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Joe’s Jeans Inc. (NASDAQ:JOEZ)

Q4 2009 Earnings Call

February 3, 2010 4:30 pm ET

Executives

Lori Nembrikow – General Counsel

Marc Crossman – President, Chief Executive Officer

Hamish Sandhu – Chief Financial Officer

Analysts

Elizabeth Pierce – Roth Capital Partners

[Steve Anderson – Spencer Capital Management]

[Richard Milensky – Matt Communications]

Operator

Welcome to the Joe’s Jeans fourth quarter and year end earnings call. (Operator Instructions) I would now like to turn the presentation over to your host for today’s conference, Lori Nembrikow, General Counsel for the company.

Lori Nembrikow

Thank to everyone for joining the call today. Present on our call to discuss our results are Marc Crossman, our President and CEO, and Hamish Sandhu, our CFO.

Before we start let me review the company’s safe harbor language. This call may contain forward-looking statements which are statements of the company’s or management’s intentions, hopes, beliefs, expectations or predictions of the future. These statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause our actual results to be materially different. You are cautioned not to place undue reliance on forward-looking statements which speak only as of the date they are made.

I also refer you to our reports that are filed with the SEC which includes our 2009 annual report on Form 10-K filed today. This report includes information that could also cause our actual results to be materially different from those contained in any projections which may be made during this conference call. By making any forward-looking statements the company undertakes no obligation to update them for revisions or changes after today.

Finally, a copy of our earnings release and a recording of this call will be available on our website www.joesjeans.com and a telephone replay will be available for one week from today.

Now I’ll turn the call over to Marc.

Marc Crossman

Thanks Lori and thanks everyone for joining us today. I’ll first speak about the fourth quarter and year end results and then I’ll turn the call over to Hamish for a discussion of our financials. Finally, we will end with a Q&A session.

For the fourth quarter our net sales increased 42% to $25.2 million and our operating income increased 164% to just under $3 million. For the full year this translated into 16% increase in net sales to $80.1 million and a 48% increase in operating income to $8.1 million.

It is important to note that 2009 sales growth actually topped that of 2008. Clearly 2009 was a more productive year by all measures despite the economy. Significant sales gains we made during 2009, the bulk of which came during the second half of the year were largely attributable to new fashion denim, a revamping of our core basic program and the successful introduction of two new product classifications.

Before we dive into our financial results I want to take a moment to describe these two categories in a little more detail. They will continue to be meaningful contributors to our revenue growth in 2010.

The first of our two new classifications was a line on woven shirts, the success of which I touched on in the third quarter conference call. Although we have offered woven shirts in the past, this time around we differentiated ourselves from the rest of the pack by creating a sub brand under the Joe’s umbrella called The Shirt.

It consisted of a line on unisex woven shirts in a variety of novelty fabrics and prints offered for $98.00 at retail. The Shirt has its own unique marketing package and labeling while still incorporating our familiar JD logo. Without a doubt The Shirt can, and in many instances, does stand on its own in the contemporary department.

The second new product classification which we launched in November is a true legging but in a denim rather than a knit fabrication. The denim leggings are marketed as the Jean Legging, and similar to the shirt have their own unique marketing and labeling while still incorporating our familiar JD logo.

Because the Jean Legging is fabricated out of denim, we’re able to offer a variety of finishes found in our jeans that are not possible to replicate on a knit legging. With our holiday delivery we were the first premium denim company to offer this new product classification.

In addition, we offered it at just under $100.00. Be certain the success of the Jean Legging has been driven not only the newness of the category but also the retail price point which at less than $100.00 is filling a much needed void in the department without detracting from our denim.

Despite having less than one month shipping in the quarter, we generated net sales of $1.5 million. We also coordinated a marketing blitz and put advertising dollars behind the launch of this product which we believe helped achieve this level of sales in such a short time frame.

This product has provided a new layer of business which all of our major retailers have embraced and are booking for spring.

Moving on to our sales by distribution channel, the fourth quarter we are pleased to report with all of our distribution channel; namely domestic women’s, domestic men’s, international and retail experienced sales increases.

Our domestic women’s business was the fastest growing segment during the quarter. Not only was it driven by the addition of new categories, but also by our bread and butter denim. Women’s department store net sales increased 27% for the fourth quarter.

We have said in the past this is our most mature and fully penetrated distribution channel as evidenced by the fact that we are found in virtually all better department stores across the country. As such our door count was flat. The significant revenue gain in the channel was driven by strong sales increases within each store.

We achieved this by maximizing our existing denim business and selling new product category. Having revamped the core program just nine months ago, we were able to take advantage of retailers’ low holiday inventory and our strong selling on the floor with just in time replenishment. This allowed us the opportunity to grow our denim business mid single digits during a time when many of our competitors saw decreases.

In addition to maximizing our existing denim business as just described, we generated an additional $1.4 million of revenue during the quarter from our two new product categories.

Our specialty store net sales increased in the high double digits for the fourth quarter. This has been a difficult distribution channel for us in the past year due to the economy. However, similar to the department store channel, strong retail denim sales, low retail inventories and our ability to turn product quickly with our core replenishment program led to high double digit increases in our denim business. In addition, our growth was further bolstered by sales from our new product classifications.

Our domestic men’s business grew mid single digits during the quarter. While we had some residual revenues from The Shirt, the bulk of the business and growth came from our denim during the quarter.

Our men’s department store sales increased by 13% led by a high single digit denim increase. As we have previously said, our men’s business has been anchored by our department stores and account for Nordstrom growing 27% and Bloomingdale’s 25%.

During the quarter we experienced a slight decline in our specialty store sales. The men’s specialty store business was the first and hardest hit casualty of the economic downturn. However, we anticipate growth in this segment in 2010 as we build new layers of product in the spring.

Our international sales were up 16%. Our growth was driven primarily by our European business. For instance, we rolled out four new Shop and Shops in November in Galley Lafayette and Petron, bringing our total to six. We expect to continue to roll our Shop and Shops throughout the year as the sales performance of our product in this setting has been extremely positive.

We also saw increases in our non European business as a result of the Jean Legging.

Our retail business generated revenue of $1.6 million with a 65% gross margin during the quarter. At the end of November we opened our fourth outlet store bringing us to a total of six stores. Once again we are very pleased with our retail store’s performance during the quarter.

In 2009 we were very cautious with our retail roll out. Having put a full year of operations under our belt, we believe we have the team in place to more aggressively grow this division in 2010. Accordingly, we’ll have more to say in the coming months about both full price and off price retail store openings.

I’ll now turn the call over to Hamish to discuss our financial results.

Hamish Sandhu

During the quarter net sales increased to $25.2 million from $17.8 million over the prior year period as Marc just discussed and 48% of gross margin increased 1% versus the year ago quarter. Higher margins from our retail division and increased licensing income more than offset the slightly lower margin associated with our new product classification.

Third quarter SG&A was $9.3 million compared to $7.1 million a year ago. The increase over last year is mostly attributable to additional head count and rent costs associated with retail stores we opened in the fourth quarter of ’08 and two stores we opened in 2009.

We also recorded an additional advertising cost as we invested more in advertising to coincide with the launch of our legging line and increased costs associated with facilities and distribution due to the increase in sales volume.

Depreciation and amortization expense increased by $29,000 to $135,000 in the fourth quarter of 2009 from $106,000 in the prior year. This increase was due to the additional depreciation expense associated with purchase of leasehold improvements for the opening of the two additional retail stores in 2009.

Operating income before taxes increased 164% to $2.9 million from $1.9 million in the prior year. In the fourth quarter, we reversed our valuation allowance for our deferred tax assets because we believe in future years that we would fully utilize it. The original valuation allowance was recorded against our deferred tax assets to account for the difference between the book basis and tax basis of certain items such as the benefit of net operating loss carried forward, various allowances, stock compensation expense, etc.

Because we have generated increasing taxable income for the past three years and believe we will generate taxable income in the future, we released our valuation allowance of $20.3 million. This resulted in an income tax benefit of $16.4 million for fiscal 2009.

As a result of this non cash tax benefit, our fourth quarter net income was $20.5 million. For this quarter and year, due to the significant tax benefit, we believe the better comparative metric is our income before taxes which increased almost three fold to $2.9 million compared to $1.9 million in the prior year.

In summary, these results led to net income of $20.5 million compared to $1.1 million during the prior year period. We earned $0.33 per share in the fourth quarter of 2009 compared to $0.02 per share for 2008.

Now I’ll turn the call back to Marc.

Marc Crossman

Before we turn the call back to the operator for questions, I want to make a few closing remarks. Despite the economic environment of the last 12 months, 2009 has been a great year for Joe’s, even better in fact than 2008.

We were able to grow the top line, improve gross margin, build significant cash balances, add two new licensees, open four retail stores and most importantly, gain a solid foothold in two new product classifications.

For 2010 our strategy is simple. We’re going to open up retail stores at a much faster pace, continue to add new licensees and launch additional product classifications. Without a doubt, successfully executing our strategy in 2010 will lead to substantial revenue and profit increases.

We’re now ready to take questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

(Operator Instructions) Your first question comes from Elizabeth Pierce – Roth Capital Partners.

Elizabeth Pierce – Roth Capital Partners

A couple of questions on how we should be thinking about advertising spend for next year, is the $9 million that we see in SG&A, how much of that is advertising and how should we think about bit picture SG&A going forward.

Marc Crossman

Just conceptually we put a big number of just core incremental increase of advertising in the fourth quarter around the legging launch where I think you’re going to see us transition going forward is doing a little less of the transportation based advertising and start doing more in the books.

So I don’t think you’re going to see this massive advertising spend going into the remainder of 2010. I think it was probably about an incremental $450,000 advertising that went into the fourth quarter and I think going forward you’re not going to see a number too much bigger than that in terms of incremental advertising.

Elizabeth Pierce – Roth Capital Partners

But if we just looked at the year before when you didn’t have the same campaign, what I’m really trying to nail is the G&A component, what we should be thinking makes sense where the business is now. You’ve added people, the staff, any kind of guidance you could give us directionally would be really helpful.

Marc Grossman

Advertising typically has been about 2% of sales and I think this year now it’s bumping up to about 3% and I think that number, we’re going to have a lift in sales going into 2010, but I wouldn’t expect that percentage to go up dramatically, is probably the best way to answer that. So it will be in the 3% to 4% range.

Elizabeth Pierce – Roth Capital Partners

And then total G&A?

Marc Grossman

We haven’t really given a lot of guidance in that respect because we’re going to be opening a lot of retail stores going into 2010 and you’ve got all the pre-opening expenses etc., so we haven’t given specific guidance. I think this year we closed out at about 38%. I think the goal is in 2010 to hold that relatively steady.

Elizabeth Pierce – Roth Capital Partners

What is the gross margin difference between the woven’s, the non denim and the T-shirts?

Marc Grossman

It’s roughly right now if we were at a 40% on a blended basis, or 50% on a blended basis during the course of the year, I’d say that relative to our denim it’s probably going to be five to seven points lower. So if you’re modeling the company going forward in 2010 that’s going to be one of the down current, but certainly one of the up currents we’re going to have is the retail expansion and that’s going to start to be a more significant component to gross margin.

Elizabeth Pierce – Roth Capital Partners

When you looked at the performance for ’09 I realize it might be a little skewed by the current economic environment, but where the outlets or the full line, are they performing in line with the kind of metrics that you’ve laid out previously?

Marc Grossman

Yes they are. For us the four walls business, in totality those stores are all above the break even business and I think right now, four wall are operating around 15% to 18%, somewhere in that range.

But those stores just be evidenced by what we’ve seen on our comps, our comps have been up dramatically and we released a little bit of information about that, but we’ve been seeing 40% comp numbers. So that’s where our margins are going to go up dramatically as we look back on 2010.

Operator

Your next question comes from [Steve Anderson – Spencer Capital Management]

[Steve Anderson – Spencer Capital Management]

I wanted to ask you, in terms of your long target margins, where do you think those can get to just because high end retailers, do you have somewhat dominant niche that you might have in some of your categories. We seem to see that pre tax number gravitate towards the high teens rate. So where do you think you can get that to two years or three years down the road?

Marc Crossman

What we’re targeting is 30%, 30% EBITDA margins, so that’s where we look at it, we feel we’re on track to get to that number.

[Steve Anderson – Spencer Capital Management]

How many years? Five years? That’s pretty aggressive relative to what the low teens you’re doing now.

Marc Crossman

When we look at that number, again we’re looking at comps that are up 40%. Those comps are 40% without an increase in payroll or rent. So those are your two biggest costs to SG&A so everything else starts falling down to the bottom line.

[Steve Anderson – Spencer Capital Management]

I’d love to see that. Can we talk a bit, the new categories, did you say what percentage of revenues your new categories accounted for in Q4.

Marc Crossman

No we didn’t. We kind of alluded to it. It was roughly $1.8 million out of the $25.2 million.

[Steve Anderson – Spencer Capital Management]

And that’s the leggings and shirt?

Marc Crossman

Yes, the leggings and residual shirt in that.

[Steve Anderson – Spencer Capital Management]

Did you say, did I hear it correctly, did you say you only shipped out for one month of the quarter?

Marc Crossman

On the leggings, yes.

[Steve Anderson – Spencer Capital Management]

So the take up was just for one month. How is that extending into the new year?

Marc Crossman

We have basically the first month in November were set up. This initial set up as we flowed into December, the remainder of the product went out at the end of the set up so anthropology for instance, we weren’t able to ship them in November but we put their initial set ups out to them in December. So really, November and December were the time frames everybody was getting their initial stock.

What we’re seeing right now relative to the business about 25% of our sales are being driven by the legging so that’s what we’re really shooting for in terms of stock to sales ratio’s for all of our major accounts.

[Steve Anderson – Spencer Capital Management]

Am I hearing that right? You’re hoping that this year, or thinking this year leggings could be 20% to 25% of your total revenues? Is that a fair translation?

Marc Crossman

It wouldn’t be of our overall revenues. Obviously we think there will be a little slowdown in the summer, point one. And point two is, it’s all of our majors. So if you really dissect our business you’d have to pull out our specialty stores within our domestic women’s business. It will tempered relative to that when you look at our overall revenue numbers.

[Steve Anderson – Spencer Capital Management]

I guess no one has a lot of experience with these new denim leggings, can you sort of explain the seasonal slowdown in September to me, and the summer to me I mean?

Marc Crossman

It’s basically a product that we think lends itself more to spring and fall and less to the summer. In summer what we see, even our denim slows down relative to the rest of the business and we start moving into things that are shorts and crops.

[Steve Anderson – Spencer Capital Management]

Is it fair to say that most of the quarter was driven by just a high end luxury denim just being in a nice little rebound from last year? I’m not sure exactly how to explain it.

Marc Crossman

I can’t speak to everybody else’s business, but our business, and you bring up a great point, yes, the addition of sales from retail was helpful, and yes we had a little bit of leggings and new products in there.

But the bulk of what was driving our business was denim, and our denim performed really, really well, not only across fashion denim but also our core basic program. I think we also had a little bit of help from the fact that retailers had such low inventory levels going into the holiday season and we have the ability to turn really quickly with our core replenishment program and that’s what we saw.

Our core replenishment program performed really well. That being said, it wasn’t just because the retailers had lower inventories; our stuff was selling at retail, so I definitely would like to drive that point home that our denim which is our bread and butter, performed really well during the fourth quarter.

[Steve Anderson – Spencer Capital Management]

On the leggings side, do you have a target for what percent of revenue that will be heading into this year or next year or where you want to see that?

Marc Crossman

I can tell you what we see right now. We’re only really a month and a half into it and what we’ve seen is it’s driving at our majors about 25% of our business. If we went through the numbers, if you look at our women’s business probably 80% of our business now, in that range, and then within that our majors represent about 60% of the business.

Operator

Your next question comes from Elizabeth Pierce – Roth Capital Partners.

Elizabeth Pierce – Roth Capital Partners

How are the booking? Anything beyond spring that you can share with us?

Marc Crossman

Right now on the wholesale side of the business, our backlog, and again this is just the wholesale side, our backlog is up 29%.

Elizabeth Pierce – Roth Capital Partners

Is that any particular product that’s driving it or is it across the board?

Marc Crossman

It really is across the board. As we look at our business, our denim business is strong and healthy right now. All the retailers are seeing it and we’re seeing it in our core basics and our fashion business. We feel like we’ve got a great product mix going into the summer.

As I told you, spring the bookings right now are up 29%. And then our new products, we have two other classifications which we’re not going to talk about right now but we’ll talk about going into our first quarter call, and the take up on that has been phenomenal and a lot of that is based on the success we’ve had with the shirt and the legging.

Elizabeth Pierce – Roth Capital Partners

So we can extrapolate one of those products as a derivative of the legging?

Marc Crossman

No. We’re going to have Jeggings, but no, that will fall into our traditional denim.

Elizabeth Pierce – Roth Capital Partners

Two new products. Two new classifications?

Marc Crossman

Exactly.

Elizabeth Pierce – Roth Capital Partners

And what’s the status of the Jeggings?

Marc Crossman

We’re going to have Jeggings in April. We’re going to have a full line of Jeggings. We would have launched it with the leggings but we made a conscious decision that we really didn’t want to start spitting dollars. We wanted to make a statement on the leggings with a true legging and really differentiate that product so we thought it was best to really go out with something that no one else had and hold our Jegging program until April.

Elizabeth Pierce – Roth Capital Partners

Is the Jegging a denim base or is it net based?

Marc Crossman

Its denim based. It’s just take our leggings, take off the elastic waistband, put zippers and buttons on it and put on a pocket and that’s what you have. It’s basically a very, very tight fitting jean and that’s basically what the Jegging is. So it has hardware on it. So it has a front zipper. It will have buttons. It will have rivets. Ours will have pockets. But think of it as about a tight fitting a jean as you can get.

Elizabeth Pierce – Roth Capital Partners

So you don’t want to talk about these new classifications until Q1. Is it unisex?

Marc Crossman

Please stop. Leave some excitement for Q1.

Elizabeth Pierce – Roth Capital Partners

When is it in stores?

Marc Crossman

The next two classifications will be both not unisex but will go into both the men’s and women’s distribution channel. The Shirt was unisex, but again it sold through both the men’s and women’s distribution channel. The legging was the only one that is just a women’s product.

Elizabeth Pierce – Roth Capital Partners

When will these new classifications be in stores?

Marc Crossman

They’ll be in stores starting at the end of this month.

Elizabeth Pierce – Roth Capital Partners

If I’m just doing quick math, if we take out the tax benefit the earnings were about $0.03.

Hamish Sandhu

About $0.03.

Elizabeth Pierce – Roth Capital Partners

So that means there’s still a huge…

Marc Crossman

I think a way I would look at that is last year we had about 11% tax rate, so again if you were to use that same tax rate it gets you closer to $0.05, if you’re using a like for like tax.

Elizabeth Pierce – Roth Capital Partners

But on the EBIT side you’re coming out with $3 million of EBITDA.

Marc Crossman

Yes, EBITDA would actually be higher than that. It would be about $3.1 million. Our operating income was $3 million.

Hamish Sandhu

That margin was 12% for the quarter.

Elizabeth Pierce – Roth Capital Partners

On the European side, you said you were going to open more new Shop and Shops. I couldn’t hear it. It was all Galley Lafayette?

Marc Crossman

No, it’s both of them. The plan right now and I hate saying this because it’s always on the comp and it takes longer to do, but we have a significant number planned. They’re staggered. We have some three month shops. We’re opening some six month and some one year.

It’s staggered all over in terms of what we are contractually being given, but it’s a substantially larger number than what we have.

Elizabeth Pierce – Roth Capital Partners

In terms of breadth of product, how much product are we talking about?

Marc Crossman

Each one is a different size, but we’ll have the opportunity to control the product ourselves. So if we want to put leggings in there, Jeggings, boot cuts, whatever we want to put, The Shirt, leather jacket, I’m just naming all the categories that we put into our two existing. It’s our floor space. Floor space will differ store by store.

Elizabeth Pierce – Roth Capital Partners

How are you deciding what the appropriate assortment is?

Marc Crossman

A lot of it is we have a history in Europe with what fits sell the best. A lot of the trends that we’re seeing here such as going back to cleaner washes are playing out in Europe also. So we know what fits work. And in terms of the styling we’ll continue with what we see here in the U.S.

Elizabeth Pierce – Roth Capital Partners

Just because there’s been so much chatter about price point in premium denim and so forth, and I know a year ago you introduced a more moderate price. It wasn’t necessarily a failure but you weren’t necessarily thrilled with it. Do you continue to believe there’s enough demand to support the high end of your price range? You’re not seeing any pressure by the retailers?

Marc Crossman

What we saw is a couple of the retailers brought in some lower price point jeans. They were really trying to fill that sub $100.00 price point and thought $99.00 was going to blow out in denim. What we saw is $99.00 doesn’t blow out when it’s not from a brand.

So the girl coming in is shopping to buy a brand. She’s not looking to just buy a nice pair of jeans without a label, no matter how nice those jeans are. And we saw that with the $99.00 jeans that were there and we also saw it with our leggings.

Our leggings were priced between $78.00 and $98.00 and it was from a brand and the stuff sold, and it sold like crazy. What we did, because obviously we’re always cognizant of price point, and we don’t want to bring our price point down to that level in any way, shape or form. We think it totally changes the market you’re playing in and so we offered the legging and it was extremely successful because it filled that void and was a great gift giving item.

There’s so many reasons why it worked, but it was our way of sneaking in a lower price point jean or legging for someone that needed it.

Elizabeth Pierce – Roth Capital Partners

But it didn’t cannibalize the cord or the fashion.

Marc Crossman

It’s really hard to say. I’ll give you two points. At one of our major retailers we actually sold as many pair of leggings as we did jeans over the holiday, and when we went back and looked at it, our denim wasn’t down. So this was just a whole new layer of business. Now would our denim have been up twice as big as that? No, there’s no way you can say that.

In another one of our largest customers what we saw it was driving 25% of the business but our denim was up high double digits. So we didn’t see a cannibalization. Would the numbers have been better? No one can answer that. All we know is our denim was really strong and then we layered on this new piece of business that sold very well.

Elizabeth Pierce – Roth Capital Partners

On the leggings what color sold the best? You had quite a few.

Marc Crossman

We had a lot. We had I think 26 different treatments to start. The ones that sold the best were black, red, and then the indigo; very basic. A lot of the other stuff were really top door buys or color fill ins to make a presentation look really good.

But it would make sense. If you’re going out and the first pair of leggings you’re buying you’re going to want to gravitate toward a little bit more basic and the second buy is going to be a little bit more exciting.

Elizabeth Pierce – Roth Capital Partners

Based on that, what you see in the crystal ball for fall when leggings probably come back again, do we see a broader assortment or you think you’ll refine it?

Marc Crossman

No doubt. We’re still, even going into spring, we’re continuing to innovate and come up with new washes, new treatments to put on the leggings but I think what you’ll see is the amount that we’re purchasing and stocking relative to the basics, that will go up. And I think you will see in the fall that you’ll have some of the more extreme stuff will be better sellers.

Operator

Your next question comes from [Richard Milensky – Matt Communications]

[Richard Milensky – Matt Communications]

Congratulations. Tremendous quarter, tremendous year. I’m just wondering internationally going forward what type of sales do you expect to increase in that market. You talked about opening up additional stores quite a bit. Is there a number you’re putting out at this point of how many stores you expect to open up?

Marc Crossman

In the international market, we haven’t talked but it’s a high double digit number.

[Richard Milensky – Matt Communications]

What kind of potential sales next year do you expect to be in international market if you had to put an estimate on that?

Marc Crossman

We exited the year with it somewhere around 7% to 8% and I think next year, the hard part is it’s a small piece of our business right now. There’s so much room for growth domestically so I would expect, and we’re excited about having that kind of growth on the domestic front, so it’s going to be tough to move the needle from a percentage standpoint.

I certainly think you will see growth. It will be tough for us to grow the international business even faster than we’re growing the domestic because of all these new product classifications and really, they take hold for us in the U.S. and then our distributors really start to pick it up as the next layer.

We saw that with The Shirt where our first delivery for all holiday was almost 100% U.S. based but as we rolled into spring, they saw the success that we had with it, and they started ordering big. So that’s the one thing that will kind of hamper that percentage too greatly in one direction or the other.

Operator

There are no further questions. I would like to hand the call over to Marc for any closing remarks.

Marc Crossman

I appreciate everybody being on the call. We look forward to getting back to you after the first quarter and if you have any questions in the meantime, please feel free to give us a call. Thank you.

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