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Great Reasons to Buy Fifth and Pacific

By Andrew Marder - Apr 3, 2013 at 10:53AM

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The company has excellent brands and excellent plans. What's not to like?

In a moment of public reflection last month, Fifth and Pacific (KATE) highlighted what it called its "dark days" in a presentation to investors. Those days were back in the mid-2000s, when the Kate Spade brand "fell asleep." But the company insisted that the brand has been reawakened, and that it now constitutes one of the most powerful growth drivers of Fifth's portfolio of brands. With strong growth last year and a clear plan for 2013, that's an argument that's hard to ignore. Here are a few reasons to consider adding Fifth to your portfolio, and one danger to watch out for.

Making the most of trends
Kate Spade is the company's largest branded segment. The brand accounted for 25% of revenue last quarter, with Lucky Brand jeans making up 15%, and Juicy Couture adding 8%. The other 31% came from Adelington Design Group. Unless you're an investor in Fifth, it's unlikely that you've come across that name. The division makes all the accessories that Fifth sells through JCPenney, Kohl's, and other outlets. It also makes the company's previously eponymous Liz Claiborne-branded merchandise.

Kate Spade is sitting at the top of the trend heap right now, next to Michael Kors (CPRI 0.35%). The brands are like co-captains in the handbag brigade. Kors is leading the high-end, serious side, with comparable sales up 41% last quarter and its name on everyone's lips. But Kors doesn't have a hold on the lighter, brighter side like Kate Spade does. The 27% growth from the line shows just how much people like these bags, and Kors' strength isn't going to hurt that growth at Kate Spade.

All of the company's brands have one thing in common -- they're able to chase and create trends. Kate Spade is the current leader in that category, as evidenced by the brand's 27% increase in comparable direct-to-customer sales last quarter. The laggard is Juicy, which had its day in the sun a few years ago and is currently struggling to stay relevant.

The Juicy problem
Juicy is the one dark spot on an otherwise bright company. Last quarter Juicy's EBITDA shrank like Honey's kids, down to 7.8% from 19% a year ago. Management knows that there's a problem, and on the last earnings call said that the solution is to refocus the brand. The hope is that Juicy can get a boost from its e-commerce distribution channel, which has shown some strength. Then, over time, Fifth will rebound just like the company's other brands have.

With good reason to believe management has a handle on the issue -- given the track record with Kate Spade and Lucky -- I see no reason not to like Fifth and Pacific. The company has a strong mix of brands and a great plan for growth in place. It's a clear winner in my book.

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