This Small-Cap Retail Company Is Making the Right Moves

Shares of footwear and accessory marketer R.G. Barry (NASDAQ: DFZ  )  rose some 22% in September to a 52-week high of $19.48. An unsolicited bid from Mill Road Capital, a major shareholder, to take R.G. Barry private appears to have spurred this spike. Mill Road's offer was $20 per share, putting the proposed deal at about $228 million.

The company's share price has dropped by as much as 7% since its peak.  What investors should be interested in are possible long positioning on further dips as profit-takers retreat.

Tthe Mill Road Capital offer seems likely to be spurned again. In 2009, when its shares were trading as low as $5.85, R.G. Barry rebuffed a $77.8 million buyout offer from Mill Road. With the economic conditions improved since then, R.G. Barry appears on the threshold of growth as a publicly traded company. It is aiming to grow its fiscal 2013 sales of $147 million to  the $200 million–$250 million range in the next 3–5 years 

Gearing up for the holidays
The company has laid out near-term and long-term measures to further enhance its shareholder value. Short-term, it is addressing the looming tough holiday-season sales this year which forecast to grow marginally at 3.9%. For one, R.G. Barry is employing  the advantage of its broader market reach, principally covering women between ages 14 to 55.

Among the marketing programs it has introduced is a multi-tiered branding in the Dearfoams segment of its footwear business unit. Sub-branding is also being implemented for this unit's Foot Petals, along with similar programs set for this fall.The company is also launching at the retail level this November its proprietary Technogel, another potential income generator for the company's footwear business. 

Stiffer headwinds for teen outfitters
By comparison, the coming holidays looms as even tougher for retailers catering to the youth segment. Stymied by the meek sales during the back-to-school season, American Eagle Outfitters (NYSE: AEO)" href="http://caps.fool.com/Ticker/AEO.aspx" target="_blank">NYSE: AEO) is turning overseas for long-term growth of its apparels and accessories business.

With no immediate relief in sight, the company foresees third quarter diluted EPS of $0.14-$0.16 vs. the $0.41 achieved last year. It also expects comparable sales decline in the mid- to high single digits.

The picture isn't any better for footwear and accessories company Crocs (NASDAQ: CROX  ) whose new design introductions this year failed to generate enough excitement among the fickle youth market. The company recently trimmed its third quarter revenue outlook to the $285 million-$295 million range from the earlier guidance of $300 million-$310 million.  To help boost sales, the company is offering substantial discounts to online buyers this October. 

Acquisitions point to long-term growth
In contrast, R.G. Barry painted a better picture in reporting its fiscal 2013 results last month. In its fourth quarter fiscal 2013, sales rose year over year to $25.5 million from $25 million. For FY 2014, it expects the pattern of mid-teens growth for its accessories business and low single digits for its footwear unit.

For the longer haul, the company has a tenable road map to increase its receipts by some $100 million in the next few years. It includes an aggressive drive at acquisitions to boost its international market and online marketing. Notably, the company has created a top-level management position for M&A.

One recent acquisition, the Mosey fashion-bag business, is expected to be one of the drivers to R.G. Barry's long-term goal of increasing its international sales from the current $6 million to the $20 million-$30 million range. Hong Kong-based Mosey also has offices in China and the U.S., plus store locations in the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, and the UK.

Sustained customer buildup and support
R.G. Barry is also banking on the robust relationships it has built with its key customer retailers, ties which enabled its footwear business unit to grab market share from its competitors during the tough holiday selling season last year. Major marketing and merchandising programs have been set at these customers to generate sales growth. Additional shelf space, for instance, has been secured at J.C. Penney  which has also allocated the entire replenishment business to R.G. Barry. This it shared formerly with a competitor. 

J.C. Penney's e-tail facility is also being tapped by R.G. Barry for its men's accessory segment, a market that has been showing upside potential in recent years.This foray into the men's business along with seasonal programs is likewise being pursued at other major retailers 

Final take
These initiatives merit attention to R.G. Barry on investors' radar screens. For this holiday season, its broader market mix makes it better positioned than teen-centered retailers like Croc and American Eagle Outfitters. For the longer term, the company is weaning away from its dependence in the U.S. market. Its recent acquisitions already gave it stronger footholds in the international market, including a pipeline to  mainland China consumers. Lastly, it is also strengthening its global and online presence by seeking more acquisitions that it can pay in cash as it did with Mosey.

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