Many investors who have eyed Chico's
On Monday, Chico's made another move that should fit quite well into its strategy to provide comfy duds for affluent older female shoppers -- it announced that it's buying 12 of 14 Arizona-based Fitigues stores (one of which is an outlet) for an undisclosed sum.
Chico's said that the small retailer's strategy segues nicely into the concept it already has in White House/Black Market, which it acquired back in 2003, when Chico's consisted of just 107 stores. White House/Black Market sells only white and black apparel -- a concept I always thought quite brilliant -- and has what Chico's calls a luxury angle. (I'd call the angle a little formal, judging by the catalogs.) Chico's said that Fitigues targets the same demographic but offers "luxurious, comfortable clothing."
What this move boils down to is that Chico's is reaching out to more women by offering more goods to a younger crowd. I ran across data suggesting that the median age of customers of White House/Black Market is 42, as compared with a median of 54 at Chico's. However, according to Chico's latest annual filing, White House/Black Market seeks customers aged 25 and up, while Chico's targets women 35 and up. (Of course, retailers like Ann Taylor
Chico's has been expanding at a good pace over the years. It now boasts 501 Chico's stores (plus 31 outlets), 197 White House/Black Market shops (plus eight outlets), and 15 Soma by Chico's stores.
Although I think the name "Fitigues" is an odd one indeed, one can certainly see the logic behind the purchase -- again, it's not a huge departure from Chico's present strategy, and, with only 14 stores in existence, there's plenty of room for expansion. (It's interesting, of course, to note another retail acquisition story that's been on investors' minds lately -- the ongoing courtship of J. Jill
Here at the Fool, we have plenty of fans of Chico's stock -- read examples here and here -- and recently, we noticed that Chico's is actually high on the list of top performers over the past decade. (See the whole list here.) Of course, anybody who's been watching Chico's is aware that this is a stock known for being priced for perfection. (Right now it trades at a P/E of 43.) However, given that Chico's is not only in its element but is also expanding on its element by buying Fitigues, it seems to me that Chico's investors have little to fear from this move.
Chico's has been one of the impressive performers highlighted in Stocks 2004, our annual forecast of the best stocks to watch in the upcoming year. Stocks 2006, our latest edition, is available now.
Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.