Is This Just Another Overreaction in Apparel?

Apparel companies have been slammed of late, with a changing of consumer preference and one of the worst winters we've seen in years acting as catalysts. But the likes of VF  (NYSE: VFC  )  is performing well given its The North Face and Timberland brands, which perform well in cold weather.

Yet, the likes of PVH (NYSE: PVH  ) is struggling. Shares are down 12% year to date, which comes after the apparel company fell 8% in a day on a weaker-than- expected earnings announcement.

Has the market overreacted on PVH, which has two of the most recognized brands in apparel, Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger? Last quarter, sales of Tommy Hilfiger were up 6% year over year and rose 4% at Calvin Klein.

Digging into PVH's weakness
PVH's numbers were light due to a promotional environment. The pressure from high promotions is expected to spill over into its fiscal second quarter. Shares tumbled as much as 6.5% in a single day on the news.  

The company cut guidance and missed first-quarter earnings estimates. PVH blamed the downward guidance on the promotional activity across North America, which is pressuring margins.

However, PVH does have two of the world's leading brands in Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger. These two brands offer products across a range of apparel categories. They also have international recognition.

One positive is that with the Warnaco acquisition, PVH brought all of the Calvin Klein apparel under its umbrella. By buying up Warnaco a couple of years ago, PVH added Calvin Klein Jeanswear and Underwear to its portfolio. It's still building out the infrastructure there to streamline the distribution of the Calvin Klein line.

How other parts of apparel are doing
VF has held up fairly well given its winter products. The North Face and Timberland products tend to perform very well when the weather is cold. VF has a strong presence in international markets, and it's also increasing its direct-to- consumer business. VF plans to derive 45% of its revenue from international markets by 2017.

Ralph Lauren (NYSE: RL  ) is a little higher-end apparel company. Part of Ralph Lauren's latest initiative is to focus on the women's business. Ultimately, the company plans on having the women's business account for half of revenue. Women's currently accounts for about 40% of total revenue, with men's making up the other 60%.

While PVH missed earnings estimates in its latest quarter, both VF and Ralph Lauren actually beat earnings estimates. Shares of VF and Ralph Lauren are both up over the last month; meanwhile, PVH is down close to 10%.

How shares stack up
PVH trades at a P/E ratio of 13.6 based on next year's earnings. That's the cheapest among the three. Ralph Lauren trades at a forward P/E ratio of 15.5, and VF's is 18.1. However, PVH might be cheap for a reason. PVH has the lowest return on equity, lowest operating margin, and highest debt load.

PVH has a return on equity of only 3.4% compared to Ralph Lauren's 19.6% and VF's 21.6%. PVH also trades at a debt-to-equity ratio of 92%, while both Ralph Lauren and VF's are less than 30%. The other thing is that PVH's dividend yield is a mere 0.1%. Both Ralph Lauren and VF offer yields above 1%.

Bottom line
The apparel industry has been a tough one to own over the last few years, but it appears the winter weather helped boost some companies, such as VF, while high-end retailers also continue to perform well, including Ralph Lauren. PVH is caught somewhere in the middle, where its performance just isn't on par with the industry. This means it'll continue to trade at a discount to peers. For investors looking for a solid play in the apparel industry, there are better options than PVH.

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