Good Retail News Comes in Threes

When last we saw our heroes, the cold, long winter had stretched into early spring, and everyone was suffering. Comparable sales got hammered by the weather, and consumers everywhere longed for light skirts and new spring colors. Well, break out the grill: Spring has finally sprung!

Earlier this morning, The Buckle (NYSE: BKE  ) , Costco (NASDAQ: COST  ) , and L Brands (NYSE: LB  ) reported May sales, and everyone did better. That's not to say that the market loved the results, but investors may be breathing a sigh of relief nevertheless. The range for the three retailers was fairly tight, but there are still some ups and downs for investors to keep in mind.

Buckle pushes the boat out  
Denim retailer Buckle increased comparable sales by 4.1% in May, while net sales grew 4.2%. The increase in comparable sales is excellent news for shareholders -- this guy, for instance -- as sales had been slow to push out of the winter doldrums.

The good result brings the company's 17-week comparable sales position to positive 1.8%. The stock was up slightly on the news, but is still trading at the lowest P/E of any of the three reporting companies. A mere 15.7 times earnings gets you into this gem. With a history of strong performance and a healthy dividend, Buckle continues to look like a long-term winner.

Costco's base stays fired up 
Among retailers, Costco was one of the better performers, even through the weak beginning of spring. The warehouse-themed, member-driven chain is running at a 6% comparable-sales increase for the 39 weeks through the end of May. Over the month, Costco managed a 5% once gasoline price changes and foreign exchange rates were taken into account. Without those effects, Costco would have put up 6% growth.

Assistant VP Jeff Elliott said that the company saw strength in many U.S. regions, including Texas and the Midwest. Internationally, Canada, Mexico, and Japan were the big winners. Unfortunately, those countries also posed exchange drags, which pulled the comparable sales down 0.5%. 

Another clear winner, Costco has been driving away over the last year. While it's not as cheap as Buckle -- Costco trades at a P/E of 24 -- it's still a stock that won't be keeping shareholders up at night. Try as I might, I can't seem to say enough good things about Costco.

L Brands starts to look healthier 
I almost wrote "healthy" instead of "healthier," but I think that's a bit preemptive. The company managed to put up some good numbers in May with comparable sales up 3%, but Wall Street was looking for a bit more. That doesn't mean it was a bad result, though. All of the company's main brands had an increase in comparable sales, which highlights the work that management has done recently.

Through much of last year, L Brands was struggling with La Senza, its Canadian lingerie company. It instituted a cleansing program, shutting down underperforming stores to get the brand back in line. In May, La Senza boasted a 4% increase in comparable sales, which is a huge leap from a year ago, when comps fell 3%.

Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works also had increases in May, but both fell short of the kind of numbers they were putting up in 2012. On the brighter side, Victoria's Secret direct, which had been lagging in 2013, increased comparable sales by 4%, though it's still down 4% year to date.

While I like the turnaround, I'd look for another solid month before counting my eggs. While it's not an expensive stock, the company isn't "cheap" either. For now, I'm sticking with Buckle and Costco.

And a fourth for the road...
Michael Kors is one of today's hottest high-end fashion brands, and that's translated into one of the best-performing stocks in retail -- since its debut on the market in late 2011, the share price has more than doubled. But with all that growth, has the stock finally become too expensive, or is there still room left to run? The Motley Fool's premium report on Michael Kors gives investors all the information they need to make the right decision. We cover the key must-watch areas, opportunities, and threats to the company that investors need to know. To claim your copy, simply click here now for instant access.


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Related Tickers

7/29/2014 1:26 PM
BKE $43.42 Up +0.68 +1.59%
The Buckle CAPS Rating: ****
COST $119.54 Up +2.42 +2.07%
Costco Wholesale CAPS Rating: *****
LB $57.94 Up +0.33 +0.57%
L Brands CAPS Rating: ***

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