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The Men’s Wearhouse, Inc. (NYSE:MW)

Q4 2009 Earnings Call

March 10, 2010 5:00 pm ET

Executives

Ken Dennard – IR, DRG&E

George Zimmer – Chairman and CEO

Neill Davis – EVP, CFO, Treasurer and Principal Financial Officer

Analysts

Brian Tunick – JP Morgan

Betty Chen – Wedbush Morgan Securities

Janet Kloppenberg – JJK Research

David Mann – Johnson Rice

Laura Champine – Cowen

Michael Weisberg – Crestwood Capital

Sarah Brown [ph] – AllianceBernstein

Operator

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, thanks for standing by. Welcome to The Men’s Wearhouse fourth quarter 2009 earnings conference call. During today's presentation, all participants will be in a listen-only mode. Following the presentation, the conference will be open for questions. (Operator Instructions)

This conference is being recorded today, Wednesday, March 10, 2010. I would now like to turn the conference over to Ken Dennard, with DRG&E. Please go ahead, sir.

Ken Dennard

Thank you and good afternoon, and welcome to The Men's Wearhouse fourth quarter 2009 earnings call. Today’s call will begin with George Zimmer, Chairman and CEO, providing a strategic commentary, followed by a review of the fourth quarter results and financial guidance summation by Neill Davis, Executive VP and Chief Financial Officer. We will then open the call to your questions.

As you know, we will be making a number of forward-looking statements today and all such statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from the expectations and assumptions mentioned today, due to a variety of factors that affect the company, including the risks specified in the company's most-recently filed Form 10-Q and Form 10-K. This call is copyrighted material to The Men's Wearhouse and cannot be rebroadcast without our express written consent.

And now, I would like to turn the call over to George Zimmer. George?

George Zimmer

Thanks, Ken; and thanks, everybody, for joining our call today. I am pleased to start out our call today by informing those of you who may not have heard that our company has once again been named one of the Fortune 100 best companies to work for. I feel that this is particularly impressive, when one considers that our employees helped us win this recognition through their interviews, which was done independently of our efforts, despite the fact that we asked them to work harder in this economic environment and we were forced to cut payroll as well as some benefits.

Despite the high domestic unemployment rate in 2009 that challenged our business, and significant decreases in consumer spending, we accomplished many of the critical goals we set for ourselves at the outset of the year, conserve and build our cash position, significantly lower expenses, improve productivity, and drive efficiencies in our business, while at the same time, continuing to invest in our brands through television and internet marketing programs. And after 37 years of being in business and focusing the last 25 as an everyday low-price retailer, we successfully redefined our value proposition at Men's Wearhouse and our Canadian Moores stores to mean deep discounts extreme value while maintaining acceptable and improving margins.

Based on available data, we achieved our goal to significantly increased suit unit sales at Men's Wearhouse, Moores, and K&G, indicating that we increased our market share in this category in both the United States and Canada. We saw flat tuxedo rental units in what we believe was a down wedding market. Again, we believe this as to be a market share gain. And today, I feel more optimistic about our business prospects for 2010 than I did at the beginning of this past year, given the improving macroeconomic environment.

I would now like to address our tuxedo rental business. Our success in the tuxedo rental industry is party driven by the priorities we place on providing a quality customer service experience nationwide, which is provided by our engaged and well-trained workforce. Our press release today reported a store-related impairment charge associated primarily with some of our Men's Wearhouse & Tux stores. We believe and see evidence of store consolidation that is occurring in the marketplace and view that as a positive. The underperformance of a significant number of the impaired Men's Wearhouse & Tux stores appears to be largely due to the cannibalization of rental revenues by existing Men's Wearhouse stores that are in close proximity, one mile or less, to a Men's Wearhouse & Tux location.

The increase in tuxedo traffic at existing Men's Wearhouse stores will provide us the opportunity to sell additional products to those rental customers. Based on the volume for Men's Wearhouse & Tux stores to existing Men's Wearhouse stores that we have been witnessing, we expect high rates of revenue recapture, that will drive a greater level of sales productivity and store contribution from the existing stores going forward. Our plan to deal with these underperforming stores will be through a combination of natural lease expirations, which includes kick out provisions and early closure for stores, where we believe cost to close are economically reasonable.

At K&G, we saw a minimal erosion of top line sales, while through vigorous testing and better merchandizing at the individual store level, we continued to learn more about what our customers will respond to. We saw significant improvements in our Women's business, resulting in an increase of 13% in 2009. We are continuing to invest in this business, gradually transforming K&G into a less male-dominated store. We believe that the growth of the Women's business will drive significant revenue increases that more than offset lower product margin in the women's category. Our Children's business also continues to grow, and we are looking at opportunities in this category.

We continue to be focused on breaking through the media clutter with new investments in marketing programs. Our new K&G television creative, launched last week, and our J&P [ph] e-commerce site is anticipated to launch in the third quarter of this year, with a goal of making us a leader in the online space among our primary competitors, who have chosen not to enter into e-commerce. As to our lower overall marketing plans for 2010, let me remind you that we brought on board a new creative agency last year, and as we announced on February 4, we also brought on board a new Chief Marketing Officer. Our campaign at Men's Wearhouse and Moore's with fiscal 2010 will be driven by our efforts to synthesize our brand message and our promotional message in a way that strengthens the value proposition, and can be found at our stores and emphasizes our quality. We are optimistic about the campaign, but we will wait to see the customers' response to these marketing initiatives.

Last year, we replaced the primary e-commerce technology engine supporting our Men's Wearhouse business unit. In addition, we added incremental functionality to that site to enhance the customer experience. We now have over 1 million unique visitors monthly to the site. Conversion rates are improving, and revenues are growing significantly. In addition, we have millions of customer files at the SKU level that have largely remained untapped. Traditional specialty retailers are, by admission, product-driven, and allocate resources and align functions accordingly.

Men's Wearhouse, on the other hand, is a customer-driven company. We have some very separate and distinct customer bases among our five divisional brands. We have, we believe, greater flexibility and opportunity to test and segment among and within these customer bases in a multi-channel experience, whether it is our core customer, our rental customer, our big and tall customer, our female customer, or our uniform customer. This is a unique opportunity for the future and we are making significant investments in systems, talent, and strategies that will result in some new initiatives that we believe will provide a significant boost to our multi-channel offerings over time. Our goal is to make our real and virtual stores equally exciting and completely consistent with the Men's Wearhouse brand, spirit, message, and tone.

As the market leader in suit sales in our Canadian business, we are well positioned. Fortunately, the macroeconomic conditions in Canada have been better than what we experienced in the United States during this economic downturn, and Moore's continues to be our most profitable business unit, as a percentage of sales. We continue to make incremental investments in our corporate uniform business, conducted through TwinHill, and we expect that business unit to rebound significantly from the prior year, as we are hearing from our customers that their corporate expenditures on uniforms will begin to increase.

Additionally, we will be distributing our new catalog very soon, and we are already receiving positive comments and reactions from existing and potential customers as to the quality of the product offerings. And now, with a new catalog, we are making a significant push into the hospitality sector. At Men's Wearhouse Cleaner's, our operators have done a superior job at controlling costs, improving and growing our home pickup and delivery service, and improving productivity, which has resulted in a significant increase in our store contribution at this division. We continue to believe that in Houston, we have the number one market share.

In closing, let me just say that I believe there has been and continues to be a shift away from conspicuous consumption to conspicuous frugality, putting our brands in the sweet spot. Additionally, the suit is becoming a style symbol among the younger generation, while remaining a need-based item among baby boomers. Clearly, the trends are in our favor.

With that, I will now turn the call over to Neill for a review of the quarter as well as our outlook for the first quarter of fiscal 2010.

Neill Davis

Thanks, George; and good afternoon, everyone. Earlier this afternoon, we reported fourth quarter adjusted loss per common share of $0.11, compared to our guidance given on December 8 of 2009 of a loss in the range of $0.15 to $0.19. However, this above-planned result was not evenly distributed in our performance. Lower operating costs and a lower effective tax rate for the quarter offset under-planned sales and gross margins.

Comparable store sales at our Men's Wearhouse and Men's Wearhouse and Tux stores declined 7.1%. K&G declined 5%, and our Canadian business increased 1.9%. The domestic results were weaker than we anticipated going into the quarter, and key drivers to the year-over-year changes include: one, a sharp decline in our suit product category in our Men's Wearhouse stores, with dollar and unit comp sales decreasing in the quarter by 15.6% and 19.9% respectively. This is a significant reversal of results realized for the first three quarters of the year.

However, for the full year, the suit category increased in units and dollars by 12.9% and 1.1% respectively. The erosion of average unit retails at K&G, marginally offset by higher units per transaction, and higher transactions per store, was the key driver to below planned results. Weakness in K&G's men's clothing offerings were modestly offset by comparable sales increases in our big and tall offerings, boy's and ladies' merchandise assortments.

Our Canadian sales were essentially unplanned, driven by increases in our suit, pant, shirt, and sportswear product offerings. The strength in our dominant category of suits is helping mitigate otherwise continuing soft traffic trends. Tuxedo rental revenues for the quarter increased 1.20%, which was in line with our guidance range of a low single digit decrease.

Gross margins before occupancy costs for the fourth quarter decreased 105 basis points to 52.7%. The margin erosion is largely a result of a sharp decline in our suit sales for the quarter, as well as higher-than-planned markdowns at K&G. For the full year, gross margins, before occupancy costs had declined 107 basis points. The year-over-year declines are primarily related to adjustments in our merchandising strategies initiated at the end of fiscal 2008 to drive market share gains in the men's clothing business, particularly our suit product offerings.

Setting, general, and administrative expenses for the quarter, excluding a pretax, non-cash store-related impairment charge of $19.5 million were approximately $184.3 million, a decline of 4.3% from the prior year adjusted level, which excludes $1.8 million pretax non-cash asset impairment charge and an $8.8 million gain from a sale of assets. This level of reduction was greater than our expectations going into the quarter. The key drivers to the year-over-year fourth quarter decreases were lower employee medical expenses, lower payroll-related expenses, lower travel and entertainment expenses, and reimbursements from various litigation actions. As to the impairment charge, the stores affected include 145 Men's Wearhouse and Tux stores and 12 K&G stores.

The effective tax rate for 2009 fiscal year of 33% was lower than the expected rate of 36.8%, due mainly to the impact of the impairment charges on US earnings, and the effect of discrete tax items. The fourth quarter effective tax rate reflects true-up of these effects for the year.

From a balance sheet and cash flow perspective, our inventories have declined 2% from prior year levels, capital expenditures for the year were $56.9 million, free cash flow was $106 million for the year, and we ended with cash and cash equivalents at approximately $186 million.

Those are the key financial highlights for the fourth quarter. Let me now turn your attention to our outlook for the first quarter of fiscal 2010.

We anticipate comparable store sales at our Men's Wearhouse and Men's Wearhouse and Tux stores to be flat to a decline in the low-single digit range. At K&G, we are targeting a decrease in the low single digit range. And in Canada, a flat to low single digit decrease. Included in this outlook is a low single digit increase in our tuxedo rental revenues.

Total gross profit for the first quarter is expected to increase in the low single digit range from the prior year. Occupancy costs are expected to decrease in a low single digit range in absolute dollar terms. Selling, general, and administrative expenses are expected to increase in the low single digit range from the prior year.

This guidance includes an estimated effective tax rate of 35.2%. Weighted average fully diluted shares outstanding are estimated at 52.5 million. We expect GAAP diluted earnings per share to be in a range of $0.12 to $0.16, compared to the prior year quarter diluted earnings per share of $0.10.

Fiscal 2010 total capital expenditures will be in the range of $55 million to $60 million, which consists of approximately $25 million to $30 million for new stores, store remodels, and store relocations, and $30 million related to information technology, distribution centers, and other corporate projects. Our depreciation and amortization expense is expected to be $75 million for the year.

That concludes our prepared remarks. And operator, we will now open the call to your questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

Thank you, sir. We will now begin the question-and-answer session. (Operator Instructions) Our first question comes from Brian Tunick. Please state your company name, followed by your question.

Brian Tunick JP Morgan

Thanks, good afternoon, guys. JP Morgan. So I guess, maybe Neill, just a little more color on Q1 guidance. So it sounds like the Q4 comp trends missed your expectations. We were surprised with your comp guidance for Q1. Can you just maybe give us a little more comfort, you know, either quarter to date or is there anything you are doing differently from a marketing perspective to give us comfort that Q1 comps have improved? And then the second question would be then, on the Q1, is it fair to assume that you are assuming product cost improvement is about 100 bps in your guidance and so where is that coming from?

Neill Davis

I will answer part of your question, Brian; I think the other aspect, marketing, I will turn it back to George. But from a comp standpoint for the first quarter, you know, it is clear in the fourth quarter, you know, we did underperform relative to our expectations and it seems as though we experienced a pull-forward effect in the fourth quarter. However, we are still very satisfied with the full year increases in our business, and as it relates to the first quarter and the numbers that we are giving to you, that is predicated by adding the full month of February actuals into that, and some initial work into the second month of the quarter. So, we feel very good about this level of business, but as you know, the key selling season of Easter and the calendar shift, it will be appropriate for us to observe both the month of April and March together to assess how effective spring is, but at this juncture, we feel pretty good.

George, do you have comments about the marketing aspect?

George Zimmer

Well, what I would like to say is that we have just produced and put on the air new commercials for K&G, which are among the finest commercials I have ever been associated with in my career. So we are very excited about the capabilities of our new advertising agency. So, I would assume that we will have something equally professional with Men's Wearhouse sometime in the second quarter. But right now, K&G, which is on the air, you can see it on television, and decide for yourself.

Brian Tunick JP Morgan

And do you have comments on the product collect side?

Neill Davis

Relative to the low single digit increase in gross profit dollars for the first quarter, recall I also made a comment about occupancy costs being down low single digits. That will allow us to realize a meaningful amount of expense leverage and that will be a key component. The balance of it is clearly coming from better product margins, and that is a reflection of our anniversarying the lower margins in the first quarter of last year, as we are beginning to embark on and pursue the more promotional posture that we had for the full year. So, it is an anniversarying of that number and that is a contributor to the expectation of improved margin.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Connie Wong. Please state your company name, followed by your question.

Betty Chen Wedbush Morgan Securities

Hi, this is actually Betty. I was wondering, Neill, if you can speak a little about your clothing product costs. I think in the first half, you have not yet left some of your more strategic buys to support your (inaudible) offers last year. Can you speak a little bit to that opportunity in the first half, and how we should think about that for the balance of the year?

Neill Davis

Well, I mean, you are exactly right, Betty. We are well positioned at the beginning of the current fiscal year and the benefits that we expect to realize will manifest more in the first half and will manifest more in the first half and will begin to normalize in the back half of the year as we anniversary the buying and that other activities of our merchants to shore up our initial markups. And that, in part, is reflected in our first quarter guidance that I mentioned for Brian.

Betty Chen Wedbush Morgan Securities

And I think going back to Brian's earlier question, we have noticed a change in your promotional stance quarter to date. Is that what is driving the better comp performance so far, or are there any sort of merchandising changes or other sort of marketing tactics that could be attributable to the better performance or what are your thoughts?

Neill Davis

George?

George Zimmer

You know, we think that there is just a fundamental elevating of consumer demand that seems to have taken place since year end, I mean, since our 1/31 year end. It doesn't appear to be connected to anything in particular, although our new agency did some work for us in a somewhat limited way that may have some positive impact, but it is really too hard to say right now.

Betty Chen Wedbush Morgan Securities

Lastly, could you speak to some of the changes at K&G, Neill, in terms of the Women's merchandise, and then also what is the margin opportunity for that business; I think at one point we did reach high single digit operating margin. Could you remind us where that was in 2009 and how we could think about that for this year and going forward?

Neill Davis

Well, our historical peep was in the high single digits back in the 2006 timeframe, and this past year, we were certainly nowhere near that number, given the negative comps that we had and the resulting deleveraging the business. So we have a lot of upside and improvements to be able to look forward to as the business unit managers at K&G begin to, as we speak, bring into the K&G stores their merchandise assortments, which are designed to begin to address a more aggressive positioning and posturing towards the ladies category.

George, do you have anything to complement that with?

George Zimmer

Well, I would just comment that when we look at K&G in the context of our other businesses, K&G is young, so we still want to invest in the brand. As we don't have to tell you, the K&G brand is nowhere near as strong as the Men's Wearhouse brand. So we feel that if we are investing with quality marketing ideas in K&G, although it may not pay immediate dividends, it is the right thing to do for the division over time.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Janet Kloppenberg. Please state your company name, followed by your question.

Janet Kloppenberg JJK Research

Hi, Janet Kloppenberg for JJK Research. Hi, everybody. I was curious if you could -- I got on the call late, so if I am asking a redundant question, we can just -- you can just skip it, but I was wondering if you could talk about, are you impairing 145 Men's Wearhouse and Tux stores, are you closing 145 stores, what is the outlook for this business as we move forward? Do you think it is a business that will be able to grow in productivity going forward?

George Zimmer

Let me address that, if I might, Neill.

Neill Davis

Sure.

Janet Kloppenberg JJK Research

I am just confused first, George, because I was on another call, but you are just impairing 145 stores, is that right?

George Zimmer

Well, yes, I mean, that is what we have announced, but I am going to take your question to give what really is the more complete answer, which is that what we have been experiencing since the acquisition over three years ago, is that customers would rather shop in a regular Men's Wearhouse store than a Men's Wearhouse and Tux store, when given a choice, which means when the stores are proximate. So there are hundreds of these stores that are very close to each other, and there are about 145 stores that we have right now that we think should probably close when their leases expire or before. Now I should remind you, if you look in our release today that we have already closed 35 tuxedo rental stores in 2009. So it is reasonable to assume that we will be closing well over 100 tuxedo rental stores. However, this is going to strengthen our business as opposed to weaken it, because we have such a high rate of recapture. Most of those customers are just going to the nearest Men's Wearhouse store.

Janet Kloppenberg JJK Research

And George, you don't worry about some of your competitors entering the tuxedo market recently, that they may capture some of that business?

George Zimmer

Well, I am sure some of it, Janet, will be captured in that way, but I don't think it will be significant, because remember, we are not impairing stores unless they are losing money. So that is usually a rent factor, and we are going to our landlords before we close, of course, and saying if you would like to make a rent deal, we will stay. So I don't know that our competitors will jump on most of these stores?

Janet Kloppenberg JJK Research

Okay. Great. Thank you and then, I think maybe you got a little more aggressive on your promotional or your pricing levels in February and I think that was proved to be successful for you. I was just wondering if you were able to price into those promotions so that the gross margin here won't be as dramatic and I was wondering if you could just talk a little bit about your pricing strategy going forward.

George Zimmer

As best I know because you are asking for information that for February as an example that is not actually available yet but I don't think there was a material change in margin. There might have been 10 point -- basis point yet something like that but there was nothing material. So most of it was related to the price.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from David Mann. Please take your company name followed by your question.

David Mann Johnson Rice

Yes. Thank you. Johnson Rice. Going back to the fourth quarter, you said that you increased your commercial activity but at the same time, you are saying your sales were below your expectations. So can you talk a little bit about what you gleamed from some of the promotions that may be worked in or and how are you still feel comfortable that kind of correlation you will have in your future when you are promoted?

George Zimmer

Yeah. What we believed is that if we can clean ourselves off of the steady time of being promotional that would be the direction we would like to move in. So as I said in my remarks, we are looking for marketing strategies that speak to our brand as well as offer a promotional incentive. What we are going to do is run more brand advertising. I think that promotional advertising relative to LY.

David Mann Johnson Rice

And then for my follow-up, in terms of your expenses, Neill, can you tell us how much the litigation reimbursement was and also your ability to keep the willingness expense reduction, the sustainability of that in 2010.

Neill Davis

The litigation reimbursement expenses are approximately may be 1.6 million in dollars that's pre-tax. Our ability to continue with low single-digit increases in the first quarter, again it depends on what's happening at the top line and what development at the course of the year. We still have the ability to react to the business or impact the business model if in fact by some economist measures that we did step into the double-debt recession in the back half of the year. We have abilities to deal with that. I think it's pretty mature at this point in time to talk about our full-year number but I would expect on a two-year basis, thinking about the beginning of all this, I would expect SG&A to be down but the specificitivity for the current year would be predicated in the top line and we'll take that quarter by quarter.

David Mann Johnson Rice

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. (Operator Instructions) Our next question comes from Laura Champine. Please take your company name followed by your question.

Laura Champine Cowen

Hi. Laura Champine from Cowen. Neill, the guidance for occupancy expense will be down with a single digit. It is pretty strong performance. How sustainable is that and what should we look at for the full year and even thinking in 2011?

Neill Davis

Sure. I mean, half of the occupancy decline in dollar terms for this next year, is going to be related to the impairment charge. The cost made essential that we would accelerate depreciation cost into that group of stores. So what you are realizing on a go-forward basis is a rather significant reduction. Occupancy costs which includes depreciation and that will impact our gross margin as occupancy is included in gross margin. The other part of the decline relates to store level, assets as they become fully depreciated. Our SG&A depreciation is essentially flat year over year. Things we have coming up, we have investments such as technology to support the comments George made about our e-com initiatives coming on. But the depreciation really or the occupancy relates to the depreciation done and like I mentioned.

Laura Champine Cowen

Got it. Thank you.

Neill Davis

Well.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Michael Weisberg. Please state your company name followed by your question.

Michael Weisberg Crestwood Capital

Yeah. Crestwood Capital. A couple of things, Neill, could you give us a sense may be how many of the Men's Wear house touched stores will close this year. As you mentioned, well over 100 number, I didn't know if that was a number. I didn't think I was a number for this year.

George Zimmer

That was a number for last year and this year.

Michael Weisberg Crestwood Capital

Okay.

George Zimmer

Next year, we are 35.

Michael Weisberg Crestwood Capital

So that means there will be something over 65 closings this year. Say, I'm sorry, yes.

George Zimmer

Yes.

Michael Weisberg Crestwood Capital

Great. And then may be talk a little bit about your promotional because in various times last year, you were doing BOGO and then you were doing it was buy one plus a 100. And I think you made some comments about trying to be less promotional. Could you give us the sense of what you're doing and what you plan on doing in terms of those two specific promotions?

George Zimmer

Well, there have been very successful promotions. So I'm sure, we'll continue to use them but I would imagine with less frequency.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Valerie Brown. Please state your company name followed by your question.

Sarah Brown – AllianceBernstein

Hi. Sarah Brown [ph] with AllianceBernstein. I guess, my question does not relate to the one that was just posed on the promotion strategy. I'm still unclear because at the beginning of the call, you mentioned that you had sort of shifted from the everyday low pricing to a sort of deep value type value approximation for your customer which implies that one would see sort of continuous promotional activity and so I'm just want to put a fine point on that and then secondly, I'm trying to also better understand this notion of pulling forward your sale because given the length of time and movement, keep their suit, it seems as you run these promotion and you get a big bolus of fails, there is likely to be a subsequent decline because people aren't replenishing that foot weight. This in that type of fit in past fashion business, if you will. Can you just help understand that please?

George Zimmer

Neill will explain that. That's exactly what happened in January that our business was significantly off because we went against a buy annual sale and we've been promotional all year. So you put this …

Sarah Brown – AllianceBernstein

Going forward, do you intend to continue this promotional tape or …

George Zimmer

Well, we have a new marketing agency and we are discussing as we speak various strategies for 2010. It's not going to be getting as I said in the first quarter because it's under discussion now. What I suggested in an earlier response, you would likely see more brand advertising and less promotional advertising.

Operator

Thank you. At this time, I'm showing no further questions. I'll turn the call back to Mr. Davis for any closing remark you may have.

Neill Davis

I thank everybody for their interest and continuing interest in the Men's' Wearhouse and we look forward to talking with you at next quarter.

Operator

Thank you, sir. Ladies and gentlemen, that does conclude Men's Wearhouse fourth quarter 2009 earnings conference call. If you like to listen to replay of this conference, please dial 303-590-3030 and an access code of 4248288. Thank you for your participation and you may now disconnect.

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