What Is Driving VF Corporation's Growth?

VF Corporation (NYSE: VFC  ) is a rare example of a company that can excel on multiple fronts. The large retailer has been a leader in dividend growth for a while, providing shareholders with substantial dividend increases every year for the last decade. 

Management at VF Corp has also successfully grown revenue and earnings per share consistently for years now and current analyst projections indicate that the company's growth is poised to get even better. This begs the question, what exactly is driving VF Corporation's growth? And is this force sustainable given rising competition from Phillips-Van Heusen (NYSE: PVH  ) and Polo Ralph Lauren (NYSE: RL  ) ?

Growth goals
In June, management at VF Corp announced its lofty goal of achieving $17.3 billion in revenue by fiscal 2017, which would represent a five-year compounded annual growth rate of 10%. It also set an earnings goal of $18.00 per share, which would represent a five-year compounded annual growth rate of 13%. 

On the revenue side, 80% of the growth is expected to be organic and the remaining 20% is expected to come via acquisitions. Fortunately, VF Corp management has proven itself extremely capable at pursuing both avenues of growth in the past and this is likely to continue going forward.

Four-pronged approach
To achieve these goals, management announced a strategy with four main directives: leading through innovation, connecting with consumers, expanding the company's direct-to-consumer business, and expanding geographically. 

Innovation for VF Corp has been a driving force behind the company's growth in the past as it directly ties in with the company's ability to reach more consumers. VF Corp's recent third quarter earnings results reflect the momentum the company has in this regard. Out of the company's 15 primary brands, 14 grew revenue on a global basis in the quarter. 

The North Face, perhaps the company's most prestigious brand, is a perfect example of the innovative prowess that exists at VF Corp. Thermoball, a line of ultra-light, insulated wares, is the brand's most recent product introduction that offers something unique yet practical to consumers. The line is already exceeding management's own expectations and seems set to capitalize on impending cold weather and the holiday shopping season. 

To better connect with consumers, management has rolled out a new campaign called 'Never Stop Exploring.'

The campaign, in all of its various media forms including television, print, and digital, does a fantastic job of reinforcing the image of The North Face as a brand made with the adventurous in mind. Since the North Face is such a unique and powerful brand with very few direct competitors on a global scale, protecting its image is paramount.

Accordingly, VF Corp spent approximately $10 million to raise awareness for its brands in the third quarter and the company will spend another $30 million in the fourth quarter to further strengthen brand awareness.

Naturally, VF Corp's focus on innovation and customer engagement is translating into further success for its direct-to-consumer segment. Revenue growth for the direct-to-consumer business was up an impressive 14% in the third quarter, driven by strength in signature brands like The North Face and Nautica. CFO Robert Shearer explained:

We're adding more stores. Our profitability is improving, and the earnings per share contribution continues to grow substantially from this business. And we expect that momentum to continue with even greater growth and positive results from nearly every brand in our portfolio during the fourth quarter. 

Finally, VF Corp has big plans to expand across the world. One of the primary focuses is on the Asia Pacific region. At an investors conference in Shanghai last year, management unveiled plans to expand the company's business in Asia Pacific by $1.1 billion to reach $2 billion in revenue by 2017. This growth will be achieved by first capturing the large China market with VF Corp's five core retail brands. As the company gains a solid foothold in the region, it will then expand into neighboring territories and begin to offer more of its brands to the new markets. 

Still an Industry Leader
Although still in an early phase, VF Corp's aggressive five-year growth plan is clearly working so far. Revenue is projected to grow 8.4% in fiscal 2014, which is significantly better than 2013's expected final revenue growth rate of 5.5%. While EPS growth is expected to slow in 2014 to 12.6% from 2013's 13.7% rate, the growth is still very solid. 

For the most part, these estimates compare favorably to the expected growth rates of similarly positioned competitors like Phillips-Van Heusen (NYSE: PVH  ) , the company behind brands like Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, and Polo Ralph Lauren. The following is a breakdown of all three companies' projected growth rates for the next fiscal year: 

Company

PVH Corp

Ralph Lauren

VF Corp

Revenue Growth 2014

5.4%

7.5%

8.4%

EPS Growth 2014

16.9%

15.7%

12.6%

Despite VF Corp being the largest company out of the group, it is still projected to lead both PVH Corp and Ralph Lauren in revenue growth going forward. However, VF Corp's projected EPS growth is slightly lower than both listed competitors.

Additionally,VF Corp leads both competitors when it comes to dividends. In the last earnings call, management at the company announced yet another dividend increase, which incredibly marks the 41st consecutive year of dividend raises for VF Corp. The company now pays an annual dividend of $4.20, equal to a yield of 1.9%, which compares favorably to PVH Corp's yield of 0.10% and Ralph Lauren's yield of 1.00%.

Conclusion
Over the years, VF Corp has accomplished the rare feat of consistently growing revenue, EPS and dividends. This combination has made it one of the most dependable retail investments and all signs indicate that the success is poised to continue in the future.

With a solid track record of enhancing shareholder value and a viable plan for continued geographic expansion, VF Corp remains a great consideration for stable, long-term growth.

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