(Drawing by Seth Herzog) The retail industry was bracing itself for the inevitable and it looks like it happened. No, sillys, Terry Lundgren is not stepping down as chairman and chief executive of Macys (M)-- it seems as though the consumer is experiencing a little bit of a "retail hangover."
While same store sales seemed to beat everyone's expectations for November, December's numbers came with a thud. In the teen retailer space American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) and Aeropostale (ARO) reported significant declines of 11 percent and 5 percent. With rumors both retailers may be getting snapped up by private equity in a buy out situation, these numbers only fuel the speculation fire. Meanwhile, Abercrombie and Fitch (ANF) killed it by reporting a 15 percent comp increase due mostly in part to a disciplined inventory management. Joining the promo band wagon by getting rid of last year's full- price sales strategy didn't hurt the company either. This move allowed Abercrombie to slowly take away market share from its direct competitors. Gap (GPS) also reported an 8 percent decline in comp sales. By the looks of the overly promoted merchandise in both Gap and Old Navy stores the day after Christmas (stay tuned I am going to a post about my mall vists post festivus/holiday) and the days following, no wonder no one was in there purchasing! It looked like a clothing bomb went off in the stores and not in a good way; too many cheap sweaters, jeans and active wear spelled disaster for this retailer. Ew.
On the other hand, luxury retailers saw an incredible rebound compared to this time two years ago. Saks Inc. (SKS) and Nordstrom (JWN) reported a gain in same store sales of 11.8 percent and 8.4 percent. Although Tiffany & Co. (TIF) just got downgraded by Jeffries from a "buy" to a "hold" on Thursday, store traffic as well as sales seemed to flourish during the holidays.
"I think the luxury customer came out and actually shopped for pleasure, not replenishment," said Deb Weinswing in an interview with Womens Wear Daily. "There is a 'V-shaped' recovery in luxury, and at the moderate retailers, it's more like a bathtub shaped curve. We're heading in the right direction."
I could not agree with Deb more.
Hitha's picks: Luxury
Ralph Lauren (RL): While a lot of luxury retailers (and retailers in general) are talking about their strategy in Asia, Ralph Lauren is actually executing it. The company has strong wholesale sales across all categories as well as strong online and store comps, net income rose 15.6% total revenues up by 11.5%
Tiffany & Co. (TIF): Yes, many analysts are getting behind Jeffries in their downgrade move on this stock but I'm not so sure I want to go there yet. The company is dillgent about providing inventory mixes across all price points, the stock up more than 51% year-to-date and same store sales jumped 7% for 3Q and management raised guidance. What's more Europe and Asia look like strong growth areas for the retailer.
Bluenile.com (NILE): Join the club if you were one of the many who asked for a watch or a piece of jewelry for the holidays and got it. The watch and jewelry category posted 15% increase for November/December. Coupled with 12% increase in e-commerce spending in the US for first 40 days of holiday (Comscore) Bluenile.com is in a good position going into 2011. According to the chief executive of the company, Traffic to the website increased 1000% first two weeks of November. But don't think Bluenile.com is placing all of its bets on world wide web--this online retailer is leveraging social media and smart phone Apps to reach customers.
Do you think the luxury consumer will experience the same "hangover" in 2011?