Even during an economic slowdown, affluent consumers don't feel too much heat. Because of this, it can be expected that the retailers serving these customers would perform decently in times of weak spending. The likes of Michael Kors (NYSE: KORS) and PVH (NYSE: PVH) fall into this category, as they have seen good growth despite the weakness in retail sector.
There are exceptions, however, such as Tiffany (NYSE: TIF), which hasn't done as well as the other luxury retailers but seems to be turning around.
A mixed bag
Tiffany, the bellwether of the luxury segment, recently declared mixed second-quarter fiscal 2013 results. It beat consensus estimates on earnings but failed to do the same on revenue. However, the earnings report did contain many positive signals.
Same-store sales increased 5%, with major contributions coming from the Asia-Pacific region, which was up 13%, and Europe (up 8%), while North America remained flat. On the back of strong comps growth and the healthy performance of its new launches, net sales climbed to $925.9 million, up 4% from the year-ago quarter. This, however, wasn't enough to breach the $939 million mark that analysts had set.
Gross profit increased 6.6% to $532.1 million and gross margin expanded 120 basis points to 57.5% due to lower product costs and an increase in prices. As a result, the company posted a 15.3% jump in earnings per share as compared to the year-ago quarter, clocking $0.83 per share and beating consensus estimates of $0.72 per share .
What these high-end retailers have to say
It does seem that domestic spending on jewelry is still not as buoyant as it is in other regions where Tiffany operates. This is apparent from its near-flat comps and a mere 2% growth in revenue from the Americas. This doesn't mean that people are not spending on luxury items, however.
A look at the performance of Michael Kors, which reported a 55% jump in revenue, a 27% jump in comps, and a whopping 79% jump in earnings in its last quarter, indicates that spending is still strong in the luxury segment. This is quite a departure from general weakness in the retail segment in the U.S., signifying that affluent consumers are willing to spend.
Like Tiffany, Kors is focusing on Asia to drive growth. The luxury apparel and accessories retailer is planning to open around 100-125 stores in China going forward. In addition, Kors' online strategy in China has made it the most sought-after American brand in the country, as per the Digital Luxury Group.
The Chinese apparel market is expected to grow at an annual rate of 7% through 2016, and is slated to become the world's second-largest by 2020. Moreover, it is estimated that China will account for around 30% of the global fashion market's growth till 2017. Considering this, it makes sense for Kors to expand in Asia.
On the other hand, PVH is positioning itself to benefit from the global luxury menswear market, which is growing at a rate of 14% per year, according to Bain & Co. Also, the global menswear market is expected to be worth $402 billion in 2014, with the Americas representing 35% of that total.
To capitalize on this opportunity, PVH has been focusing on acquisitions. It acquired The Warnaco Group in February of this year, as well as Warner's women's intimate apparel businesses. These acquisitions have helped PVH perform well, as its revenue increased an impressive 47% year over year in the previous quarter .
With the owner of brands such as Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger doing pretty well, it would be incorrect to say that the high-end luxury retail space in the U.S. is in a quagmire.
It is not all doom and gloom for Tiffany in the U.S., as sales of jewelry in the nation are expected to grow by 11% between 2012 and 2017 to $64 billion . During fiscal 2013, Tiffany plans to open six new stores in the Americas in order to capitalize on this growth.
The Asia-Pacific region is expected to account for around 31.2% of the global market for luxury jewelry and watches, as it is expected to become the fastest-growing region from 2012 to 2017.
China and India are the markets with the highest gold demand . Accordingly, Tiffany is planning on adding a total of seven new stores in the Asia-Pacific region in 2013. On the back of good revenue growth in Europe, it is also planning three new stores in the region in 2013.
Tiffany might not be doing as well in the U.S. as in the international markets, but a look at the performance of other high-end players such as PVH and Kors suggests that it won't be long before Tiffany recovers in the region and posts growth. The outlook for the jewelry market in the U.S. is bright. When coupled with the positive outlook in the Asian market, Tiffany's future looks bright as well.
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