1 Company Weathering the Consumer Storm

Jos. A. Bank (Nasdaq: JOSB  ) tried on first-quarter earnings this week, and the fit was a bit snug. While revenue grew 4% to $201 million, the bottom line suffered from lackluster sales. Net income fell 17% and the suit retailer's net margin declined from 9% in Q1 2012 to 7% this quarter. Even though the financials were hemmed, it looks like management might have a better fit laid out.

The shortfall
In its earnings statement, the company said that sales at the beginning of the quarter were much lower than expected but that things were picking up near the end. A new marketing push was causing the turnaround, and the company is optimistic about Father's Day. May sales, which were not reported in Q1, have continued the positive trend.

What I like right now is that management saw these problems coming. On his Q4 call last year, CEO R. Neal Black noted that unseasonably warm weather would continue to have an effect on the company in the first quarter. In the newest release, management admitted it didn't foresee the fall being so drastic. I'm OK with that, since the company has taken steps to fix the problem.

Inside the strategy dressing room
This is akin to getting a nice pair of trousers, having them fitted, and then having to go back to get them refitted. Yes it's nice to have a good pair of fitting trousers, but even nicer is having the pair fit from the get-go. Let's look at how some other retailers have fared in their most recent quarters to see if there is a better place to invest.

Company

Same-Store Sales Net Income Inventories Forward P/E
Jos. A. Bank (1%) (17%) 34% 10.4
Gap (NYSE: GPS  ) 4% 0% 8% 12.6
Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE: ANF  ) (5%) (82%) 7% 8.0
lululemon athletica (Nasdaq: LULU  ) 26% 34% 81% 35.1

Here, we can see that Abercrombie did poorly, and its forward-looking stock price expects it to flounder in the future. On the other hand, Lululemon has done wonderfully and the market expects it to continue doing wonderful things.

Still in fashion
Jos. A. Bank is somewhere in the middle, and that can be OK. The company's focus on suits should pay off as the economy slowly rebuilds and more people get back to work. Its brand recognition is strong and should help it move margins back up next quarter. While it doesn't have the flair of Lululemon, it is a steady grower. Since the beginning of 2009, Jos. A. Bank's stock price has increased 170% compared to the S&P 500's 51% growth.

If you're looking for a consistent grower in the retail apparel space, now might be a great time to jump in with Jos. A. Bank. If you want some more rocket fuel in the tank, then Lululemon might be the stock for you. Regardless of your leanings, you'll also want to check out the Fool's special report on the future of retail. It covers two companies that are changing the way the retail game is played, and you can get your absolutely free copy right now.

Fool contributor Andrew Marder does not own any of the stocks covered in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of lululemon athletica. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of lululemon athletica. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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