As Warren Buffett used to say, "Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked." That adage applies perfectly to the apparel sector right now. Although the industry has had a terrible year, some of its major players are still financially strong with incredible competitive advantages and a solid global presence.
To give you a quick snapshot of the sector, here is how some of the major players have done YTD in 2014 as of the end of July.
· Aeropostale (ARO) down -64%· Guess (GES) -15.4% · Express (EXPR) -14.9% · Urban Outfitters (URBN) -2.94% · Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) -19.84% and · Bebe Stores (BEBE) -46.7% While Ralph Lauren (RL) is among these players and is also down -11.5% YTD, it's a company like no other in this sector in my opinion. If you've been following my posts, you'll know that I like companies that respect and value investors when it comes to choosing stocks for the Dividend Paying Large Caps portfolio. The best way to identify a company that does this is to see if company practices are in line with shareholders' interests and benefits. Two clear examples of this are the continuous payment of dividends and periodic repurchase of shares. Ralph Lauren has a history of both. The company currently pays a dividend of 1.12%. In the recent past, June 2012, the company doubled its dividend, and then again in December 2013 the company increased the dividend by 12.5% (from $0.40 to $0.45). Over the past 10 years the company has been buying back stock consistently. Currently, Ralph Lauren has 88.7 million shares outstanding, as compared with 105.5 million in 2006. The company repurchased 3 million shares of its common stock during FY13 utilizing $450 million of authorized share repurchase programs at an average cost of $149, and returned an additional $128 million to shareholders via dividend payments.