Companies with powerful brands targeting the high end of the pricing spectrum usually benefit from above-average profitability, and this is reflected on superior returns for investors over time. Businesses such as Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Tiffany (NYSE:TIF), and Michael Kors (NYSE:KORS) are delivering distinguished financial performance while providing the right products to their affluent clienteles.
The tasty Apple
When it comes to analyzing Apple and its new products, Wall Street analysts usually make the simplistic mistake of focusing too much on cold, hard, measurable variables, typically comparing tech specifications for Apple devices versus those of the competition. However, there is much more to customers' purchasing decisions than a straightforward comparison of product prices and variables such as memory or screen size.
Apple owns the most valuable brand in the world, according to Forbes, and this certainly matters to consumers. Design, user experience, and cultural footprint are factors that can be hard to measure and compare with precision; however, they can be crucial when it comes to competing in the global markets.
Thanks to its brand power and loyal customer base, Apple gets to charge higher prices than most competitors for its products, and this gets translated into big profitability for investors. Apple generates an operating margin in the area of 29% of sales, materially higher than the industry average of less than 19% based on data from Morningstar.
Apple has recently announced that it has received massive preorders for its new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus devices, exceeding the four million units during the first 24 hours, a new record for Apple. To put these numbers in perspective, preorders for the iPhone 5 in 2012 were in the area of two million during the first 24 hours, and that was considered healthy demand at the time.
The company is venturing into new products and services with Apple Watch and Apple Pay. Although it's far too early to tell for certain how these innovations will resonate among consumers, the possibilities are clearly exciting coming from a company with such an extraordinary track record of success.
Tiffany is sparkling
When it comes to competitive strength in the jewelry business, Tiffany is second to none. Brand differentiation, exclusive designs, and high-quality retail locations allow Tiffany to demand a considerable pricing premium for the products inside the iconic blue box, and this is a considerable advantage for investors the company in terms of profit margins and overall financial performance.
Tiffany delivered impressive financial performance during the last quarter: Both sales and earnings came in above Wall Street expectations, and management raised guidance for the rest of the year. Demand remains remarkably strong in mature markets such as the Americas, where sales increased 9% during the quarter. Besides, the company is increasingly becoming a global growth play, and as a result of capitalizing on opportunities for expansion in the Asia-Pacific region, sales in that market jumped 14% during the quarter ending on July 31.
Tiffany is not just generating exciting sales growth, but profit margins are also expanding on the back of strong pricing and cost discipline. Gross profit margin was at 59.9% of sales during the quarter, higher than the 57.5% the company delivered in the same quarter of 2013.
According to management, Tiffany increased prices across all product categories and regions. Pricing power is a big plus when evaluating a company's competitive differentiation and its ability to sustain growth in the long term, so Tiffany looks well positioned to continue sparkling around the world.
Michael Kors is on the right side of the trend
Fashion can be a fickle and aggressively competitive business, but it can also be enormously lucrative for companies delivering the right merchandise to fashion-conscious consumers willing to spend big sums of money for trendy handbags and accessories. Michael Kors is one of the hottest names in the industry, and the company is clearly firing on all cylinders from a financial point of view.
Michael Kors has increased sales at a mind-blowing rate of 52.8% annually over the last five years. Even if growth will understandably slow down as the company becomes bigger and the business matures over time, Michel Kors remains as fashionable as it gets.
The company announced a whopping sales increase of 43.4% to $919.2 million during the quarter ending on June 28. Retail sales grew 47.5% to $480.2 million, fueled by a 24.2% increase in comparable-store sales and 115 net new store openings. Wholesale sales increased 40% to $406.8 million, and licensing revenue grew 30.5% to $32.1 million during the quarter.
Opportunities for global expansion look particularly exciting for Michael Kors; the company is rapidly expanding in Europe, where sales increased 128% during the last quarter. Japan looks like another promising opportunity for growth; sales in the Land of the Rising Sun grew 89% during the last quarter.
The high end of the pricing spectrum can be an especially profitable segment for the companies that know how to serve their affluent customer base. Apple, Tiffany, and Michael Kors are generating classy performance on the back of product differentiation and strong pricing power.
Andrés Cardenal owns shares of Apple and Michael Kors Holdings. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Michael Kors Holdings. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Michael Kors Holdings. 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.