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Taking Solace in an Earnings Challenged Coach

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It is very easy to be disparaging of Coach (COH) these days.

In 2013, including dividends, an investment in Coach shares witnessed a 3.1% ROI, as compared to 29.6% for the S&P 500, exclusive of dividends.

Perhaps the root cause of the quantitative disappointment has been the near-universal acknowledgement that Coach is no longer a very interesting place to shop, as Michael Kors (KORS) displaced it in the hearts and, more importantly, the literal and figurative pocketbooks of shoppers.

[Read: The New Mercedes C Class: A Tesla Competitor?]

The first hint of trouble presented itself in August 2011 when shares plunged 6.5% after announcing earnings, following years of running higher, that took only a short rest in June 2010. While shares went back to their old ways, climbing higher under CEO and Chairman Lew Frankfort, that climb came to a decided halt shortly after the Michael Kors IPO.

COH ChartCOH data by YCharts


In both 2012 and 2013 Coach knew only large price moves on earnings reports. The difference, however, was that in 2013, all but one of those large price moves were lower, with -16.1%, +9.8%, -7.8% and -7.5% earnings related responses greeting increasingly wary and frustrated shareholders.

Coach reports its second-quarter earnings on Jan. 22, 2014 prior to the market's open. The options market is implying a nearly 10% move upon that event, which comes on the heels of a 6.3% decline in shares in the past week.

For most, this would seem to be a good time to steer clear of Coach shares or even consider exiting existing positions, especially as the retail sector has been struggling to get consumers to part with their discretionary cash.

[Read: Three Reasons Why Rite Aid Is Right On]

In the past year, while Coach has been a non-entity, I have owned it and sold calls on shares, or sold puts, on eight occasions. Included in those trades were three sales of put options on the day prior to earnings and one purchase of shares and sale of calls on the day following disappointing earnings.

During that time Coach has fulfilled two of my cardinal requirements in that it has been a model of mediocrity, but still has something to offer and will do more than simply make a pretense of maintaining a business model.

My goal with Coach, as with all positions upon which I use a covered option strategy is to make a small rate of return and in a short time frame. My ideal trade is one that returns a 1% profit in a week's time and surpasses the performance of the S&P 500 during the time period of the trade.

During 2013, the cumulative return from the eight Coach trades was 25.4% and the average holding period was 28 days. The average trade had an ROI of 3.2%, which when adjusted for the average holding period was less than the 1% goal, consistent with the lower premiums obtained in a low volatility period. However, during the same time periods for each trade, the results surpassed the S&P 500 performance for the same time periods by 18.5%.


Coach 2013 Performance - Option to Profit

While I don't place too much credibility on annualizing performance, the annualized performance of Coach utilizing the serial covered option strategy and with some trades timed to coincide with earnings was 41.5%, while the annualized S&P 500 return was 34.7%. A longer period of observation also yielded similar favorable results.

[Read: Getting Your Money Back From Charges in Kids' Apps]

In the case of potential trades seeking to reach those objectives when earnings are to be released, my preference is to see whether there is an option premium available for the sale of puts that is at the extreme end of the implied volatility range or beyond. For Coach, the implied volatility suggests expectations of a price move in the $47.50 to $57.50 range, based on Friday's closing price of $52.56.

The $47 January 24, 2014 put premium satisfies the quest for a 1% return and is at a strike price slightly outside of the implied volatility range. Essentially, the risk-reward proposition is a 1% return in the event of anything less than a 10% drop in share price. Anything more than a 10% price drop creates additional possibilities to generate returns, but extends the period of the trade.

As always, the sale of puts should only be undertaken if you're prepared to take ownership of shares at the strike price specified. While I wouldn't shy away from share ownership in the event of a larger than anticipated price drop, I would be inclined to consider rolling over the put sale into a new expiration date and ideally at a lower strike price, if possible, repeating that process until expiration finally arrives.

While not everyone appreciates leather, everyone can appreciate investment profits, even if they come at the expense of corporate losses and a fall from grace.

At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned. He may either buy shares or sell puts in Coach during the next week.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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