Wrangler and Lee jeans manufacturer VF Corp.
VF is the world's largest apparel company, including in its stable of brands names such as JanSport, The North Face, Riders, Vanity Fair, Eastpak, Lily of France, and more. It was on the strength of the brands acquired only within the last year -- in particular Nautica, Vans, and Kipling -- that it was able to boost earnings by 20 percent in the second quarter. Nautica Enterprises alone brought in $115 million of the company's $1.3 billion in revenues.
The company has been concentrating its acquisitions in three areas: outdoor apparel, intimate wear, and jeans. Except for the jeans segment, which recorded a 6% decline in sales, the branded-apparel company seems to have had the right idea. Outdoor apparel, which includes The North Face, Vans, and JanSport, saw sales jump 21% while global intimate apparel sales were up 12%. This resulted in VF beating analyst estimates by $0.05 a share, a trend even fashionistas could appreciate after its first-quarter results.
VF is looking to jeans to help propel it forward in the third and fourth quarters. The U.S. jean market is a $12 billion industry with an estimated 450 million pairs of jeans purchased every year. Prices have steadily declined as manufacturing has moved almost entirely overseas, lowering costs. Yet it's a cyclical business that rises and falls on the whims of consumer tastes and styles, and it competes with other casual wear. Jeans are still VF's bread and butter, accounting for 46% of sales, along with intimate apparel, where it competes with the likes of Sara Lee
Chairman and CEO Mackey McDonald is keeping his powder dry while on the lookout for more acquisitions. While noting that he has looked at privately held Levi Strauss and its Dockers in the past -- the latter might be a natural since VF's jeans and Dockers are often displayed together at retail stores -- he says they are no longer at the top of his list. His primary targets are said to be "lifestyle brands," which could be just about anything.
On the strength of an improving jeans industry, of which it claims a 20% market share in the U.S. over competitors such as Warnaco Group
Fool contributor Rich Duprey thinks he still looks stylish in his Jordache jeans. He does not own any of the stocks mentioned in this article.