Sinking the Flagship

Flagship stores, like Gateway's newest in New York City, often signify the end of a company's expansion, not the beginning.
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Should you buy

Gateway

(GTW)

now that it's opened a flagship store in New York City? Is that the event that will give this stock the visibility it needs to get some pin action? Will anxious New York find managers, now that they are free to browse in a Gateway store, turn their billions into Gateway's stock?

Unfortunately, the results are totally inconclusive, if not downright negative.

Loehmann's

(LOEH)

,

Nike

(NKE) - Get Report

,

Jos. A. Banks

(JOSB)

and

Today's Man

(TMAN)

all dropped, in some cases precipitously, after their stocks ran up in anticipation of their flagship-store openings. The hype, the hoopla and then the selloff -- that's the only pattern I could find.

In fact, if history is the judge, you could do better playing the closing of the flagship.

Limited's

(LTD)

stock ramped out of years of doldrums after it shuttered its underperforming flagship store.

I know I got spooked by the Niketown opening. I was lugging a huge Nike position going into when the new store opened, and I doubled down betting that the publicity would cause the stock to gap up.

Turns out I was gaffed by a top-of-the-market trade that haunted me for months. Knowledgeable people sold right into the opening, as it appeared that the opening in New York signified the

end

of the expansion, not the beginning.

That makes sense when you consider how hard it is to do business in New York. It is the most expensive, most difficult place to hire and build a service enterprise in the country.

So think of that when Ted Waitt starts promoting his wares today on

CNBC

.

Random musings:

The Phantom Menace

made expectations, but it missed the whisper number. Sell it or short it.

James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund had no positions in any stocks mentioned. His fund often buys and sells securities that are the subject of his columns, both before and after the columns are published, and the positions that his fund takes may change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Cramer's writings provide insights into the dynamics of money management and are not a solicitation for transactions. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to comment on his column at

letters@thestreet.com.

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