The consumer finally appears to be bouncing back. With higher employment levels and lower gas prices at the pump, consumers have more income to spend at their favorite retail locations today. The consumer cyclical sector is up more than 11% year to date. If this momentum continues, it could help fuel a rebound in beaten-down consumer goods stocks. Below, five Motley Fool contributors explain why Michael Kors (NYSE:KORS), Viacom (NASDAQ:VIA), Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO), Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ:WFM), and Coach (NYSE:COH) are five consumer-friendly stocks that should climb higher in the quarters ahead.
Bob Ciura: It's been a terrible year for fashion apparel company Michael Kors Holdings. Based on its August 7 closing price, the stock had lost approximately 41% of its value just since the beginning of the year. Investors bailed out of the stock because of concerns over intensifying competition and the corresponding effect on the company's growth.
Fashion apparel is a highly competitive industry, where brand recognition is hugely important. As competition from the likes of Kate Spade and others heated up this year, Michael Kors had to resort to discounting to keep moving product. This had a significantly negative effect on margins, which is why investors fled the stock.
Indeed, Michael Kors' gross margin declined to 61.2% last quarter, down a full percentage point from the prior-year quarter. And comparable-store sales declined 5% year over year. But on an absolute basis, the company is still growing at solid rates. Last quarter, total revenue excluding currency effects rose 13%, driven by strength in North America, where currency-neutral sales rose 16%. Michael Kors' overall growth is driven by aggressive new store openings. At the end of last quarter, it operated 550 retail stores, up from 443 stores at this point last year.
Though shareholders are concerned that Michael Kors stock is now so cheap, the company remains highly profitable. Shares of Michael Kors trade at just 10 times earnings, which is why this stock still has a place in my portfolio.
Tim Beyers: Sometimes, a rising tide doesn't lift all boats. Sometimes, boats caught in the big waves take on too much water and sink.
In the media and entertainment business, Viacom has been that kind of unfortunate vessel. The stock is down over 42% year to date despite benefiting from what seems to be an improved set of franchises and a sustainable 3.7% dividend yield.
Let's tackle the latter first. According to S&P Capital IQ, Viacom produces well over $2 billion in annual cash from operations. Subtract about $130 million for capital expenditures and another $550 million to pay dividends and you've still got plenty of cash left over for acquisitions, programming investments, and the like.
CEO Philippe Dauman is planning to put a lot of it to use. On MTV alone, original programming includes a serialized adaptation of the Scream film series and at least one more season of Teen Wolf. (Season 5 kicked off on June 29.) On film, the latest installment of the Mission: Impossible film series -- Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation -- had earned $373.6 million worldwide and $138.3 million domestically through its first 17 days in theaters. According to Box Office Mojo, only Mission: Impossible II has done better, and that film went on to earn $546.4 million worldwide and $215.4 million at U.S. theaters.
Finally, I should point out that Viacom has one of the most reasonable valuations in the business. At just 7.3 times esrimated earnings for the next 12 months, Viacom is easily the cheapest of the entertainment stocks tracked by S&P Capital IQ. (The industry median was 18.4 as of this writing.) Accordingly, I'ven taken a long position in my CAPS portfolio.
Asit Sharma: I believe the definition of "beaten down" can change depending on whether you're holding a particular stock or not. Those who bought Coca-Cola, say, three years ago today, have seen their stock appreciate by less than 4% in the trailing 36 months. That's about 1/9th of S&P 500 Index's gain of nearly 47% over the same period.
That Coke is struggling with consumers' distaste for sweetened carbonated beverages is no longer in question, but I like the company's strategy in dealing with the problem. Essentially, Coke is using both its balance sheet resources and its tremendous operating cash flow to make investments in privately held brands that can complement its portfolio in rising categories such as bottled water and juices.
This week, Coke announced that it had acquired a minority stake in organic juice maker Suja, LLC. The Wall Street Journal reported that in addition to equity, Coke has acquired an option to purchase the rest of the company within three years. This transaction represents the beverage giant's brand acquisition strategy quite nicely. Suja's annual revenues are estimated at $40 million, and Coca-Cola should easily be able to scale revenues past the $100 million mark in a few years, as it has done with Honest Tea and other brands that resonate with health-conscious consumers.
Coke has also made investments in Keurig Green Mountain and Monster Beverage Corporation. These are larger deals that will likely take some time to realize their respective potentials. Overall, though, I believe Coca-Cola's diversification beyond its flagship brands will eventually reward those shareholders who decide to stick around.
Joe Tenebruso: Whole Foods has long held a reputation for being a high-priced grocer and an expensive stock, but both of those descriptions are now far less accurate. The natural and organic foods grocer is attempting to shed its "whole paycheck" moniker by lowering prices and adding more value-priced goods to its shelves. That's dented gross margin, which, when combined with slowing same-store sales growth, has led many investors to head for the checkout aisle -- Whole Foods stock is now down about 40% from its 52-week highs and trading near multi-year lows.
However, the Whole Foods growth story is far from over. It remains a leader in natural and organic foods, sales of which continue to grow faster than overall grocery sales. And with 426 stores today, it is also only about a third of the way toward reaching management's long-term goal of expanding to 1,200 locations. In addition, Whole Foods' leadership recently unveiled plans to launch a new smaller-footprint format, called 365 by Whole Foods Market, which could present an entirely new growth driver if the concept proves successful.
With so much growth still to come and much of the margin and same-store sales concerns now reflected in its stock price, investors might want to consider nibbling on some shares of Whole Foods.
Tamara Walsh: Shares of the leather goods and accessories maker are down nearly 11% so far this year. Yet the stock looks reasonably priced, with shares now trading around $33 apiece, near the low end of its 52-week range. Sure, Coach suffered an identity crisis in years past as it transitioned to a "lifestyle" brand to better compete with rival Michael Kors. However, these days, the luxury retailer's turnaround efforts are showing promising signs of a recovery.
Sales in Coach's fiscal 2015 fourth quarter were still down year over year, though less than Wall Street had expected. The retailer reported a profit of $0.31 per share in the quarter, which was better than the $0.29 per share that Street analysts had predicted. Revenue of $1 billion in the period also topped expectations. Additionally, Coach's troubled North American business showed improvement in fiscal 2015 thanks to fewer promotional activities and stronger traffic at its newly renovated stores.
Similar to other retailers, Coach's quarterly sales have taken a hit lately because of the strong dollar. Nevertheless, it was still able to overdeliver in its recent quarterly results, albeit only slightly. Looking ahead, it has an opportunity to grab a larger share of the European market. In fact, Coach posted double-digit gains in Europe and strong growth in China during the fourth quarter .
International sales could create a catalyst for Coach's stock going forward. On top of this, the company also completed the acquisition of Stuart Weitzman, a popular designer show brand that should lift profits and brand appeal for Coach in the quarters ahead. For these reasons, I believe Coach's turnaround story is intact and that the stock should reward patient investors down the road.
John Mackey, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Asit Sharma has no position in any stocks mentioned. Bob Ciura owns shares of Michael Kors Holdings. Joe Tenebruso has no position in any stocks mentioned. Tamara Rutter has no position in any stocks mentioned. Tim Beyers has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Coach, Coca-Cola, Keurig Green Mountain, Monster Beverage, and Whole Foods Market. The Motley Fool owns shares of Coach, Michael Kors Holdings, Monster Beverage, and Whole Foods Market and has the following options: long January 2016 $37 calls on Coca-Cola, short January 2016 $43 calls on Coca-Cola, and short January 2016 $37 puts on Coca-Cola. 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.