency shifts, while Gucci Group NV, PPR SA’s luxury unit, had a 4.7 percent gain. <www.bloomberg.com/news>
Rasta Treads - Anthony L&S Footwear has been granted an exclusive license to create Marley Footwear for Marley & Co. The back-to-school collection will feature eco-friendly footwear for men and boys, retailing from $29.99 to $129.99. The shoes will be available this June/July at mass market retailers and specialty boutiques worldwide. A portion of the proceeds from sales will be donated to charity. Marley & Co.'s brands include Tuff Gong, Catch A Fire, One Love, Three Little Birds, Marley Coffee, The House of Marley and Relics of Antiquity. In February 2009, Hilco Consumer Capital and the Bob Marley family partnered to handle the musician's licensing and retail ventures. It's the 65th anniversary of the iconic musician this year. <www.licensemag.com>