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September Sales Tales

A solid month for those keeping score, but the headlines don’t always tell the whole story.  The trend for September was clearly positive, with 17 companies reporting results that exceeded expectations, 5 that missed, and 2 that were inline.  Beneath the surface, there were a handful of underlying trends that are worth highlighting.

  • Almost every retailer with back-to-school exposure cited strength.  Shopping “closer to need” was the common catch-phrase used to describe why September ultimately ended up being the beneficiary of the annual return to class.  At some point, maybe the Street and the companies themselves will realize that “close to need” is analogous to shopping when it “makes sense”.  Your kid goes back to school in shorts because it’s still warm out.  The weather gets cooler. Mom goes to the store to replenish the fall wardrobe.  None of this is rocket science, but for some reason we keep talking about how the consumer is buying closer to need.  Now’s the chance to pre-empt holiday speculation by recognizing that the final 10 days before Christmas are the most important days.  Not Black Friday and not early December.
  • Promotional activity remained heightened during the month, especially in the teen apparel space.  JC Penney also cited promotional activity as the reason why it re-affirmed guidance (not raised) despite posting a better than expected topline. 
  • Gap noted that it expects October to be promotional for its brands given its “challenging” results in September.  They’re clearing out goods and moving on. 
  • The men’s business stood out for the month across a variety of retailers including JCP, JWN and ANF.  Perhaps this is a bit of pent-up demand as the male consumer looks to replenish his wardrobe after taking an extended break from the mall.  This is something to watch, especially since the focus for several months has been primarily on dresses, footwear, and the home.
  • Without question, momentum slowed in the final week of the month.  Almost every retailer highlighted week 5 as the weakest due to unfavorable weather (hot and rainy) as well as difficult comparisons with last year’s perfect cold weather set up.  Recall that an early cold spell came at the perfect time last year, allowing retailers to maximize full priced sell-throughs on early fall merchandise sets.
  • Coincident with weather patterns, the northeast region was most commonly called out as having the weakest regional results.
  • The south and southeast were among the better performing regions for the month.
  • Footwear remains a consistent standout, producing above trend results at: DDS, KSS, JCP, SKS, and JWN
  • American Eagle seems to have taken its foot off of the promotional gas, citing less promotional activity as the reason for raising guidance.  Recall that AEO has lowered guidance a handful of times since the Spring.  They appear to have lowered the bar too far.
  • Our overall index of same store sales remains relatively stable, despite what appears to have been a very good month for retailers.  On a one-year basis, the index remains in a narrow range, hovering between a 3.5% to 4% increase since May.  On a two year basis, the trend improved for the second month a row.  This is the first time we’ve recorded two months of sequential positive trends since the Feb/March time frame.

September Sales Tales - Sept SSS


Eric Levine


UA/NKE: Tom Brady -- Free Agent

Tom Brady is a free agent -- at least as it relates to retail. Under Armour struck first in the game of chess. Don't jump to conclusions before seeing who captures the king.



Anybody watch the Patriots/Dolphins game on Monday night? See Brady’s shoes? For the first time in his career as a Patriot, he was not wearing Nike.  Certain folks in the press have picked up on this, and are running with it in their own special, albeit inconsequential, way. No single deal can make a brand – and I don’t care what brand it is. If anything, we’d argue that a deal (and fincial terms therein) can break a company a lot easier than it can make or break the brand. But the key here is that you need to put the Brady endorsement into context. It’s important to watch, but not for reasons others might think. Consider the following…


UA/NKE: Tom Brady -- Free Agent - tbua


1)      Cross-Over Appeal: Brady is one of those cross-over athletes. Like Maria Sharapova, Lance Armstrong, or (at least the former) Tiger, Brady could be on the cover of Sports Illustrated and GQ at the same time. Add on the fact that he’s married to one of the most sought-after supermodels on the planet (Gisele Bunchen), and you can tack on People magazine as well due to the ‘Brangelina’ factor.


2)      But is Brady An Exception to The Rule?: Despite having all this going for him, Brady has  arguably been a low-return investment for Nike, who has been paying a minimum of $12mm in each of the past four years. Think about it in the context of a required return of 10% (below any of the major brands’ IRR). Let’s keep the math simply. $48mm over 4-years should result in about $53mm of EBIT. Using a 50% incremental margin, we’re talking $105-$110mm in revenue required to justify Brady. That sounds kinda big, especially given that he’s not exactly ‘Mr. Personality’ around game time. (Author’s note: what a sad note about public perception – as he so focused on winning that he generally could care less about the press, and sometimes gets dinged for it). But it does impact commercial value relative to athletes like Drew Brees and Troy Polamalu, who are also leaders in their own right, but are less expensive and are more marketable around game time.


3)      This Might Be a Game of Chess: Why?

  1. This is far from a done deal. Keep in mind that Reebok (adidas) currently holds the license for the entire NFL as it relates to ‘official on-field’ apparel. This is a 10-year deal that ends in 2012. Seems far off, but whoever designs the product for 2012 needs 18 months lead time at a minimum. So that’s up for bid now. Before we get a decision, they’ll be plenty of iterations of agents, brands, and even the NFL itself playing the pricing/positioning game through the press.
  2. In May, the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 against the NFL that it can no longer treat this contract as a single business, but rather a group of businesses. This is a win for the players association, as well as brands that don’t want to be obligated to pay for unprofitable parts of the license that they want no part in (mouthguards, gloves, whatever…).
  3. What’s the point? After seeing Brady win his 100th game on Monday wearing Under Armour cleats, you can be pretty darn sure that Nike’s head US Football dreaded going to work on Tuesday morning. Nike probably would admit that Brady is not worth as much coin as he’s been pulling down. But a bigger question might be the cost if they were to allow him to fall into the hands of its top competitor in football. In other words, has Nike gotten so big that people don’t give them credit for the endorsement, but will only penalize them for not having it?
  4. Does Under Armour know (or think that they know) that Nike won’t lose Brady, so they’re putting on the pressure on the comp level to pull resources away from pieces of the unbundled NFL license that UA will find more attractive?


This is the kind of media noise and speculation (including our own) that we won’t bake into our model just yet. We need to wait to get the facts. It’s a good news/bad news/good news scenario. The fact that UA is on such offense right now speaks to the health and trajectory of its business. On the downside, these deals are ALWAYS dilutive before they regurgitate any cash – no exceptions. But in the end, this is all consistent with a) what UA should do, and b) what management said it would do over the past several years.



UA/NKE: Tom Brady -- Free Agent - tb1


UA/NKE: Tom Brady -- Free Agent - tb2


UA/NKE: Tom Brady -- Free Agent - tb3



October 7, 2010


Positioning by retailers is heating up ahead of the holiday with an uptick in seasonal hiring at KSS, online shipping incentives by others, while Bergdorf is jumping the shark setting windows already here in early October. 




- Expect to hear some commentary on the new Gap logo at next week’s analyst meeting.  As it stands now in the world of fashion and marketing blogs, Gap has definitely elicited some negative feedback.  Let’s hope there’s some product to back up the new image or else it will be difficult to see how comps accelerate with a simple change in font.


- Bergdorf Goodman gets the award for Christmas in October.   The luxury department store has already begun to set its holiday windows, skipping Halloween and everything in between.  Talk about holiday fatigue.


- Costco noted that it sees some light at the end of the tunnel for the TV category, which has been under pressure for several months now.  The company expects promotional activity to pick up (helped by vendor support) over the November/December holiday period, which in turn should help spark unit demand.


- Louis Vuitton can't keep up with the demand for its logo. It is reportedly closing key stores in Paris an hour earlier than normal in order to retain merchandise. So, if you want your LV that badly, you're going to have to make sure to start shopping earlier. Normal hours are set to resume next month.





KSS To Hire 40,000 this Holiday - Kohl’s Corp., the fourth-largest U.S. department store chain, plans to hire about 40,000 people this holiday season, 21 percent more than last year, to prepare for a projected uptick in sales. The employees will work in the company’s 1,089 stores, as well as distribution centers and credit operations. U.S. retailers could add as many as 650,000 jobs this holiday season, 30% more than last year. <bloomberg.com>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: So, are they cutting their full time employees and just adding cheaper part time labor or is KSS just bullish on the holiday season? 


Neapolitan Tailored Clothing Company Kiton Buys Italian Based Textile Mill Carlo Barbera - Biella, Italy-based textile mill Carlo Barbera has found its white knight in Kiton, the Neapolitan tailored clothing company established in 1956 by Ciro Paone. During a fashion preview in New York City on Wednesday, Antonio De Matteis, Kiton’s chief executive officer, revealed his company has purchased a controlling stake in the mill, which has been weighed down by financial problems. He said the purchase price was 3.3 mm euros, or $4.5 mm at current exchange. The deal does not include the Luciano Barbera clothing line that is available at luxury stores such as Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. <wwd.com/business-news>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:  Talk about old school.  One of the finest suit and shirt-makers on the planet is heading towards vertical integration, a strategy that is sure to keep quality at its highest. 


Retailers Join Forces on Shipping - Bidding to match, and surpass, the successful free shipping program of Amazon.com Inc., 15 retailers and GSI Commerce Inc. have launched ShopRunner, a service that offers consumers free two-day shipping and free returns. Amazon’s Prime loyalty program does not cover free shipping when items are returned. Consumers pay $79 per year for the benefits, the same $79 annual fee Amazon charges for its Amazon Prime free shipping program. Retailers such as The Sports Authority Inc., Toys 'R' Us Inc. and Wilsons Leather already are taking part. GSI says such merchants at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Ice.com Inc. and CSN Stores LLC are among the two dozen other online retailers scheduled to participate.  <internetretailer.com>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: After some internal discussion on this one, this appears to be more of a headline event than one with a real financial impact. Assuming $79 covers roughly 10-12 shipments annually, Amazon’s Prime program makes sense given the breadth of product and staples the retailer offers (e.g. diapers, detergent, etc.). On the other hand, it’s tougher to justify for some of these other retailers when figuring that one would have to purchase a hoody a month just to cover the cost.


MasterCard: Web Sales Grow 7.8% in September - E-commerce sales growth picked up modestly from August, a modest increase from 7.2% growth in August, MasterCard Advisors reported. Online apparel sales registered the highest growth among e-retail categories, at 13.4%. Total apparel sales, online and offline, were up 3.8%, following a 2.6% gain in August, according to the monthly SpendingPulse report. Overall, September continued the pattern of consumers spending selectively and leaning towards non-discretionary rather than discretionary items. The strong performance of the financial markets, which often helps the higher-end sectors, did not appear to do so in September.  The month benefited from late back-to-school shopping, with some apparel shopping pushed back from August to September as parents postpone fall and winter purchases until the cooler weather arrives. <sportsonesource.com>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: We question the sustainability of these results particularly in apparel given our expectation of a deterioration in consumer spending over the balance of the year.


JCP and Condé Nast Unveil Modern Bride Concept - Condé Nast is collaborating with JCPenney to launch a Modern Bride-inspired retail concept in stores. The retailer has been granted the rights to use the magazine brand in all categories, including a jewelry line for launch this February. In time for Valentine's Day, JCPenney's fine jewelry department will feature an expanded assortment of bridal jewelry, including engagement rings and wedding bands, with Modern Bride signage and packaging in a specialty store environment. <licensemag.com>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: Not a bad move given the high likelihood of demographic crossover between the two brands. 


Home Depot, CVS, and Amazon Are Tops for Online Gift Cards - A study of the gift card programs of the Top 100 online retailers  finds only 50 offer digital gift cards. Among those, the five digital gift card programs rated as best by research and advisory firm RSR Research were: The Home Depot Inc., CVS Caremark Corp., Amazon.com Inc., American Eagle Outfitters Inc., and Sears Holdings Corp. The study analyzed digital gift card purchases made in July. It evaluated the retailers’ programs using 20 criteria including comprehensiveness of the offering, selection, the purchase process and the recipient experience. <internetretailer.com>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: We question the validity of the study given the highly undifferentiated nature of what is essentially cash.


Clothing Helps Drive 6.5% Sales Increase For M&S - Sales at Marks & Spencer Group plc rose 6.5% in the second quarter ended Oct. 2, with clothing sales up 7.8%. However, chief executive Marc Bolland warned that trading conditions would become more challenging later this year.  <wwd.com/business-news>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: Notable in that at most retailers, footwear has outperforming category relative to apparel.


GSI Commerce to Open Louisville Facility - GSI Commerce Inc. will hold a grand-opening ceremony on Monday, Oct. 11, for a new Louisville facility. The new facility will specialize in the customization of sports apparel such as jerseys, T-shirts, and fleecewear. <sportsonesource.com>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: The company’s 5th domestic facility increases GSI’s fulfillment space to 2.6mm sq. ft. reflecting the increasing demand for more stable e-commerce management as well as fulfillment from the industry’s leading provider.


Rose Gold In Style - Designers are viewing spring through rose-colored glasses, and their collections show it. Metallic rose-gold leather appeared throughout the Paris collections, surpassing other metallics as the new neutral for spring. Perhaps it was Victoria Beckham’s now well-known request to have designer Brian Atwood create shoes to match her rose-gold Rolex that sparked the trend, but he’s not the only one that is riding this wave.  <wwd.com/footwear-news>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: Metallic shoes have been a strong trend for several years now so with a relatively limited color palette – so why not rose gold in an attempt to perpetuate the trend?


Apparel Continues Topping List of Exports in Vietnam - Finished garments continued taking the lead among Vietnam’s exports since the beginning of 2009, posting a total turnover of US$8 bn in the first nine months of this year. The export of garments to the Republic of Korea grew 84%, the highest growth rate as compared to other industries, mainly thanks to a reduction in tariff in line with the ASEAN-RoK Free Trade Agreement. Apparel exports to the US , which accounts for 55% of the industry’s revenues, increased by 20%. In particular, garment exports to the European market have bounced back in the past three months, at 7%, following a long period of dropping. Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Garments and Apparel Association (Vitas) Le Van Dao said a number of domestic garment companies have received orders for the first half of 2011, plus prices have risen by 10-15% year-on-year.  <fashionnetasia.com>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: In addition to stronger demand out of Europe, Vietnam is the obvious beneficiary of wage inflation in China driving companies to look towards other SE Asian countries. We expect this is just the beginning of a longer term ramp in export demand as Vietnam is at a structural advantage to others in the region.



Our takeaway from the call is that despite their bullishness, they have little visibility on 2011.



“We are having an outstanding year. Corporate and leisure demand continues to strengthen, and we are
leading the U.S. industry in pushing retail price increases.... We expect 2011 to be even better than 2010 as demand and pricing continue to strengthen. We are currently forecasting 2011 systemwide worldwide REVPAR to increase 6 to 8 percent."

- J.W. Marriott, Jr., chairman and chief executive officer



  • RevPAR commentary:
    • NA systemwide: +7.2% percent with ADR up almost 2%
    • International systemwide: +12% on a constant dollar basis (8.5% in local dollars)
      • Asia Pacific:+20% with China was especially strong
  • Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas will open in December with 3,000 as part of the Autograph Collection
  • "For the Marriott Hotels and Resorts brand in North America, nearly 90 percent of hotels raised corporate retail rates in the quarter and, overall, such retail rates rose 9 percent."
  • 32 new properties (5,056 rooms) entered the MAR system, while 3 properties with 667 rooms exited the system in the 3rd quarter
  • Pipeline: 95,000 rooms / 975 properties
  • "Worldwide comparable company-operated house profit margins increased 90 basis points... House profit
    margins for comparable company-operated properties outside North America increased 170 basis
    points and North American comparable company-operated house profit margins increased 30
    basis points from the year-ago quarter. Excluding the impact of cancellation and attrition fees in
    the 2009 quarter, North American comparable company-operated house profit margins increased
    60 basis points year-over-year."
  • Comparisons on owned, leased, corporate housing and other revenue, net of direct expenses, were negatively impacted because 3Q09 had $6MM of cancellation fees.



  • The business traveler is back
  • There is no indication in their business of a double dip. The recovery in lodging is broad.
  • Supply growth is estimated at 2% in 2010 and forecasted at just 0.4% in 2011
  • Waived minimum hour requirements to get health insurance for their employees
  • Discounted rate room nights were reduced by 16% in the quarter and replaced with corporate guests who paid $57 more per night on average. 
  • Pricing in their limited service hotels is lagging but showing signs of improvement
  • Group nights were up 6% in the quarter and 30% of room nights were booked within 3 months.  Group booking pace is now ahead YoY by 1%.
  • For bookings made in the 3Q for 2011, arrivals ADRs were up 4%
  • Special corporate room nights were up 27%
  • Saw particular RevPAR strength in Germany, China and the UK
  • Expect to double their presence in China over the next 3 years and triple their presence in India over the next 5 years
  • 70% of their full service pipeline is in international markets and 7,000 rooms in their pipeline are awaiting conversion
  • Have another 4 hotels signed/approved for conversion to Autograph; Marriott rewards members already make up 40% of the Autograph guests
  • 40% of contract sales in the quarter were to new customers
  • Timeshare rental revenue increased 8% YoY and recorded a $15MM benefit to the loyalty program due to projected lower redemptions
  • Expect this business to generate $175MM in cash this year and even more in 2011
  • Expect to see a material increase in the year for the year bookings. Expect a large increase in ADR due to mix improvement and higher rates charge.


  • Margins for timeshare given that the point system is supposed to have better margins?
    • Not sure yet.  They think that the point system will make their product more attractive to their customers
  • Don't have a budget for 2011 yet
  • Helping fund some lobby renovations for the Courtyard brand?
    • The cost is included in their capex estimate. In some cases they are providing mezzanine loans or credit enhancements - total cost is in the 10's of MM's not 100's
  • Government per diem's may go down YoY in 2011 - how will that impact them?
    • Think that in high demand markets, the government business will get squeezed out of mix
    • Thinks that weakness here will be offset by strength in corporate
  • Reason for the AC JV?
    • Their growth has been anemic in Spain and think that having a good partner in that market is really important
  • Lower RevPAR numbers for Renaissance are related to their heavy group mix
  • See tremendous strength in the Ritz brand this fall
  • The 9,500 room JV with AC isn't included in their pipeline numbers. The earnings impact from this venture in 2011 won't be "terribly significant"
  • They are starting to build some cash reserves and will be looking to put that cash to work - so they will be looking to begin share repurchases again
  • RevPAR will be the largest driver of base and management room growth, followed by unit growth (should be about 4% net with system deletions at around 1% of their system - which is around 6,000 rooms)
  • Anticipating at least a 20% increase in incentive fees in 2011 ("or better")
  • Why aren't they seeing a bigger flow through in their owned, leased, corporate housing and other net business?
    • Well, there are a lot of other things in there
    • Do expect some margin expansion in their owned and leased business
  • Brand expansion into the BRIC cities are a focus of growth for them
  • More detail on the high single digit corporate rate increase?
    • They are still very early in the process - so they don't have any detail
    • Part of the high single digit rate increase comes from rate increases but part comes from mix change
  • Expect that most of the 6-8% RevPAR guidance for 2011 to come from rate increase
  • Comp growth will be the largest driver of G&A growth. Expect to do some incremental brand investment.
  • Nights on the books for 2011 are actually lower than where they were for 2010 at this point in the year, but short in bookings are stronger.
    • AKA they have no visibility
    • Revenue on the books for 2011 is actually down 2% from what they had on the books this time in 2010.  Although when they started the year they made up 16% - meaning that at the beginning of the year their booking on the books were 16% below and now they are flat.
  • Lending is improving - but only slightly
    • Leverage ratios are still a lot lower and the terms are still short
    • There are a lot of personal guarantees required ("bad boy guarantees")
  • Capex of $500MM in 2010 and expect a little more spend next year if the opportunities materialize
  • Think that supply growth will remain anemic for a few years
  • Part of the strong incentive fee growth is due to the international system growth where hotels start paying fees on day 1
  • Management's answer to the question about lower guidance was deceptive - "fine tuning" ... hmm let's just close our eyes and pretend we didn't lower the top end range of guidance - we just fine tuned it. But they do admit that the gains benefit them by a few cents for the year
  • In Q3 fee growth was negatively impacted by lower transfer fees, FX  and new signings
  • They aren't grouping down but they are driving rate... (i.e. group will not decrease as a % of mix). Their budget is banking on being able to push through rate increases
  • We liked this question:  what gives them confidence that they can get high single digit rate growth despite the economy deterioriating this quarter?
    • THEY DON'T ITS WISHFUL THINKING... THEY HAVE NO VISIBILITY ASIDE FROM THE REAR VIEW MIRROR - they said themselves that the booking window is short
    • Ugh... and because rate increases are fair... fair is what you can get
      • Ok we all know how this conversation goes... remember last time you asked your boss for a big bonus because you thought it was only "fair"
  • The more modest your expectations are for the economic outlook in 2011 your opinion of RevPAR will certainly be impacted... and their guidance is clearly based on more bullish views of GDP growth for 2011 than ours and consensus.


Initial Claims

Initial claims fell 11k last week to 445k (falling 8k before the revision of last week’s data).  Rolling claims came in at 455.75k, a decline of 2k over the previous week. While the rolling claims number was incrementally bullish, 455k rolling is still within the year-to-date range of 450-470k.


One caveat to the bullishness of today’s print is the frequency of adverse (upward) revisions to claims the following week. Financial blog Zerohedge.com points out that of the last 24 weekly initial claims announcements, 23 have been revised higher.  If we assume that an upward revision is as likely as a downward revision, the odds of this happening by chance are approximately one in 699,000 (x = 24 / 2^24).  On a year-to-date basis, the picture isn’t quite so skewed, but the cumulative revisions (sum of each week’s revision) is nevertheless greater than 80,000. For reference, and for those interested in our probability methodology, we determined the probability by calculating the total number of possible outcomes, given that each week’s revision was equally likely to be upwards or downwards and was independent, which is 2^24.  Of those, 24 outcomes include 23 upwards revisions and one downward revision ("24 choose 23" or 24 choose 1 for combinatorics geeks).  24/2^24 is 1.43x10^-6, or 1 in 699,000.)






To reiterate, our firm's expectations for an ongoing economic slowdown relative to the first half of the year and into 2011 will keep a lid on new hiring activity as management teams focus on cost control. All of this raises the risks that a prospective slowdown in GDP will precipitate an incremental slowdown in hiring/pickup in firings, which will, in turn, further pressure growth. We continue to look to claims as the best indicator for the job market, as they are real time and inflections in the series have signaled important turning points in the market in the past.


On a related note, we are publishing below a post from our Macro team on the Food Stamp program participation. To quote from that post: "Whether the NBER says so or not, the recession persists for many Americans.  A record 41.8 million participants received food stamps in July as part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, according to government data.  Furthermore, the White House estimates that an average of 43.3 million people will get food stamps each month in the twelve months that began October 1st, 2010.  The rising costs of food and energy (dare I say it, “inflation”), and the lack of job creation, continues to hurt the consumer – especially those at the low end of the spectrum."




In the table below, we chart US equity correlations with Initial Claims, the Dollar Index, and US 10Y Treasury yields on a weekly basis going back 3 months, 1 year, and 3 years.





Joshua Steiner, CFA


Allison Kaptur


The Macau Metro Monitor, October 7th 2010



DICJ chief Manuel Joaquim das Neves said, “It is now possible to say that [gaming revenue] will increase more than 50 percent year-on-year."  His previous estimate was 30% growth.  Neves added that Oct 3 and 4 GGR set daily records.


We're getting closer, says director Carion of the The Land, Public Works and Transport Bureau (DSSOPT).  “The technical part of the evaluation is already done,” he added.




Daily Trading Ranges

20 Proprietary Risk Ranges

Daily Trading Ranges is designed to help you understand where you’re buying and selling within the risk range and help you make better sales at the top end of the range and purchases at the low end.