One of the holdovers from September's list of apparel plays is $4.36 billion clothing manufacturer Gildan Activewear (GIL), a firm that's one of the world's biggest suppliers of T-shirts, stocks, underwear and sweatshirts. While Gildan's product lineup is far from haute couture, the company's consistent presence on store shelves worldwide make it a force to be reckoned with right now. Nevertheless, short-sellers have managed to bet against shares en masse, bringing the firm's short ratio to 9.4. That suggests that it would take two full weeks of short-covering at current volume levels for bears to exit their positions in Gildan.
While the company has a strong retail presence, wholesale is Gildan's bread and butter. The firm is a major supplier for screen print firms, who see cost as the major determining factor in an industry whose wares have largely become commoditized of late. To combat that, Gildan has refocused its efforts on the retail channel in recent years, building brand recognition and courting major retailers such as Wal-Mart (WMT).The decision to put the Gildan brand in front of consumers should ultimately be a wise choice that helps growth in the wholesale channel as well -- after all, as consumers become accustomed to Gildan's products, they'll be more likely to request them from screen print vendors. At the same time, the widened margins of retail offer better profitability that doesn't come with the volume shortfall seen with smaller, more-fragmented retail partners. Expect this stock to continue to see success in 2011. Gildan, which shows up in the portfolios of Buckingham Capital Management and Glenhill Capital Management, was highlighted last month as one of 40 Value Stocks With Price Momentum.
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