14 Retail All-Stars: Wall Street Strategies

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Retail stocks have held up relatively well in recent weeks compared with the overall market.

Even the broad market has been volatile because of Eurozone debt worries, the debt ceiling uncertainty, and disappointing jobs data, an all-star group of retailers have managed to keep climbing.

"The DNA that links these companies is margin expansion in prior quarters and likely in future quarters, either resulting from a turnaround after years of sagging performance or best-of-breed industry status in a consumer sector chock full of volatile fundamental," says Wall Street Strategies analyst Brian Sozzi.

While Sozzi doesn't expecting any of these names to report disappointing earnings, even a solid quarter may spark some selling.

"These stocks are priced to perfection, and even if second-quarter earnings beat and full-year guidance is reaffirmed or raised slightly, the market's reaction may be negative," Sozzi noted. "Investors would be profit taking, deciding to park the gains in cash or other names that have the potential to be future all-stars."

Tracking these retail elite ahead of earnings season is a good guide to find potential shorts and select longs, Sozzi says.

Read on for a look at Sozzi's list of retail all-stars.


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Skate and surf inspired retailer Quiksilver ( ZQK) has been the recovery story of 2011, and the stock is reflecting this.

Shares of Quiksilver are up 25% since mid-April, as its financial position has been improving and conditions for the company in Asia strengthen.

The company, which touts brands like Roxy and DC Shoes, beat expectations in its second quarter, with same-store sales surging 23%. Profit surpassed estimates by two cents, driven by margin expansion. Its debt levels also fell 19% to $594 million from the year prior.

But Sozzi warns Quiksilver is one of the riskier prospects on the list, given the relatively recent run-up.

Quiksilver is set to report its third-quarter results on Aug. 29. Analysts are calling for a profit of 8 cents a share on revenue of $473 million.

Bebe Stores

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The tide appears to be changing for Bebe Stores ( BEBE).

Last week, the women's contemporary apparel retailer reported preliminary fiscal fourth-quarter sales grew 7.3% to $122.4 million, while same-store sales grew 7%. Management now foresees earnings at the high end of its guidance of a penny to 4 cents a share, before charges. Analysts are calling for a profit of 3 cents a share.

While Janney Capital Markets analyst Adrienne Tennant has a buy rating on the stock, she recommends getting in around $6 and under.

Sozzi agrees that Bebe is another riskier play in the retail sector, despite its run-up.

Shares of Bebe have surged more than 26% for the year-to-date period, currently trading over $7.50 a share.

Bebe is set to release its full earnings report on Aug. 25.

Hot Topic

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Hot Topic's ( HOTT) stock is, well, getting hot again.

In June, the teen retailer's same-store sales inched up 0.4%, beating Wall Street' forecast for a 2.4% decline.

"We think June establishes Hot Topic as one of the likely winners from the teen apparel space for back to school," Sozzi wrote in a note.

The company has been moving away from its goth and punk image and adopting a more kid- and parent-friendly approach, which should allow it to attract a broader audience. Hot Topic's Torrid concept has also been a catalyst for the stock.

But the back-to-school benefit won't be realized until the third quarter, and analysts don't foresee much upside to the current period.

"We would not be chasing the stock at current levels," Janney's Tennant noted. "Instead, we look for more opportunistic entry points, preferably near and below $7, as we near the new product strategy for back-to-school."

Shares of Hot Topic have risen 21% since the beginning of the year.

Steve Madden

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Steven Madden's ( SHOO) acquisition strategy is creating significant growth opportunities for the company.

The footwear retailer recently purchased the Cejon and Topline brands, which the company will utilize to expand its market share and create synergies across all of its brands.

The stock underwent a three-for-two split at the beginning of June but has continued to surge, reaching an adjusted multi-year high of $40.83 on July 7.

Steve Madden has seen strength in boots, is expanding its digital presence and growing through both outlets and its international business. The company's performance in department stores has also been noteworthy, specifically at Nordstrom ( JWN) and Macy's ( M).

In its first quarter, profit jumped 16% to $17.9 million, or 63 cents a share, while revenue increased 26% to $166 million. This topped consensus estimates for earnings of 59 cents a share on revenue of $160.5 million.

Management raised its full-year earnings forecast, predicting earnings between $2.03 and $2.10 a share, up from prior forecast of $2 to $2.07. But Wall Street is currently calling for a profit of $2.18 per share.

Ulta Salon Cosmetic & Fragrance

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Ulta Salon Cosmetic & Fragrance has become a favorite among investors because of its youth. Having only gone public in 2007, the beauty supply retailer still has plenty of room to grow.

Ulta sells products in a variety of price points to both salons and customers. The company plans to open 61 locations this year on top of 47 new stores in 2010.

In its most recent quarter, earnings reached 37 cents a share, 6 cents ahead of estimates, while revenue jumped 21% to $386 million. Earnings have beat estimates for 10 consecutive quarters.

But Ulta's valuation is high as the stock trades at about 28 times forward earnings.

Shares of Ulta have advanced more than 86% for the year-to-date period.

Vitamin Shoppe

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Vitamin Shoppes ( VSI) has surpassed analysts estimates in all but one quarter since it went public in 2009.

In its most recent period, the retailer earned $20.8 million, or 49 cents per share, a 15% gain over the year-ago period. Revenue rose 13% to $217 million, while same-store sales grew 8.1%. This marked the 22nd straight quarter of positive comparable sales.

For the full year, Vitamin Shoppe now foresees same-store sales between 5% and 6%.

Shares of Vitamin Shoppe have spiked 34.5% since the beginning of the year, trading near $45 per share.


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Footwear and sports apparel retailer Genesco ( GCO) has enjoyed strong growth, but this could be squelched if the NFL labor dispute isn't resolved.

Genesco's first quarter was driven by strong same-store sales, which grew 14%. The company earned $15.7 million, or 67 cents a share, on revenue of $482 million. Wall Street predicted a profit of 48 cents on revenue of $442.3 million.

Management raised its full-year outlook, but warned that its Lids stores could pressure earnings by as much as 14 cents a share if the NFL labor dispute results in a canceled season.

The company projects full-year earnings in a range of $2.90 to $2.97 a share, up from a previous estimate of $2.78 to $2.85 per share. That's ahead of the $2.84 per share expected by analysts.

In June, Genesco purchased Schuh Group for $112.6 million, a retailer with similar offerings but located in the U.K. and Ireland. The company expects the acquisition -- excluding merger and other expenses -- to be accretive to its full-year earnings.

Analysts see the purchase as a low-risk way for the company to expand its operations internationally.

Last month, the board also approved dividends on its various classes of preferred stock.


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If you gave up on Crocs ( CROX)in late 2008 when the stock was trading at less than $1, it could be time to take another look at the company.

The stock, which is now trading over $26 per share, has surged nearly 50% since the beginning of the year.

While the footwear maker still has work to do in repairing some of its damaged wholesale relationships, the company has effectively reduced costs and has the infrastructure in place to improve margins, says WJB Capital analyst Robert Samuels.

Crocs has returned to profitability, and if management remains focused on product innovation, Samuels believes the company can deliver double-digit sales growth.

Croc's new line of children's footwear, Chameleons, is one of the ways the company has been innovating. The sandals, which change color in and out of the sunlight, have been strong sellers.

Samuels estimates that Crocs can grow its wholesale business by 25% this year and at least 15% in 2012, as the company adds new accounts and services its existing ones more efficiently.


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DSW ( DSW) has grown its sales and earnings over the past four years at compounded annual rates of nearly 10% and 50%, respectively.

While much of this growth has been driven by trends in fashion and athletic footwear, management also should be given some credit.

With Chief Executive Officer Michal MacDonald at the helm, DSW has done a good job of emphasizing its value message and building brand awareness through marketing and customer loyalty programs, WJB Capital's Samuels noted.

DSW recently merged with Retail Ventures, helping it to simplify its corporate structure and benefit from some tax saving.

"It is rare these days to find a domestic retailer with room for much additional square-footage growth, but DSW plans to ramp up to a mid-single digit growth rate," Samuels wrote in a note.

DSW is testing stores in smaller markets, which could also help to drive sales.

"Opportunistic pre-buys of fall merchandise, selective price increases on fashion items and continued growth in higher-margin private label business and accessories should help mitigate some cost pressure in the back half," Samuels said.

DSW raised its full-year outlook last month following its first-quarter report. It now foresees earnings in the range of $2.65 to $2.80 a share, with same-store sales increasing in the mid-single digits.

DSW ended the most recent quarter with about $7.50 per share in cash and no debt. While the company intends to invest in its stores and infrastructure, management may also return some of it to shareholders in the form a dividend.

Under Armour

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If Nike's ( NKE) earnings report was any indication, Under Armour ( UA) should be in for a solid quarter.

But the investment community is worried that the stock is overvalued, with Barron's recently predicting Under Armour could lose 20% over the next year.

Under Armour recently announced expectations to double its revenue to $2.1 billion by the end of 2013 by expanding beyond its focus on apparel and growing other product categories like footwear and sports equipment. It is also looking to expand in women's clothing like yoga pants and sports bras.

The company has also struck a deal with NFL quarterback Tom Brady for its fall merchandise.

Under Armour intends to remodel stores and is considering opening more locations, as well as launching a new Web site.


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Coach ( COH) has strong pricing power, which should help it offset rising costs.

While the handbag makers margins are expected to be pressured over the next three quarters, at 29.4%, margins remain well above the corporate average.

"In our view, Coach has pricing power and combined with more sales from China (at a higher margin), the company is well positioned to mitigate some cost pressured," Bank of America analyst Lorraine Hutchinson wrote in a note.

Even with a significant impact on its sales because of the Japanese earthquake, Coach still managed to top estimates for its fiscal third quarter ended in March. The company reported an 18% jump in earnings to $186 million, or 62 cents a share, while revenue rose nearly 15% to $950.7 million. Analysts were calling for a profit of 60 cents a share on revenue of $946.5 million.

In an effort to escape some of these rising costs, Coach also said that it plans to shift its manufacturing out of China. The company plans to cut its production in the country to a 40% to 50% range from the current 85% level over the next five years.

Coach has been keenly focused on its international expansion, specifically in Asia. The company plans to open 30 stores in China over the next three years and foresees sales growing 85% in the market to $185 million in 2011. It aims to record annual sales of $500 million in China within the next three years.

In order to raise its brand awareness in Asia, Coach is seeking a dual listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange which, if approved, could occur before the end of the year.


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Tiffany ( TIF) has been able to successfully raise prices this year, showing the strength of its brand.

The high-end jeweler has been able to increase prices, specifically in its engagement ring collection, according to KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Edward Yruma. The price of 1 carat diamond engagement rings climbed 9% to 10% and 1.5 carats or bigger saw a 10% to 12% price hike, Yruma said.

Engagement and wedding jewelry make up 28% of Tiffany's total sales.

"We think consumers understand diamond and platinum inflation much more than cotton and labor pricing," he wrote in a note.

In its fiscal first quarter ended in April, Tiffany earned $81.1 million, or 63 cents a share, a 25% increase over its profit in the same quarter last year. Sales grew 20% to $761 million.

Tiffany boosted its full-year forecast, expecting earnings to increase by 18% to 21%, which would mean a profit of $3.45 to $3.55 a share. Wall Street is currently calling for earnings of $3.33 a share.


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Macy's ( M) has been the standout of the department store sector.

In June, the company reported a 6.7% jump in same-store sales, surpassing Wall Street's estimates of 4.8%. For the second time in two months, Macy's also raised its second-quarter and full-year outlook.

For the second-quarter, management foresees same-store sales growing 6% and gaining 4.8% for the year. The company originally predicted comparable sales increase of 4% in the current quarter and 4.3% in 2011, it later raised this guidance to up 5% and 4.5%, respectively.

It is also important to note Macy's online sales in June surged 45% showing the strength of its multi-channel efforts.b

After announcing its first-quarter earnings, Macy's doubled its dividend.

Last month, Macy's entered into a $1.5 billion bank credit agreement that will mature on June 20, 2015. This facility replaces a previous $2 billion facility that was set to mature on Aug. 30, 2012. The agreement provides more favorable terms and pricing given the company's strong cash flow outlook and improved balance sheet. This followed an upgrade by Standard & Poor's of Macy's credit rating from high yield to investment grade.


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Fossil ( FOSL) is reinvigorating the watch business.

According to analysts, the company is on track to double its revenues from $2 billion in 2010 and deliver bottom-line growth between 25% and 30% annually over the next several years.

International markets are a huge opportunity for the brand as there is less competition than in the U.S.

"While most investors casually refer to the upturn in Fossil's business as the 'watch cycle,' we take a slightly different approach," J.P. Morgan analyst Brian Tunick wrote in a note. "A cycle implies that there will be an inevitable fall-off in demand at some point, and we feel like, very similar to what the handbag category went through several years ago, that Fossil's pipeline for newness and innovation, specifically new, non-traditional natural and synthetic materials are reinvigorating a category that has been stale for several years - setting the stage for a long-term trend."

Tunick says that Fossil could be to watches what Coach ( COH)was to handbags. "When Coach began bringing in mixed materials and new and exciting colors, delivering newness on almost a monthly basis, it helped drive increased awareness and velocity of purchases within the handbag category."

Historically, watch cycles have typically lasted for up to 10 years, and J.P. Morgan analyst Anna Andreeva notes that Fossil is only in year two of the current cycle.

With just 362 stores globally, Fossil's footprint could also still double organically in the next five to 10 years, Andreeva noted.

- Reported by Jeanine Poggi in New York.

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