Fashion can be a fickle and competitive business, but it can also be enormously profitable for well-managed companies positioned on the right side of the trend. Michael Kors (NYSE:KORS), Under Armour (NYSE:UAA), and Ross Stores (NASDAQ:ROST) are looking like good alternatives to dress up your portfolio for growing profits.
Michael Kors is in fashion
Michael Kors is one of the most successful growth stories in high-end fashion over the past few years. The company operates in the affordable luxury segment, selling handbags, shoes, watches, jewelry, and accessories through three different channels: retail stores, wholesale, and licensing agreements.
Business has been booming lately for this aspirational brand: Michael Kors has increased sales at an amazing 47.5% annually over the last five years, and earnings per share have increased at an even faster 51.1% per year over the same period. Even if the current economic environment is being tough on most fashion retailers, Michael Kors remains hotter than ever.
On Wednesday the company delivered a blowout earnings report with revenues growing by 38.9% and earnings per share increasing by a whopping 44.9% to $0.71 per share versus $0.68 per share estimated on average by Wall Street analysts.
Performance was strong across the board: Retail net sales jumped 46.8% driven by a 22.9% increase in comparable store sales and 83 net new store openings in the quarter. Wholesale net sales increased 29.9% to $351.9 million and licensing revenue grew by 65.4% to $32.9 million.
Management also raised guidance for the rest of the year due to strong demand and abundant growth opportunities. The company plans to open approximately 100 retail locations in fiscal 2014, including 54 in North America, 40 in Europe, and six in Japan. The way things are going, Kors has plenty of room for expansion, both in the U.S. and on a global basis.
Under Armour: Running forward
Under Armour is focused on high-performance athletic apparel, and it has a strong culture of innovation when it comes to aspects like technology, materials, and designs. Products are designed to be light and breathable, and to provide moisture management: a signature innovation and differentiating aspect for Under Armour.
The company has delivered sales growth of 24.8% per year over the last five years, and earnings per share have compounded at 18.44% annually over that period. Performance remains strong as of the last quarter: Third-quarter revenue increased by 26% and earnings per share grew by the same percentage to $0.68 versus analysts' estimate of $0.66 for the quarter.
Management also raised guidance for the rest of the year: The company expects 2013 revenues of approximately $2.26 billion, representing growth of 23% over 2012, and 2013 operating income of approximately $260 million, an increase of 25% over 2012.
Under Armour aims to sustain annual sales growth of at least 20% over the next year, and founder and CEO Kevin Plank believes Under Armour will become a $10 billion brand in the future. Growth plans may seem aggressive, but I wouldn't bet against a company with such an amazing track record and a proven management team.
Ross Stores for bargain hunters
The consumer landscape has been changing over the last several years. Many shoppers are willing to trade customer service and an expensive store design for 20% to 60% discounts on the same brand-name merchandise, and Ross Stores is one of the major beneficiaries from the rise of the price-conscious consumer.
Ross Dress for Less is the largest off-price apparel and home fashion chain in the U.S., with 1,131 stores, and the company also operates 122 dd's Discounts stores targeting a typically younger customer with more moderate income levels than Ross. Scale is a big advantage for Ross Stores when it comes to purchasing inventory at opportunistic prices and distributing the right merchandise to the right store at the right time in a cost-efficient way.
Sales have grown at 10.2% annually in the last five years, and earnings per share increased at an impressive 30% annually during that period. Ross Stores reported better than expected earnings in August with net sales rising 9% during the quarter and earnings per share surging 21% to $0.98 versus an average estimate of $0.93 per share by Wall Street analysts; comparable-store sales remained strong in the quarter with an increase of 4% versus the previous year.
Management took the conservative path by reaffirming guidance in spite of better than expected performance due to a weak promotional environment, but the company is on track to continue growing in the medium term. Ross Stores plans to open 33 new stores during the next year, including 24 Ross Dress for Less and nine dd's Discounts, and this smart retailer looks well positioned to continue benefiting from changing consumer habits over years to come.
Michael Kors, Under Armour, and Ross Stores are very different companies targeting dissimilar customers with their own differentiated models. However, the three have something in common: delivering what their customers want and translating sales into growing profits for shareholders.
Fool contributor Andrés Cardenal owns shares of Michael Kors. The Motley Fool recommends Under Armour. The Motley Fool owns shares of Under Armour. 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.