If the recession has taught us anything, it's that we could always use another diamond ring, handbag, or expensive coat. While Americans have been cutting back on basics, sales of luxury goods have expanded. As a result, a lot of luxury providers are looking like good bets for investors, as well. Here are five of my favorite companies that are making cash off Americans' need for nice things.
Selling the family silver
Silver and diamonds go well with anything. Apparently that holds true even if the thing they're going with is unemployment. While the economy has continued to suffer, high-end jewelry chain Tiffany (NYSE: TIF ) has seen some excellent growth. Headline revenue was up 8% in the first quarter, rising to $819 million. Net margins were hampered slightly, dropping about 0.5 percentage point over the same time period.
While revenue continues to increase, American same-store sales dropped over the quarter. The 1% decrease was due mainly to a 4% decline in same-store sales at the New York City flagship store. While the everyday American might be buying more, it looks like the folks on Wall Street are finally going to cut back a bit. In fact, Tiffany is so worried about that pullback that it's revised 2012 expectations down. Sales growth, which was forecast for 10%, has been pulled back to 7%-8%. Even with the revision, the company looks set for strong growth over the next year.
A voice full of money
Fashion titan Michael Kors (NYSE: KORS ) didn't suffer from any slips last quarter. The company announced fourth-quarter results last month and did not disappoint. As with Tiffany, Kors revenue continued to grow unabated, jumping 58% to $380 million. This was on the back of 39% same-store-sales growth, which is amazing. The company isn't planning on slowing down either. Its first-quarter outlook forecasts a 35% growth in same-store sales. This rate is expected to drop over the rest of the year, resulting in an overall 20% increase in same-store sales and a 26% increase in earnings per share.
Michael Kors is one of those companies that just sounds like cash. Every time a new report comes out, it's like listening to a register open up. Unfortunately for investors, that voice is like blood in the water. Everyone and their aunt are on Kors these days. While the stock has increased more than 60% since its IPO last year, it's still trading at forward P/E of 28. Tiffany, which runs in a very similar circle, is only at 12.5. As long as Kors keeps raking it in, it looks like the future is all grow, no slow.
In between the two companies, we can find handbag maker Coach (NYSE: COH ) . The designer is currently trading at 14 times forward earnings and has had a solid start to the year. The first three months came with a 17% increase in revenue for the company. Net income fared even better, increasing 21% to $225 million. Obviously, it's great to see that sort of increase in margins, but it's especially nice in this environment. Coach has shown that it can increase sales without having to constantly put things on sale. That kind of brand strength is hard to come by.
Coach increased same-store sales in America by 8%, and I expect that number to grow as the year goes by. Coach has reported strong interest and revenue through its new men's line, and is pushing to get the line into American stores. By year end, the company expects to carry men's products in 100 of its American stores. Another of my favorite companies has had success with this approach recently.
lululemon athletica (Nasdaq: LULU ) has had help from its men's line in increasing its same-store sales. Last quarter, same-store sales increased 24% with help from both sides of the gender aisle. Clearly Lululemon has figured out how to make menswear work, and I have no doubt that Coach will be able to do the same.
The bottom line
I love the things that Michael Kors is doing right now. The growth rate is phenomenal, and brand strength continues to make this company a good play. Tiffany has the benefit of already having grown into its place, and of moving that existing model forward as much as possible each year. But Coach is my No. 1 pick from this list.
The company is only marginally more expensive than Tiffany and nowhere near the premium that has to be paid for Kors. I don't go in for the men's line, but I continue to hear good things from the fashion world. By using handbags and purses as gateway products, Coach can continue to get young, wealthy women through the door. Those same women are now going to be confronted with a slew of products for husbands, friends, and fathers. While you could pick up the excellent Lululemon to get the same thing, you'd have to do it at a forward P/E of 27.
Coach is also making an excellent push overseas, especially in Japan and China. Over the past year, the company has opened 10 new stores in Japan and 30 in China. However, while Coach may have the keys to the Asian market, not everyone is betting on it. The Fool has created a special report explaining why "The Future Is Made in America." This report covers three stocks that investors can get in on now to take advantage of the next consumer revolution. Get your free copy today.