Guess?, Inc. (GES) Q4 2011 Earnings Conference Call March 14, 2012 4:30 PM ET Executives Paul Marciano – Chief Executive Officer Dennis Secor – Chief Financial Officer Michael Prince – Chief Operating Officer Analysts Shreya Jawalkar – Jefferies Jeff Klinefelter – Piper Jaffray & Co. Helena Tse – Bank of America Merrill Lynch Omar Saad – ISI Group Diana Katz – Lazard Capital Markets Eric Beder – Brean Murray, Carret & Co. David Glick – Buckingham Research Group Dana Telsey – Telsey Advisory Group Margaret Whitfield – Sterne, Agee & Leach Susan Sansbury – Miller Tabak John Kernan – Cowen and Company Presentation Operator
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Considering that what Europe went through this past holiday season, we are very pleased with these results. Our business model is (inaudible) for diversification and we enhanced that last year by developing important European markets like Germany, Russia, Portugal, Netherlands and even Finland. Our top 10 European gross market collectively grew 29%, and now represents almost 30% of our business in Europe. Strong complements to Italy, which is now less than 40% compared to 52% four years ago.Our successes in newer market is critical to our long term strategy and they were instrumental in helping drive revenues in Europe to more than $1 billion this year considering that in 2004 revenues were only $43 million when we took over from our licensee there. The Guess? brand has become part of the retail market in Europe today. Our growth strategy in North America was focused on developing G by Guess where we see tremendous potential. We continue to refine the concepts, the stores and the product and the customer is responding very well. G once again delivered solid positive comp. We believe we have developed an excellent niche in the G market and are making great progress. In fact, this year the brand broke even for the first time and our goal for next year is to post the brand’s first profits. In Asia, we delivered solid growth for both South Korea and China posting annual growth rate over 25%. In South Korea, we improved productivity while expanding new doors. Our launch of G by Guess in South Korea is doing very well and we now have 47 locations. Overall in Korea we have developed a strong market share position and we ended the year with nearly 300 point of sales. In Greater China, the brand continued to develop rapidly as we expand into 63 [ph] new locations this year.
We continue to build relationships with partner to open stores in secondary cities. We also made significant progress in building up our team and infrastructure, but we will need to fully develop the market and support our partners in the future. The brand elevation was another important goal for us, as we build up our brand in equity markets comparing to other brands. By visiting our stores it should be obvious that the product has been significantly elevated.We improved product quality, specifically in women, which translated to an AUR increase over 20% in the fourth quarter in our stores in US. We are very pleased with the customers' response to this change, especially in our dresses and denim collection and we are now focusing on accessories and men. We manage our inventory tightly and drastically reduced our markdown electing to focus on a full-price sales that were up during the year. We enhanced the store environment with a combination of reduced stock level and new visual strategy. We also remolded 31 stores in North America and have seen improved sales. In North American retail, we managed carefully during the transitional year. Retail product margin improved and we worked more efficiently in our stores, driving sales cost rates down without affecting the customer experience. For the full-year, we expanded our retail operating margin and increased segment operating profit by nearly 10%, which is a big accomplishment given this year comps. In Europe, we definitely are proud of many achievements for fiscal 2012. As we look back on the year, our biggest challenge certainly proved to be Europe. During the summer, as consumer reported [ph], we reported a weakening economy there. We saw the traffic fall off in early September and began to experience negative comp in our stores there. Direct marketing and digital media will be my priority going forward with social media and CRM as well, and of course, still increasing the global brand image with magazine and outdoor advertisements. Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com