Liz Claiborne's Still Out of Season

Liz Claiborne (NYSE: LIZ  ) means beauty and fashion to me. These days, however, the name is neither beautiful nor fashionable to Wall Street investors.

The company's latest earnings report shows just what I mean. Net sales for the second quarter were flat at $1.1 billion. GAAP earnings were $0.13 per diluted share, a 66% decline. Adjusting the earnings for streamlining initiatives gives a diluted earnings number of $0.26 per share, making the decline a more shallow 42%.

The company couldn't hide from margin deterioration. In gross, operating, and net margin alike, Liz Claiborne's ability to turn a maximum amount of sales into profits dwindled.

Liz Claiborne is in a competitive business; identifying and leveraging fashion trends isn't the simplest task. Right now, the company needs to juice its top line. As it is, guidance calls for continued flatness in net sales for the year. With abundant choices to tempt shoppers, including Jones Apparel Group (NYSE: JNY  ) , Ralph Lauren (NYSE: RL  ) , and Guess? (NYSE: GES  ) , it'll be tough for Liz to revive its sales.

There's been some bad mojo surrounding Liz Claiborne lately. Seth Jayson talked about the company's sorry earnings report in May, and David Meier composed an essay arguing that Liz Claiborne might be better off out of the public eye, noting its rising expenses. From the latest 10-K, I see that operating cash flow has been declining the last few years. That gives me little confidence in the company right now.

Liz Claiborne expects somewhere between $1.90 and $2.00 in adjusted earnings per share for the year. Given the current stock price, this would make the valuation seem cheap. And the fact that the stock is near a 52-week low also might imply something of a bargain situation.

At least for the time being, however, I don't find Liz Claiborne's stock appealing. If the top line started to move in a better direction, I'd be prompted to take another look. Turnaround situations can be exciting, and Liz Claiborne is indeed trying to improve the effectiveness of its portfolio by ditching some brands. Nevertheless, I think there are better alternatives out there for an investor's capital.

More fashionable Foolish coverage of Liz Claiborne:

Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns none of the companies mentioned. As of this writing, he was ranked 8,879 out of more than 60,000 investors in the Motley Fool CAPS system. Don't know what CAPS is? Check it out. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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