Gap's Gut-Churning Comps

Same-store sales and total sales statistics are in for the Gap (NYSE: GPS  ) . Were they good? No. But we're going to take a look at them anyway.

For the month of November, total sales dropped 2% for the company, to $1.4 billion. Comps declined 8% overall. The various operating segments posted same-store sales drops across the board. Gap North America's comps decreased 7%, while Gap International saw a decrease of 8%. Banana Republic North America slipped 1%, and Old Navy North America reported a whopping 10% decrease in comparable stores.

The declines are doubly depressing because they follow lackluster numbers in the year-ago period as well. Gap International's comps were the best performers one year ago, reporting flat growth. Gap North America was the worst, seeing comps nosedive 5%. To finish things off, year-to-date comps also placed in negative territory.

Sales promotions are welcome when they help raise the revenue base, but when sales are down, they can be troublesome. A Gap executive pointed out the dreary margin pressures in the release, stating that the company will remain challenged through the holiday season. It's tough to turn things around when Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE: ANF  ) , American Eagle Outfitters (Nasdaq: AEOS  ) , J. Crew Group (NYSE: JCG  ) , TweenBrands (NYSE: TWB  ) , and Aeropostale (NYSE: ARO  ) are all vying for a piece of every shopper's gift budget, too.

Right now, the Gap needs to bring shoppers into stores, because traffic is declining. I actually think the current TV commercials for the Gap and Old Navy are creative and interesting, but apparently, they aren't doing the trick. Things look rather bleak for the Gap right now, but perhaps its dire straits will give the company license to radically revamp its image and ad campaign in hopes of reinvigorating the business.

Should the Gap be on your watch list? A quick check of the latest 10-K shows that operational cash flow has gone downhill in the last few fiscal years. Foolish colleague Alyce Lomax's take on the retailer's most recent earnings report indicates that guidance is calling for lower earnings per share. A rough PEG valuation based on 2008 earnings indicates a ratio greater than 1.3. My assumptions, utilizing Yahoo! Finance data, call for earnings in FY08 to fall somewhere around $1.18 per share, and for a five-year growth rate around 12%. In short, the stock is too expensive for such performance, and the small 1.7% yield also offers little additional enticement.

Nothing in the rulebook states that the Gap will remain in its current state. Things can always be turned around via better marketing strategies and trendier merchandise. Then again, perhaps a dope slap or two would help even more. For now, I just can't see buying into the stock when such negative sales momentum surrounds the company. It would have to drop further to entice my capitalistic instincts.

More Takes on the Gap:

Gap is both aStock Advisorand anInside Valuerecommendation. American Eagle is a Stock Advisor selection. Follow the preceding links to try either newsletter free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns none of the companies mentioned. As of this writing, he was ranked 1,755 out of 14,555 investors in the CAPS system. Don't know what CAPS is? Check it out. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

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