First-quarter earnings at Liz Claiborne increased 4.8% to $71 million, or $0.62 per diluted share. Net sales rose a respectable 9.9% to $1.21 billion. As for the details that investors might want to keep in mind, inventories increased 12.2% on a year-over-year basis, while cash decreased and long-term debt increased by a shade compared with this time last year.
I have to admit, Liz Claiborne hasn't been a stock I've paid much attention to in the past. But little did I realize that the company owns a whole lot of other brands beyond the obvious ones, such the as Juicy Couture clothing line, which seemed to be all over the place last summer. Other brands under the Liz Claiborne umbrella include DKNY Jeans, Lucky Brand, Emma James, and Crazy Horse, to name a few.
A peek into the conference call also reveals some interesting attitudes and trends that investors might want to consider. The company's chairman and CEO mentioned the consolidation going on in the retail industry and the subsequent distractions from some of its customers: "For sure, it means companies like ours will have to proceed very gingerly to avoid getting hung out to dry by well-meaning but distracted merchants who may not be in total control of their own destiny."
Indeed, department-store retail has been in flux for quite some time, as shoppers have seemed to increasingly flee to high-end retailers, discounters, or boutiques as opposed to some of the middle-of-the-road department stores that sell many of Liz Claiborne's wares. The company said that it saw these changes coming, and that was the impetus for its acquisition of brands. (In addition, Liz Claiborne and some of its brands, like Elisabeth, have their own storefronts in addition to being featured in department stores.)
The company also said in its conference call that it is the "quintessential boomer brand," although we all know that that's an area gearing up to be fraught with competition. Chico's
Liz Claiborne's share price got clobbered last week on the rather lackluster -- what the company called "conservative" -- view for the second quarter. The company's shares may be worth a look, considering that they trade at a P/E of 12, and a forward P/E of 11, a ratio much less than those of rivals like Ann Taylor
For more on retail, check out some other Foolish prose:
- Three Bargain-Bin Retail Stocks, by Nathan Parmelee
- Chico's Still Da Man, by Seth Jayson
- Ann Taylor's Wardrobe Shuffle, by Dave Marino-Nachison
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Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.