For the fashion-forward, name is everything. Whether it's Tiffany (NYSE:TIF), Dolce & Gabbana, or Christian Louboutin, it's the tag that's on display. Michael Kors (NYSE:KORS) knows that, and over the last decade, the company has been building a brand with the world's elite. From red carpets to the White House, Michael Kors' clothing and accessories are everywhere.
Investors have been in love with company since day one. Tremendous sales growth, strong margins, and a brand that doesn't seem to stop give Kors its wide competitive moat, and entice Wall Street with dreams of rich returns to go along with its rich apparel. In fact, Kors has done so well that it's now in danger of being its own worst enemy among investors.
Michael Kors is a fashion design firm and retailer named after the company's founding designer. Since going public at the end of 2011, the company has undergone massive growth, and the stock has followed right along. Like all luxury designers, Kors benefits from three major strengths: appeal, availability, and pricing power. It's a tidy little list for investors as well, and it means we can focus on same-store sales (appeal), store growth and inventory levels (availability), and margins (pricing power).
Kors generates revenue through three main channels: company run retail outlets, wholesale to other retailers, and licensing. Last year, the company earned 48% of its revenue from retail, 47% from wholesale, and only 5% from licensing. However, because of the low cost associated with licensing, it accounted for 16% of income.
In both its retail and licensing operations, Kors has benefited from America's gradual emergence from the ashes of the credit crisis. Studies have shown that financial crises and unemployment increases tend to affect the poor much more than the wealthy, in part because the wealthy rely less on credit access. That quick rebound means that companies like Kors and Coach (NYSE:COH) have been able to return to growth relatively quickly. As the crisis continues to ease for the upper-middle and middle classes, more and more consumers can turn to Kors to buy their aspirational goods.
If the company's same store sales figures show anything, they highlight the favor that's been heaped on Kors by the public. Last year, the company increased same store sales by 36%. But it seems capable of besting even that ridiculous speed. While the company won't report official results for its last quarter until November, it updated guidance in September. At the time of the announcement, same-store sales were up 45%.
The demand for the brand has allowed Kors to expand into joint ventures that have been excellent for it. The company booked $65.2 million in licensing revenue last year, which was up 43% from the year before. As the brand continues to gain broader appeal, that licensing figure should increase, and because of its almost nonexistent cost basis, it should help push up Kors margins -- more about those in a bit.
The company is using all that growth to fire more growth, and had increased its store count by 43% through the middle of the year. That doesn't include the 68 partner stores that the company jointly ran. Kors now has operations in the U.S., Canada, Europe, China, and Japan. The company's U.S. footprint consists of just over 200 stores, and CEO John Idol has announced plans to grow that number to 400.
Kors can be so bold because of the demand we've already looked at. Kors is part of a growing luxury goods industry that has taken America by storm. But some reports are forecasting a fall in worldwide demand, with Chinese customers pulling back, while Europeans continue to deal with a drawn-out recovery. Kors' expansion into Asia and Europe has been focused, and the majority of its locations are in the U.S., which should give it an advantage if consumers do pull back.
Any change in demand will highlight the need for inventory management, and at Kors, it has been excellent. One of the dilemmas that yoga designer lululemon (NASDAQ:LULU) faced early on was a supply shortage. While the shortage meant never having to put items on sale, the company also admitted that demand went unfulfilled, and resulted in lowered earnings. Kors hasn't had the same problem, keeping inventory in line with growth. In its most recent quarter, Kors' inventory had grown 60% compared to the previous year, and sales had grown 62%.
Finally, let's look at Kors' margins, which as much as anything, explain why investors are excited about this company. Last year, the company's operating margin was 19%, which lead to a net income margin of 11%. Because of the brand's strength, and the target consumers, Kors is able to simply name its price across the board, and people are buying it. This is a double win for Kors, because the strength of the brand means it can realize high margins on its own goods, and it can charge a premium for the use of the Kors name in licensing agreements.
The bottom line
Kors is making waves, no matter how you look at things, which is why the Motley Fool has published a premium report on the retailer. The article above is just a sample of that report, which includes all the details about the company, and which will be updated as new material becomes available. It's an invaluable resource to any Kors investor, and you can sign up for your copy today by clicking here.
Fool contributor Andrew Marder has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Coach and Tiffany & Co. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Coach and lululemon athletica. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.