Investors haven't really been too high on the retailer lately, and here's another blow: A Friedman Billings Ramsay analyst downgraded the stock and cut its price target today, and the stock fell yet again.
bebe is no stranger to rollercoaster rides. When I reviewed its performance over 2006, I noted that this type of bipolar behavior isn't exactly the exception to the rule. However, lately the retailer seems to have gotten off target with its merchandise. The merchandise mix is exactly why the Friedman Billings analyst downgraded the stock -- she said the clothes are too mature at the moment, and there aren't enough casual duds in bebe's stores.
Here at the Fool, we don't give analysts too much clout. (And keep in mind that, in May, bebe rose because an analyst at a different firm upgraded the stock.) Then again, it wouldn't be wise to dismiss their opinions out of hand -- it's good to consider what analysts are saying, whether they have a good point or whether they simply reflect current negative psychology on stocks that may be unwarranted for investors who have a long-term view.
Of course, merchandise issues at bebe have been an issue here lately -- this is nothing new. Over the last several months, it's been clear that bebe had meandered away from its reputation as a purveyor of apparel with a sexy flair. I was uneasy back in December when I realized key employee (and former merchandise head) Neda Mashouf had left the company (and given the fact that she and founder Manny Mashouf were in the midst of a divorce, there were obviously distractions at the top). Judging by the ensuing months, it seems as if it's probably not a coincidence that the company's wares have veered off course.
It seems as though bebe has definitely lost its way a little bit, as evidenced by its falling stock price. But it isn't as if something like this is an exception to the rule; specialty retailers do have turbulent periods. Urban Outfitters
bebe has traditionally been a well-run company, with plenty of cash on the balance sheet and reason to believe there's solid growth yet to come, with less than 300 total stores. (Tom Gardner recommended bebe for Motley Fool Stock Advisor in February 2006, and despite its recent hardships, the stock has still appreciated by 15.4%. For his most recent thinking on bebe, take a 30-day free trial to the service, where he recently completed a six-month review of all recommendations on his side of the scorecard.)
It's true that bebe needs to get its merchandise back on track. (And it certainly might be a good lesson in how deviating from a specific brand strategy can turn off your customers, too.) However, investors should always bear in mind that situations like this one are often temporary, especially in the fickle world of retail. For investors who believe bebe's long-term thesis is still intact and it can get its "sexy" back, the shares become more of a bargain all the time, especially given reiterations of already existing pessimism.
It's been an up-and-down year for bebe:
- Revisit recent tidings about the retailer.
- Broken hearts at bebe. Ouch.
- We reviewed all of 2006 for bebe.
bebe is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Take a free trial to see all the stocks David and Tom Gardner have recommended to subscribers.