Another holiday shopping season is coming to an end and it's time for analysts everywhere to speculate about the winners and the losers. By the time sales numbers are released the respective stocks will have already moved in price and opportunity will have passed. Using search analytics we'll have insight into where shoppers were looking to make their purchases. You'll also find comments from several 11th and 12th grade high school students embedded throughout. I find this information to be immensely valuable in finding out what trends are still hot, what isn't and where surprises might lie. Using such information has proved successful in the past and so I'll continue to use it.
The big winner for the season seems to be Michael Kors (KORS). Searches for "Michael Kors" have grown speedily over the past month and a half with pageviews per user increasing over 5% during that time period. Furthermore, Google Trends has searches for Michael Kors significantly outpacing searches for Coach (COH) and Tiffany & Co. (TIF). Comparing the three company's to Coach's all-time high for searches back in 2008, Michael Kors has scored above 60% for each of the past 6 weeks. Coach and Tiffany & Co. have only just reached their high points for the same period this past week with COH reaching 52% and TIF hitting 20%. (I)
Now an argument can be made for Tiffany & Co. that the brand is so immensely popular, supported by their trademark "Robin's Egg Blue" bags and wrapping, that no one needs to search for them online. Coach on the other hand does not have the same iconic brand identification. Cheap knockoffs can be found on any street corner in Manhattan and it seems nowadays that everyone is plastering their apparel with their initials (Louis Vuitton, Dulce and Gabbana, et al.). When asking a student about her opinion of the three company's she said the following:
"Michael Kors and Tiffany & Co. would be the most popular but it depends on what you're looking to buy. If you want jewelry than Tiffany is best, but for watches definitely Michael Kors."
I couldn't help but notice her neglect Coach, so I inquired about the company to which she responded:
"They are pretty much a thing of the past."
Granted this was one girl's opinion, so I figured it would be prudent to ask a few other students. The results seemed pretty unanimous, everyone seemed to label Tiffany & Co. as the brand for significant events, supplying gifts for sweet sixteen's, anniversaries etc., and not as a trend but more of a mainstay. Students seemed particularly negative about Coach, most agreeing that the Coach trend has died and even its general popularity has been waning in favor for brands such as Louis Vuitton, Dulce and Gabbana and Christian Dior. To be fair, the students did say that Coach offered the best value if that's what you're looking for.
The case for Michael Kors draws more optimism in that search analytics have also shown strong results internationally with a large quantity of searches deriving from Brazil, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Germany and Spain. The table below helps to outline the company's international growth story.
|Country||Year Over Year Search Growth (Approximate)|
Analysts project KORS earnings to grow 80% for 2013 ($1.57 EPS) but only 30% for 2014 ($2.04 EPS). The company has already shown in its last quarterly report that growth is not an issue. The company has surpassed analyst EPS expectations each of the past 3 quarters they announced. If the politicians can figure out how to avert a fiscal disaster, the U.S. economy should continue to grow, even if it's at a modest pace, which should aid domestic sales. I personally believe the 30% growth rate for 2014 seems low, especially since Coach is projected to grow at a consistent 15% annually and Tiffany & Co. is projected for mid-teens growth. (I,II)
The current mean/median price target stands at $65, which represents a 21.5% premium to the current price of $53.49.
An alternative approach to owning the company's stock is through the purchasing of February Call options. The In-The-Money February $50 strike call options are currently trading with an ask price of $6.40. If you prefer a hedged approach, the February $60 strike call options can be sold at the bid of $1.85, thus limiting the cost of the trade to $4.55 as well as limiting the upside potential to $5.45 net of cost. (I)
Additional disclosure: I am Long KORS using February call options.