Liz and Jones, Still on the Outs

Liz Claiborne (NYSE: LIZ  ) and Jones Apparel (NYSE: JNY  ) both need a turnaround. Alas, their latest quarterly results offer few hopeful signs in that regard.

Jones Apparel's net income may have skyrocketed nearly fourfold to $400.1 million, or $3.97 per share, but looks can be deceiving. Most of the gain stemmed from the company's sale of Barneys and related factors. Without that change, Jones would have only reported earnings from continuing operations of $0.51 per share, a decrease from last year's $0.59. Its guidance for 2007 fared little better, since the company expects adjusted earnings from continuing operations to decrease to between $1.20 and $1.25 per share, from $1.94 per share last year.

Liz Claiborne has also been watched closely recently for signs of a turnaround, since it's been shedding some of its weaker brands to concentrate on its strongest ones. Unfortunately, it seems that Liz still has some work to do, given its 65% drop in net income in its third quarter, and its 3.9% decrease in sales compared to last year.

Liz Claiborne and Jones Apparel both provide well-known brands that are available through many specialty and department stores as well as their own retail stores and outlets. Liz Claiborne's brands include Kate Spade, Lucky, and Juicy Couture, all of which are considered strong brands the company plans to focus on. Jones Apparel has Jones New York, Nine West, and Gloria Vanderbilt, to name just a few in its large stable.

Of course, these companies have their work cut out for them, considering that there are so many specialty retail stores out there targeting the same demographics. And of course, the companies to which it supplies its wares -- department stores like Macy's (NYSE: M  ) -- are squeezed on both the high end, from retailers like Nordstrom (NYSE: JWN  ) , and on the low end, from retailers like Target (NYSE: TGT  ) . That competition has made it more difficult for such stores to lure as many shoppers as they once did.   

Given Liz Claiborne's and Jones Apparel's difficulties, surely compounded by the current slower consumer spending climate, investors should give VF (NYSE: VFC  ) some credit. After all, it recently reported a very successful quarter despite all the macroeconomic concerns. Although struggling companies waiting to pull themselves together often look like bargains, sometimes it's prudent to focus on those that stay strong even in tough times.

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