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Joe's Jeans Inc. (NASDAQ:JOEZ)

Q4 2010 Earnings Call Transcript

February 10, 2011 4:30 pm ET

Executives

Lori Nembrikow – General Counsel

Marc Crossman – President and CEO

Hamish Sandhu – CFO

Analysts

Charu Sharma – KeyBanc

David Griffith – Roth Capital Partners

Jon Evans – Edmunds White

Jason Martin [ph] – Essension [ph]

Joe Medori [ph] – Medori Propety [ph]

Michael Anthony [ph] – Justins [ph]

Matthew Fuhr – Cherry Group

Operator

Welcome to Joe's Jeans’ fiscal 2010 fourth quarter and year-end earnings call. My name is Nalini and I will be your conference coordinator for today. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. However, we will be facilitating a question and answer session towards the end of today’s conference. (Operator instructions) As a reminder, this conference is being recorded for replay purposes. I would now like to turn the presentation over to your host for today’s conference Lori Nembrikow, General Counsel for the company. Please proceed.

Lori Nembrikow

Thanks, operator and thanks to everyone for joining the call. Present on our call today 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 2010 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 to everyone for joining us today. I’ll speak about the fourth quarter 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.

In the fourth quarter, our net sales declined 7% from $25.2 million to $23.6 million. The sales decline was entirely attributable to our women’s wholesale business. The domestic women’s wholesale business, which is our largest and mature segment decreased double digits on a year-over-year basis. During the quarter, our consumer looked to new fabrics as a new catalyst for her next purchase. We did not capitalize on this trend with the right offering of cords, pontes, and super-stretch fabrics. We didn’t have enough newness in innovation of products to drive to the level sales we had last year, especially given that we were facing tough comps against last year’s successful Jean legging.

That said, we have made mid-stride adjustments to our Spring and Summer lines and we are introducing revamped fall 2011 line next at (inaudible). For example, we are launching new high rise bodies and skinny flare and wide-leg silhouettes. We are also introducing a number of newly developed fabrics into our fall line. We are injecting these innovative fabrics and fits into our fashion and replenishment style. Separately, we are excited about our new skinny micro-flare body that we will begin shipping at the end of this month. We plan to utilize print advertising and in-store marketing to support our new products initiatives going forward such as the skinny micro-flare.

In contrast, our men’s wholesale business continued to outperform our expectations. This business grew business by 44% on the year-over-year basis. The footprint of our men’s denim business continues to grow as we have taken market share from our competitors. This is evidenced by the fact that the lion’s share of the growth was driven in existing doors, the new opening of new doors. The product offering of our fall men’s collection was very strong and our core business performed at an optimal level. We continue to see sales and door growth coming from our new categories and so being tested in our major stores of spring.

Our international wholesale sales decreased by 27% on a year-over-year basis. Since the international business is primarily a women’s business, it was down commensurate with and for the same reason as our women’s domestic wholesale business. Our wholesale gross margin was 46.4% during the quarter compared to 48.4% a year ago. However, on a sequential basis, our wholesale gross margin increased almost 200 basis points from 44.5% in the third quarter, as we continued to improve sourcing for our other product classifications. It’s important to note that our denim selling gross margins remained consistent on a sequential and year-over-year basis.

Our wholesale SG&A declined $818,000 to $2.9 million on year-over-year basis. Our wholesale SG&A decline was attributable to reduced sample costs for our new product classifications, a decrease in our facilities and distribution expenses and lower commissions. Despite our cost cutting efforts, the reduced sales volume resulted in our operating income decreasing to $6.2 million from $7.7 million on a year-over-year basis. However, operating income was up over 7% on a sequential basis, even though this quarter had a lower revenue base.

Our retail sales increased 173% from $1.5 million to $4.1 million during the quarter as a result of increasing store base from 6 to 17 stores. However, the five stores in our same-store sales base for a full quarter posted a 6% decrease. This same-store sales decrease was solely a function of the 13% decline in average unit revenue. To be certain, we saw double-digit increases in both our store traffic and the volume of transactions. Over the course of the last year, we have diversified our product offering beyond denim and into other categories such as knit and woven tops.

While we have given the consumer a broader selection of items to choose from when making the purchase, this has resulted in lower average unit revenue. Accordingly, we are very focused on increasing our units per transaction and our average transaction value through increased product knowledge and tiered levels of incentives for our sales associates.

Turning to gross margin, as we stated on our last conference call, we moved through some very old collection items in June through September. As a result, our gross margins were impacted during the third quarter and the first month of the fourth quarter. Retail gross margins declined from 64.8% to 61.4%. Consistent with the message from the last call, our gross margin increased sequentially from 55%. On a consolidated basis, our retail operating loss increased from $41,000 to $145,000. This increase is largely attributable to the opening of Atlanta and Houston stores and increased computer support expenses we incurred during our transition between providers. I’ll now turn the call over to Hamish to discuss our financial results.

Hamish Sandhu

Thanks, Marc. Consistent with our segment report and format, I’ll discuss our corporate and other expenses. As a reminder, these are expenses that are not direct and dedicated expenses associated with either wholesale or retail. They include employee costs and overhead for accounting, production, and design.

For the fourth quarter, our corporate and other expenses decreased by $600,000 to $4.1 million from $4.7 million in the prior year. This decrease is attributable to not having a full print advertising campaign in the fourth quarter of 2010. We previously stated that we do not expect to see meaningful sequential increases in our corporate expenses and accordingly, this quarter represents a 4% decrease from the third quarter.

During the quarter, on a consolidated basis, net sales decreased to $23.6 million from $25.2 million over the prior-year period, as Marc discussed. At 49%, our gross margin remained flat versus the year-ago quarter and fourth quarter SG&A was consistent at $9.3 million in both periods. As a result, operating income decreased 37% to $1.8 million from $2.9 million in the prior year.

In the fourth quarter of 2009, we reversed our valuation allowance for our deferred tax assets that resulted in an income tax benefit of $17.6 million for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2009. Due to the significant tax benefits, we believe the better comparative metric is operating income and not net income. On a full year consolidated basis, our net sales increased by 23% to $98.2 million compared to $80.1 million in 2009. Our gross profit increased 16% to $46.2 million in 2010 from $39.8 million in 2009. Our gross margins were 47% and 50% respectively. Our SG&A expense increased by 28% on a full-year basis, partially due to increased expenses associated with employee and facility costs to support our retail operations and new product categories. The increase in these expenses resulted in a corresponding decrease in our operating income to $6 million from $8.5 million and earnings per share of $0.04 for the full year.

Finally, our effective tax rate for the year was 53%. Because of the non-vestability [ph] of the units, we pay as part of the merger consideration with JD Holdings from 2007, our reported income tax rate is substantially higher than our statutory rate of 40% and our cash tax rate is 15%. Now, I’ll turn the call back to Marc.

Marc Crossman

Thanks, Hamish. Operator, we are now ready to take questions.

Operator

Thank you. (Operator instructions) And our first question comes from the line of Charu Sharma with KeyBanc. Go ahead.

Charu Sharma – KeyBanc

Hi, Marc. Hi, Hamish. So, I wanted to clarify a little bit on the wholesale side, I mean clearly you mentioned the business was down primarily from the women’s business suffering in the quarter, just wanted to clarify a little bit, can you talk about the backlog on the wholesale side, then how you’ve seen that develop?

Marc Crossman

Yes, there are a couple of things. Our backlog as we look into the first quarter – right now, it’s flat, but it’s flat excluding leggings because we have tough comp in first quarter with leggings, so I think it was at about $2.4 million of legging business in first quarter of last year, so up against that tough comp. That’s the last real comp we’ll have of leggings, it’s obviously not something that’s going to be a huge impact in Q2 of 2011 going forward.

As we look to our second quarter backlog right now, and this is a little bit further out, it’s up about 30%. But I would caution you their core basic plays a – it’s roughly half of your business, so that plays a big role in where that – those number actually end up. And then also, we really are getting our customers right orders relative to that. We went to a pretty much, I would say, cut order, the part of our strategy to bring our inventory levels down further. In the quarter, we did this in about three plus million dollars, so we do have a lot of customers writing orders earlier than they otherwise would.

Charu Sharma – KeyBanc

Okay. That’s helpful. And then in terms of that 30% that you mentioned, is that backlog for this projection you are making including the new collection that you are introducing next week, or is that excluding that?

Marc Crossman

That’s excluding it, that’s through 5, 30 [ph]

Charu Sharma – KeyBanc

Got it. Okay. And then on the international side down 27%, can you give a little bit more color on what exactly is happening and the dynamic in the international markets?

Marc Crossman

Yes, I mean, the international market for us is primarily, as I said, it’s primarily a women’s business. So really the things that happened in this last quarter and the fourth quarter from a fabric standpoint and where sit with our products, really did translate from fully over to our international market. In all segments, we saw the same types of broad currents going on that we saw in the US.

Charu Sharma – KeyBanc

Okay, great. And then just to turn to retail, in terms of the gross margins you saw, that step-up that you mentioned sequentially, that obviously year-over-year, it’s down from the 65% that you have last year. So just going forward thinking about retail gross margins and the level that you think is sustainable there, how should we think about that for 2011?

Marc Crossman

We have two things going on, one is our base is kind of more heavily skewed towards outlet as opposed to full price just looking at our same-store sales base and every store, I’d say, two for one has been an outlet as opposed to a full-price store. So I think we look at our gross margin, so a 65% is probably the upper end of the target where we are going to get. We then, doing some things that bring some price points up gently in the outlet market, and we also (inaudible) increasing our gross margins from 73% to – Hamish, I think –

Hamish Sandhu

77%.

Marc Crossman

77% in the fourth quarter. So we don’t think that where we are sitting today with our gross margins is the upper end, I would say that we are targeting more like 65% on a consolidated basis.

Charu Sharma – KeyBanc

Okay, great. That’s helpful. And then in terms of the outlets business anecdotally, I’ve a noticed Joe’s Jeans products in socks or fits which you utilize as a clearance channel, I mean how has that – with themes like an increased penetration in those channels, how is that played out with your retail growth strategy? And if also you can kind of confirm the new store growth cadence, whether 12 to 15 stores per year is still a reasonable assumption to you?

Marc Crossman

Yes, starting with the outlet business in the quarter, in the quarter our off-price business is actually down, so to the extent you are kind of comp presentation or presentations, actually should look smaller than they were a year ago. And largely this is, we are putting – we have a finite amount of goods and we are putting them into our stores as opposed to the other off-price channels. So that’s really what’s going on as a dynamic of the off-price business. We’ve been selling to the accounts for a long, long time, but as you know as we talked about the outlet wean ourselves off of those as best we can. In terms of store openings, we have five leases right now that are signed, we are in the process of building out two stores. So, we are half way there. And then I would that we’ll pretty hit the 10 stores being opened this year. So, yes, that’s still a good number to use.

Charu Sharma – KeyBanc

Okay, great. And then just on the non-denim category side, can you talk a little bit about – you mentioned how that penetration in terms of the product mix within stores has shifted and that’s resulted in a 13% AUR decline, can you just clarify is the entire AUR decrease a result of that product mix shift or is that also an asset of your denim strategy in terms of the price points that you have out there going down as well? If you could just comment on the pricing strategy on denim specifically that would be helpful.

Marc Crossman

Yes. Our pricing strategy on denim hasn’t changed. In terms of where we stay, we still have that $138 core basic, it’s not a very important piece that our core – base itself sits primarily between a $158 and $167. So there has not been a change in strategy on pricing. As I said before, we saw that when we brought prices down on certain pieces that it really didn’t have an impact on the overall business. So that strategy hasn’t changed. And it really is offering the lower price point products that we haven’t had in the past.

Charu Sharma – KeyBanc

Okay. Great. And I’ll take the rest of my questions offline. Thanks and best of luck.

Marc Crossman

All right. Thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of David Griffith with Roth Capital Partners. Go ahead.

David Griffith – Roth Capital Partners

Yes, good afternoon.

Marc Crossman

Hi, David. How are you doing?

David Griffith – Roth Capital Partners

Good. Hamish, Marc, could you talk a little bit about your inventory position, looks like it was up about well over $7 million year over year, obviously with a 11 more retail stores that’s part of it and kind of how it plays out between wholesale and retail and kind of where you staying with (inaudible)?

Marc Crossman

Yes. I’ll talk about it just anecdotally from where it’s a – we’ve made within the last six months that we are going to bring the inventory levels down on the wholesale side of the business. And this last quarter, we brought it down a little over $3 million sequentially. And so, I think we are going to continue and you will continue to see that move in a direction. Based on that, as I’ve said, our cut to – basically cut order program, we are getting our raw customers to commit a little bit sooner and so that we can really take fabric positions but not have to take any inventory positions. So we are going to see that trend continue on a sequential basis.

David Griffith – Roth Capital Partners

And then on retail inventories?

Marc Crossman

And our retail inventories are – there is not going to be a change on the per store basis, we don’t have a different strategy. It will be as we add – as we add stores, we’ll be putting more inventory into the stores. And I think we said like around a $150,000 worth of inventory per store.

David Griffith – Roth Capital Partners

So, are you bringing in goods any sooner, or is there product on the water essentially? And then, maybe kind of along those lines, could you kind of talk about costing pressures and what you are seeing going forward?

Marc Crossman

Sure. As it relates to inventory, we are not taking a different strategy from where more order in fabrics, when our goods are hitting the warehouse and the timeframe at which we are planning our capacity. So that hasn’t changed in any way, shape or form. The only thing that’s changed is now we are ordering based on when we have the orders that we can pull up orders, and as you know, a year, year-and-a-half ago, the retailers were ready to do that. Now, we are getting them to place their commitments in the orders further ahead of time so that we have more visibility going into ordering that inventory. I think that was one question. The second was, as – in regards to the pricing pressures, and everybody knows cotton has basically doubled, so when we look at our cost and on an overall garment and fabric component that we are buying, it hasn’t made a material difference, and when I say material, we are talking about 5% cost increase on the overall garments, but we’ve been able to make up with that – make up for that in different ways. And it’s much easier to take a different fabric and deluging [ph] around that, but it is – look at exactly a fabric in that same (inaudible).

David Griffith – Roth Capital Partners

Yes, it’s nice to have high price points. Could you talk a little bit about the non-denim, the pant, the T, and the shirt and kind of how you are doing in terms of distribution and kind of – maybe even how that’s being received in your own stores, maybe you are seeing a difference between how it’s doing in wholesale versus retail?

Marc Crossman

Yes, sure. In terms of wholesale, it still represents around 10% of our revenues. What we’ve seen is a pretty dramatic shift in what those products represent. So six months ago, the pant was a huge piece of our business and coming out of the summer and moving into fall, what we’ve seen is, it’s really slipping and our knits and wovens on the top side are starting to gain a lot of traction. You see it with the girls walking around and not wearing their wearing their Katies [ph], they are wearing more denim right now.

David Griffith – Roth Capital Partners

And then on the men side?

Marc Crossman

On the men side, it’s pretty much the same trend, it’s not – in terms of where we are seeing the pant go versus our knits and wovens, I don’t have the data in front of me, but I do know that if we look at it, it will be the exact same trend where the pant is – represent less of a percent of that overall non-denim category where the knits and the wovens do, but – and if you want to talk offline with Hamish, he can give you some more specific number.

David Griffith – Roth Capital Partners

Okay, great. And then just a follow-up on a point I think I heard you say, the 77% gross margin, is that what you are seeing in your full price stores versus 73% a year ago or sequentially?

Marc Crossman

Well (inaudible).

David Griffith – Roth Capital Partners

Okay. Very good. Thanks.

Marc Crossman

That was correct. That was on a year-over-year basis, the 73% to 77%.

Operator

(Operator instructions) Our next question comes from the line of Jon Evans with Edmunds White. Go ahead.

Jon Evans – Edmunds White

Could you guys talk a little bit about, it doesn’t seem like cotton or some of the issues that are affecting you guys much on the cost side, will you take up your eye [ph] and use it all to try to compensate for that or should we just expect a little bit of margin compression as your garment cost is going up a little?

Marc Crossman

We haven’t taken our AMUs [ph], we kind of work backwards shelving in the garment, we have a pretty wide price range. So as we talk about a jean going anywhere from a $138 to $219, when Joe designs a jean, it really looks at it and goes backwards into what price point he wants to be at, so that is why you’ve seen our margins are still remaining steady, it actually has increased a little bit. And so, it’s how we build the jean, it’s not the same jean that we are putting out over and over again, then we – so we’re going to see the cost pressure. I guess you to say that’s a fancy of saying that it’s – it really is kind of getting passed on to the consumer, plus we are finding other ways to offset that by boding more of the fabric over than the flying head – boding versus flying – $2 is doing that offset any pressure you would have from cotton prices going up.

Jon Evans – Edmunds White

Got it, okay. And then the other question, I’m just curious, can you talk a little bit about your strategy, so when you talk about the 5% kind of price increase for the garments, does that include where you think kind of cotton costs are now or is that increase you’ve locked in, or – and can you just give us any kind of insight on what you guys are doing there?

Marc Crossman

Well, we do have – when you say lock in, we do order fabrics six months before we start cutting it, and I would say that there is a, maybe six to nine month lead time on when we price orders as opposed to when we deliver to the store. So, yes, I would say we are on a six to nine month lag. That being said, when I talk about the cost increase of less than 5%, you got to remember a jean, that too is in dollar. So, it’s not a –

Jon Evans – Edmunds White

Pretty insignificant.

Marc Crossman

Overall.

Jon Evans – Edmunds White

Okay, great. And thank you so much.

Marc Crossman

No problem.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Jason Martin [ph] with Essension [ph]. Go ahead.

Jason Martin – Essension

Good afternoon. Had a couple of questions, the first one is, your ability to respond trends and then how quickly you guess from trend to hangar? And if you are doing anything to increase that ever since the JV [ph]?

Marc Crossman

More specifically, I guess you are saying how long – I guess the best way to put that is two ways, how long is our design cycle and then how fast can we react, I guess would be the two questions I would answer on our design cycle. Well, let me start with reacting, if we have a fabric in place, we can react and have garments shipped out of the warehouse within four weeks. And in terms of our design cycle, you have to back it up a couple of months past that. So, really if we looked at, I would say, about a three-month window, and so when we see a trend if we want to react to that is about a three-month window. If we see a really fast reaction to a style, given that we have fabric, it’s a four-week cycle.

Jason Martin – Essension

Excellent. And second question is about your advertising and your leveraging – my wife jean, she always shows me pictures in the magazines of people wearing Joe’s Jeans and she knows that – going in out of the stock and I’m wondering if you are doing anything to leverage, is there a PR company working on making sure all those pictures get recreated, and is there something behind the scenes going on to make sure we are capitalizing on all of the sightings and being on top of a trend while it’s still hot?

Marc Crossman

Yes, absolutely. We are using (inaudible) firms to handle of our PR (inaudible) internally that will really push all those efforts to fruition. And it’s (inaudible) and making sure that you are send them around to all your stores and customers, so they can see it and through it. So things like that are very important getting in the (inaudible) and then also editorial and putting together better relationships and working further in advance and then also I would say segue into having in-store signage that really take that message and hits it home to the customer as their (inaudible) garment.

Jason Martin – Essension

Excellent. Thank you very much.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Joe Medori [ph] with Medori Propety [ph]. Go ahead.

Joe Medori – Medori Propety

Good afternoon. First question regards to your strategy and locating your retail stores, one thing I want to know is, you plan on 10 stores you said this year, how many of those are actual proceeds and how many are you thinking are going to be outlet stores? And also, I mean, what is your strategy in both the utilities, these retails stores, for example, New York City is the fashion capital of the United States, is there some interest in locating in New York City and you would tell me a little about that and how your strategy?

Marc Crossman

Right now, it is about finding the right deals, we know the locations that we want to be in in terms of general locations such as in LA and New York and all the metropolitan areas. We have signed five leases right now, all of those are in outlet malls, but we are still looking for full-price locations, but we don’t have anything to announce right now.

Joe Medori – Medori Propety

So if we were to consider (inaudible) to be more important than an (inaudible) jean?

Marc Crossman

I would say it’s all important as it relates to the strategy, the outlets really to fill a different need that we have from a corporate strategy standpoint that is very much different than what the full-price stores do, and the full-price stores are also very important to the strategy. The only counting factor is that we can run with the same team, but – I wouldn’t favor one over the other to really address two separate needs within the organization. So they are both very important.

Joe Medori – Medori Propety

Okay. And (inaudible) going forward, can you continue this 10 stores a year (inaudible), can you provide any color on that?

Marc Crossman

Right now, for 2012, we’ve committed 10 to 12 stores, sorry, 2011. We haven’t announced our plans for 2012, but right now it would look a lot like what we are doing in this year in 2011.

Joe Medori – Medori Propety

Okay. And my second question regards to your manufacturing strategy, I understand you’ve been able to locate some lower cost operations or factories overseas, is that correct?

Marc Crossman

Yes, correct.

Joe Medori – Medori Propety

Okay. That’s all I have. Thank you very much.

Marc Crossman

All right. Thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from line of Michael Anthony [ph] with Justins [ph]. Go ahead.

Michael Anthony – Justins

Yes, how are you doing?

Marc Crossman

Yes, thank you.

Michael Anthony – Justins

(inaudible) $0.40 a year ago, same level or not, I got in a little bit late, but you –actually the sales increased, but we are(inaudible) and how does that come into play?

Marc Crossman

So, I guess the question is why we made $0.04 this year and we made $0.40 a year ago to get the sales increase. Assuming if that’s the question, it was largely the tax benefit in the fourth year when we wrote up our deferred tax asset. Operator, next question please.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Matthew Fuhr with Cherry Group. Go ahead.

Matthew Fuhr – Cherry Group

Good afternoon.

Marc Crossman

Good afternoon.

Matthew Fuhr – Cherry Group

My question is referring your sourcing strategy going forward knowing that there is going to be inflationary environment not only in raw materials but also with the price of oil coming up, with spend cost of chemicals for dry and wear processing and wanted to see if your plan is to change your sourcing strategy, whether it maybe US and Mexico, which I think is primary what you are doing now and focus more on potential margin by shifting more of the production to Asia like some of your similar market competitors?

Marc Crossman

Yes, there are a couple of things. The first thing we are doing to address that, unfortunately enough given the price line which we sell are jeans we have a lot of room, but the first thing we do, we start boarding our raw materials, boarding the jeans, rather than air the goods in. So we have that flexibility to make up for it. That’s the first thing you do and we are always addressing our sourcing strategies to theirs and so always be a cheaper place to make a garment. So we haven’t seen it, or it hasn’t been to the point today, where we need to start making major changes on our sourcing strategy, but we always keep those stores open.

Matthew Fuhr – Cherry Group

Are you finding resistance to the Made in Asia, or Made in South America, or Made in Mexico label in your higher price merchandise versus Made in USA?

Marc Crossman

I can say this with 100% confidence, absolutely not.

Matthew Fuhr – Cherry Group

Very interesting. Thank you.

Marc Crossman

You are welcome.

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, that does conclude the time that we have available for questions. I would like to turn the call back over to Marc for closing remarks. Please proceed.

Marc Crossman

Okay. Thank you everybody for joining us on the call. And we will definitely talk to you in the second quarter or after first quarter results. And if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us. Thank you.

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your participation in today’s conference. That does conclude the presentation. You may now disconnect. Have a wonderful day.

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