Here at The Motley Fool, we understand that you don't have the time to constantly check in on the companies that make up your portfolio. But you probably still want to hear what management's up to. In "Fool on the Street," we sit in on calls and pore through transcripts to bring you the choicest news from corporate conferences.
Last week, at the CIBC World Markets Seventh Annual Growth Conference, Children's Place
A Disney emporium
Children's Place manufactures and sells Disney products through 328 Disney Stores in the U.S. and Canada. It's the only outlet outside Disney's theme parks able to offer the full range of Disney merchandise, giving it a distinct advantage over the competition. The Disney brand helps Children's Place generate sales across a broad spectrum of products. It generates roughly 60% of sales from core characters such as Mickey Mouse, 30% from recent movies like Cars, and 10% from new releases such as Ratatouille. The newer properties help keep the stores' offerings fresh, while the classic characters provide a stable core of sales.
A month to forget
As the Fool recently discussed, June went poorly for Children's Place. Comps nosedived, and the company predicted huge second-quarter losses. These struggles may have seemed sudden, but management said they were actually a long time in the making. Even more surprisingly, changes the company hoped would improve its performance actually led to those disastrous results.
According to management, June's dismal performance actually began last December, because Children's Place does its purchasing long before it actually sells its products. While this allows the company to source goods more cheaply than competitors, it also makes timely adjustments to merchandise far more difficult. Although Children's Place realized its new assortments weren't appealing to customers, it was mostly stuck with those designs for several months.
An updated delivery schedule was Children's Place's first mistake. Instead of adding a smattering of new goods to its stores every week, as it did last year, it decided to present new product on June 26 and July 17. This meant that management relied too heavily on shoppers making larger purchases, which proved more elusive than executives had expected.
In a second misstep, the company abandoned last year's winning promotional strategy. It had succeeded with shallow price cuts, followed by an additional 30% discount at the front door. The company didn't realize the value of that approach until it was abandoned.
The company's final mistake lay in starting its sales a week later than last year. This cost Children's Pace a significant amount of volume in the first part of June. Management never really explained why it made these changes, but obviously, none of them succeeded. We'll have to wait and see whether Children's Place has truly learned its lessons here.
Of course, the company's woes aren't entirely its own fault. Management noted that overall mall traffic has declined -- a point I think could have gone unsaid. After all, rival Gymboree
In addition to reinstating previously successful strategies, Children's Place is also developing new approaches to recover from its recent missteps. At Disney stores, it plans to exercise its brand power, luring in shoppers with toys and other products unavailable to mass retailers such as Wal-Mart
The bulk of its changes, however, seem centered on footwear. The company's adding shoe stores within its Children's Place locations. It hopes to take advantage of the 40% compounded growth in shoe sales over the past few years, transforming shoes from an accessory offering to a full-scale business.
The Foolish bottom line
Despite its recent struggles, management remains confident about its long-term prospects. But I'm not sure it's doing enough to regain its success in the near future. The past year's changes have flopped hugely, leaving Children's Place right back where it was a year ago. That's not necessarily a bad thing, except for the valuable time and effort the company expended in going nowhere. Meanwhile, its competition continues to implement successful strategy modifications, gaining greater market share.
Furthermore, I don't consider broader shoe offerings and redesigned store layouts brilliant strategies to encourage a quick turnaround. To succeed in the long run, Children's Place must consistently improve its product offerings, set appropriate prices, and ensure it can quickly adjust its lineup to meet customer demand. If it can reach these goals, Children's Place may once again be a great place for customers and investors. However, I doubt its current plans will take it in the right direction.
Further perfectly placed Foolishness:
- Fool on the Street: Gymboree Brands Growth
- Nobody's Home at Children's Place
- Children's Place Feels the Magic