Which of These 3 Footwear Companies Would Best Fit Your Portfolio?

Brown Shoe (NYSE: BWS  ) , a retailer and wholesaler of footwear in the US, Canada, and China, has done very well this year. The company operates brands such as Famous Footwear, Naturalizer, and Dr. Scholls, to name a few, and has more than 1,300 retail stores.

The stock is up around 31% so far, with major gains coming after it declared second-quarter results in August and revised its earnings guidance for fiscal 2013. But will this performance continue?

Robust performance
Excluding sales of discontinued brands, Brown Shoe reported revenue of $621.7 million, which was 10% more than the year-ago quarter, and comprehensively beat consensus estimates of $596 million. Comps increased 6.8% for the Famous Footwear brand along with a 14% jump in online sales from famous.com, besides growth in wholesale and other segments.

Adjusted earnings came in at $0.33 per share, up 108.3% versus the year-ago quarter. This comprehensively beat analysts' estimate of $0.22 per share. These results show that the company's strategy to grow its business has been effective so far and there's substantial opportunity for growth in the future.

Opportunity ahead
The global footwear market is expected to be worth $195 billion by the end of 2015. The global footwear market is split into men's, women's, and children's footwear. Men's footwear leads the segment with 52% market share of the overall footwear market. With Brown Shoe expanding beyond the boundaries of the U.S, it makes the company even more attractive as it eliminates the reliance on just one market for profitability.

Brown Shoe has expanded into Canada and this is going to be beneficial for the company. The Canadian footwear market was worth $6.2 billion in 2012 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 4.6% to reach a market size of $7.8 billion by the end of 2017. Brown Shoe has expanded its business in China as well.

The company has been spending on marketing and advertising through television, online channels, and also sponsorship programs. The company initiated a rewards program to drive sales during the back-to-school shopping season. This paid off nicely as there was a 6% increase in back-to-school customers in the previous quarter, leading to more than 1 million new members.

Exploring more options
The footwear market in the U.S. is pretty fragmented and there are players like DSW (NYSE: DSW  ) and Foot Locker (NYSE: FL  ) operating in the same space.

DSW reported an increase of 9.7% in sales from last year to $562 million, fueled by a 4.4% increase in comps. It beat consensus estimates on earnings, which came in at $0.97 per share. The company managed to beat earnings estimates on the back of prudent inventory management and cost-control efforts.

DSW has been on an expansion drive and is poised to add 30 stores in the U.S. this year. This expansion push indicates that the company's designer shoes and accessories are fast gaining popularity among target customers and encouraging it to grow its business. In addition, its wedding shop collection sets it apart from peers. Currently, DSW operates 382 stores in 42 states, the Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

Besides offering a wide range of designer shoes at discounted prices for both men and women, DSW runs a free, award-winning loyalty program 'DSW Rewards.' This program issues certificates to customers for future purchases at DSW. Hence, the store expansion initiative and the rewards program could together help the company achieve better revenue in the future.

Foot Locker, on the other hand, is bigger than both DSW and Brown and operates 3,321 stores in the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, and New-Zealand. It recently acquired Runners Point Group as part of its expansion drive and established its footprint in Germany with 200 stores as a result.

Apart from having a wide network of stores, what makes Foot Locker further attractive is its cheap valuation. At a trailing P/E of just 12, the stock looks like a good bet since it trades below the industry average multiple of 18. In addition, the fact that it pays a dividend that yields 2.4% makes it even more intriguing. Moreover, the company's payout ratio is just 28%, which indicates that there might be dividend increases in the future.

Making a choice
Picking between these three stocks is just like buying a new pair of shoes. The more conservative investor would probably go for a company such as Foot Locker, which pays a decent dividend and has a wide store presence.

On the other hand, DSW and Brown Shoe would probably be a better fit for investors with a higher risk appetite since they trade at 26 times and 30 times earnings, respectively, but also promise better earnings growth rates. With expected 22% growth in earnings in the next fiscal year (ending January 2015), however, Brown Shoe is quite attractive and investors should definitely take a closer look at it.

No Pitch


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