The stock market is in full panic mode, and fear is spreading that the U.S., along with much of Europe, may be heading into another recession. Despite these fears, one sector is cranking out a record volume of product -- the Swiss watchmaking industry.
Whether you wear something as simple as a Timex or you're sporting a Rolex, chances are you've contributed to the watch revival that began two years ago. Through the first six months of 2009, Swiss watch companies exported 11.7 million watches and movements. This figure has ballooned to 17.1 million through the first six months of 2011 -- a record.
More impressively, all watch companies are feeling the benefits. High-end Swiss watch company Richemont Group noted a 33% jump in sales and a 79% rise in profit in its latest annual report. Likewise, LVMH (OTC: LVMUY) reported a 28% rise in sales in its luxury watch segment in the first quarter. Even a move lower on the luxury scale to Movado (NYSE: MOV ) proved successful. The company surprised analysts last quarter by recording a 23% jump in sales and reversing a year-ago operating loss. If you recall, these stronger results also helped Movado to recently reinstate its quarterly dividend.
So I'm shocked that investors took yesterday's news from Fossil (Nasdaq: FOSL ) as a reason to dump the stock en masse. Fossil manufacturers and sells fashion watches worldwide. Though it's not based in Switzerland, nor churning out anywhere near the same quality watch as you get from a high-end company, Fossil has benefited from riding the coattails of these aforementioned growth stories.
Yesterday morning, Fossil reported a 35% rise in revenue to $556.7 million, and a profit of $0.80 per share. This compared with consensus expectations for a profit of $0.75 on revenue of $536.1 million. What really caused the company to tumble as much as 26% intraday was its third-quarter guidance, which signaled that rising costs and a higher effective tax rate were going to take a link or two out of its bottom line. The company forecast third-quarter EPS of $1.00-$1.03 and gross margins of approximately 55%, well below the 57% it reported a year ago. But not all hope is lost.
Fossil looks poised to benefit from a continually weakening U.S. dollar. Fossil's worldwide same-store sales ticked up by 22% during the second quarter, and the company was able to add $26.9 million in revenue thanks to a weaker dollar. While it's hard to say whether the dollar will continue to boost Fossil's figures, it's very hard to find a near-term catalyst that gives me confidence that the dollar is headed higher. So for now, we roll with this trend.
Fossil has also invested more than $343 million in its stock-repurchase program since the second quarter of 2010. By taking 5.2 million shares off the market, Fossil is setting itself up for easier earnings comparisons since fewer shares are outstanding. It also demonstrates to shareholders that Fossil believes its stock is a compelling value at current levels -- and I have to agree.
Time will tell
Now trading at just 15 times 2012 earnings and with gross margin rates that are still well above its decade-long average of 50%-52%, I feel you have to give Fossil a long look here. Fossil has turned a profit in every year for the past decade (despite two recessions), and has actually managed to lower its costs extensively over that time. It makes for a compelling long-term buy and hold -- but only time will tell if I'm right.
What's your take on Fossil? Buy, hold, or sell? Share your thoughts in the comments section below and consider adding Fossil to your watchlist.