On the whole, though, retail, with depressing same-store sales numbers and down market prospects, hasn't been the spot for investors. Back in January, I took a look at retailers and restaurants with elevated bankruptcy potential. Since then, Eddie Bauer has taken the plunge, purchased by private-equity firm Golden Gate Capital after it filed for bankruptcy in June.
Our other two bankruptcy prospects -- Stein Mart
Is cheap fashion en vogue?
For months, Stein Mart has delivered a new message to consumers: Buy our "upscale" clothing at value prices. While comps haven't turned positive yet, 2009 year-to-date same-store sales of -6.5% are improved from last year's drop of -10.9%.
Back in January, Stein Mart served up a quick ratio of 0.50, debt-to-equity ratio of 0.42, and very weak free cash flow. However, Stein Mart aggressively cut sales, general, and administrative costs to help pay down all of its outstanding debt. The company's quick ratio has dropped to 0.3 -- it also used a bunch of cash to pay off that debt -- but its current ratio of 1.9 is decent considering the current environment.
Stein Mart's stock price has increased some 750% in the past six months, increasing from the dollar menu to over $10, and is almost at its 52-week high. Fool CAPS members have ranked Stein Mart as a one-star investment, and I have to say that I agree. Stein Mart's prospects haven't been favorable for some time now, and while slashing costs and paying down debt is good, I'm just not sure how Stein Mart's "upscale" but discounted product line-up will fare for long-term growth.
Key competitor Chico's FAS
Caribou moves into the black
Back when I looked at Caribou Coffee in early January, it had delivered only one profitable quarter in five years, so there's little wonder that its stock lingered at dollar-menu prices through the beginning of the year. Investors were served up a round of hope as Caribou brewed up $0.02 in earnings per share for its last quarter, driven primarily by drastic cost reductions. General and administrative expenses alone were slashed by 11%.
The bad news is that Caribou's core business, sales in coffeehouses, was down by 6.6%, and although this was somewhat attributable to fewer coffeehouses open this year compared to last, same-store sales were also down 5%. The profit picture exactly mirrors the earnings reported last week by Starbucks
Caribou is holding no long-term debt, which certainly puts it a step ahead of others in today's economic environment. And if Starbucks isn't growing sales right now, it's understandable that Caribou wouldn't either. But with the economy being where it is, and folks learning that they can live without coffeehouse brew, it's understandable that the Fool community would give this stock a one-star rating based on future prospects.
Who's in trouble now?
Retail and consumer products companies aren't out of the woods. Look at troubled drugstore giant Rite Aid
At a current share price of $3.16, Liz Claiborne
Both companies' gloomy revenue and debt picture place them as less than savory investments for the near term.
For related Foolishness:
Fool contributor Colleen Paulson does not hold positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this article and is personally glad that Heelys aren't in style anymore. The Fool's disclosure policy says if it ain't broke, don't fix it.