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Everyone Loves Vera Bradley Again

By Rick Munarriz - Mar 26, 2016 at 9:00AM

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A second analyst has upgraded the maker of handbags and baggage, encouraged by its new products and improving fundamentals.

Image source: Vera Bradley.   

The analysts kicked Vera Bradley (VRA 1.71%) when it was down, and now they're giving it a hand as its stock is climbing. The designer of fashion-forward handbags, luggage, and other travel accessories saw its stock close 6% higher on Thursday -- the final trading day of the week -- after a beefy analyst upgrade. 

Eric Beder of Wunderlich Securities pushed his rating on the stock up from hold to buy, raising his price target from $15 to $24 along the way. It's a big move on price, but with the stock trading in the high teens already after hitting a new 52-week high earlier this month, it's a move that is overdue if he wasn't bent on downgrading the stock on the basis of valuation. 

Wunderlich is upbeat on the bullish catalysts at Vera Bradley. The prospects for its compelling and diversified product line at a time when consumers are warming up to premium handbags again can't be ignored. 

There's been a market revival for the purveyors of purses so far in this young year. Michael Kors (CPRI 9.53%) was one of last year's biggest losers, shedding 47% of its value on slowing demand and shrinking margins. But Michael Kors stock is up 39% so far in 2016. Analysts are starting to raise its profit targets higher. And let's not forget that it was able to beat Wall Street's income estimates in each of the past three quarters.

Vera Bradley stock has climbed 25% in 2016, and that's a pretty big deal for a company that has seen its stock decline in every full year since it went public in late 2010. That streak has a very good chance of coming to an end this year. 

Vera Bradley IPO'ed at $16 and initially spiked higher on the brand's allure. The stock went on to top at $50 a few months later, but it's been all downhill from there -- until the recent bounce. Investors bailed on Vera Bradley stock after consumers turned from the brand.

Revenue has actually declined for three consecutive fiscal years -- according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data -- but that's another unfavorable trend that seems to be coming to an end. Sales during the vital holiday quarter inched higher relative to the prior year's showing, and Vera Bradley's guidance calls for top-line growth to return in the new fiscal year. 

These improving fundamentals are reshaping Vera Bradley's narrative, and its aggressive share buybacks are improving profits on a per-share basis. With the company targeting double-digit percentage EPS growth in this fiscal year -- and with Wunderlich stepping up as the second analyst to upgrade the stock in 2016 -- it's finally Vera Bradley's turn to start packing and get traveling.

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Stocks Mentioned

Vera Bradley, Inc. Stock Quote
Vera Bradley, Inc.
$5.95 (1.71%) $0.10
Capri Holdings Limited Stock Quote
Capri Holdings Limited
$42.89 (9.53%) $3.73

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