Anybody following Talbots
Talbots' press release touted its hiring an unnamed "leading global consulting firm" whose review will be completed by first quarter of fiscal 2008. New CEO Trudy Sullivan said, "Talbots remains a strong brand that resonates powerfully with our customers, and the insights derived from these efforts will help us to build on that strength to keep our brand relevant, fresh, and consistent." Call me a cynic, but given the company's many troubles, that sounds like wishful thinking.
With the exception of fiscal 2006, when Talbots barely squeezed out a profit (earnings per share increased 1.6%), it has reported decreasing earnings since fiscal 2004. Last year, earnings fell 65.7%.
Talbots acquired J. Jill several years ago, and shareholders have yet to see much benefit from that move -- unless you count a debt-ridden balance sheet. Interestingly, when J. Jill was on the block, Liz Claiborne
Improving Talbots' brand strategy certainly would be helpful. After all, many companies are targeting an older female demographic, including Chico's
Last quarter, Talbots showed little sign of improvement, with comps down for both its namesake and J. Jill concepts, and inventories increasing faster than sales. A reassessment of brand strategies is certainly in order, but there's plenty of other work to do, too.
Investors often seem tempted into thinking that Talbots is a beaten-up stock with turnaround potential -- yet it never really looks reasonable to me. Even with a recent downtrend in its shares, its PEG ratio of 5.09 boggles the mind. Good luck to Talbots, and to its increasingly tenacious shareholders. I'll keep sitting this one out.
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