A reasonable question for many footwear companies is whether they represent enduring fashion, or nothing more than a fad. Let's take a look at quarterly results from Crocs
Crocs loses its teeth
The big news from Crocs last week was that it did better than analysts expected with its first-quarter results, leading to a pop from its recent lows. (Of course, people were already aware Crocs' first quarter would be rough.) However, that's not to say the quarter wasn't downright toothless compared to last year's results.
Crocs reported a net loss of $4.5 million, or $0.05 per share, as the company took a charge related to the closure of its Canadian plant as it shifts manufacturing to lower-cost plants in other countries. At any rate, what a world of difference from last year's first-quarter profit of $24.9 million, or $0.31 per share. First-quarter revenue increased 39.8% to $198.5 million.
Meanwhile, gross profit dropped to 42.9% of sales, from 59.5% this time last year. Although the company did have heartening news about international sales -- European and Asian revenue increased 109.2% and 92.5%, respectively -- it wasn't enough to make up for sluggishness here in the U.S.
As has been the case for quite some time, Crocs' inventories continue to burgeon, having increased 181% from this time last year. That's better than the massive inventory buildup evident last fall, but heck, it's still outlandishly outpacing revenue growth. Accounts receivable also increased, up 58%, although that metric shows a marked improvement from last quarter.
Heelys keeps on rolling
Heelys continues to roll downhill, judging by its first-quarter results. The company reported a net loss of $1 million, or $0.04 per share, as compared to net income of $8.5 million, or $0.30 per share, this time last year. Revenue decreased a whopping 73.5% to $13.1 million. Once again, what a difference a year makes.
It wasn't exactly rocket science to theorize wheeled shoes could end up being a fad with kids. Crocs bulls can make an easier case for staying power. The company does have its proprietary Croslite material. And I've heard many make the case that as unattractive as some of us find these colorful shoes, they are comfortable and practical.
However, I'm not convinced that's enough. There are plenty of knock-offs on the market, trying to cash in on the popularity of the Crocs look. Skechers
Given the vulnerability of footwear stocks to consumers' fickle tastes, I'd rather take a look at companies like Timberland
Meanwhile, for the short term, investors considering the footwear niche should probably also weigh the currently weak economy and whether they should wait for cheaper opportunities for footwear stocks they're considering for the long term. Whether consumers will enthusiastically fill their closets with any type of fashionable footwear at the moment is a logical question to ask.
A walk on the wild side?
Shares of both Crocs and Heelys could be viewed as tremendously cheap right now. Heelys has a price-to-earnings ratio of just 5, but I wouldn't touch that one with a 10-foot pole, since I suspect kids are moving on. Crocs trades at six times earnings, a far, far cry from its heady multiples last year, and I can see the argument that maybe there's some money to be made from this level as investors have turned so negative. Then again, if the worst isn't over for Crocs, which is a real concern, well ... you know the drill, and it won't be pretty.
As someone who will forgo the pinched toes so often associated with "fashion," I think there are far more comfortable shoe stock ideas out there, with far less risk.
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