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Coach Ups Guidance After Strong Holiday

NEW YORK — Continuing to swim against the tide, American accessories specialist Coach Inc. said Wednesday that holiday sales were so good that it had boosted its earnings per share guidance by 4 cents.<br><br>The revised EPS guidance for the...

NEW YORK — Continuing to swim against the tide, American accessories specialist Coach Inc. said Wednesday that holiday sales were so good that it had boosted its earnings per share guidance by 4 cents.

The revised EPS guidance for the second quarter ended Dec. 28 is 65 cents a diluted share, up from 61 cents. The revised estimate is 3 cents higher than the current First Call/Thomson Financial consensus estimate of 62 cents. Earnings in the year-ago period were 49 cents a share. Coach is scheduled to report results for the quarter on Jan. 22.

Lauding the “vibrancy of the Coach brand and the relevancy of our product offering,” Lew Frankfort, chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement: “Our improvement in profitability was a result of both gross margin expansion and the further leveraging of our expense base.”

Coach, which experienced strong holiday sales across all channels of its business, from handbags to small leather goods to footwear, managed to buck the lackluster sales trend that has dogged most retailers.

The update stood in stark contrast to one offered on Tuesday by Tiffany, which cut fourth-quarter EPS expectations to between 57 cents and 62 cents from previous guidance of between 60 cents to 65 cents. The jewelry purveyor, citing lost sparkle from holiday sales, also dropped its yearend forecast to between $1.25 and $1.30 a share, from the expected $1.28 to $1.33 range. Wall Street had expected 61 cents for the quarter and $1.23 for the year. Tiffany is expected to report results on Feb. 26.

According to Coach, second-quarter sales rose 30.9 percent to $308.5 million from $235.8 million a year ago. The firm had originally projected sales of $290 million. Direct-to-consumer sales rose 19.3 percent to $191.5 million, while indirect sales were up 55.5 percent to $117.1 million. Significant sales growth in Japan and continued momentum in U.S. department stores drove results. Comparable-store sales rose 12.7 percent, with retail stores up 18.1 percent and factory store sales up 5.8 percent.

In a research update on Wednesday, Margaret Mager of Goldman Sachs raised the investment bank’s EPS estimate for Coach to 67 cents, due to the expected upside to company guidance because of robust sales, growth in the high-margin Japanese market and tight expense control.

Robert Drbul, of Lehman Brothers, upped expectations to 66 cents for the quarter. He wrote in a research note that Coach remains an underpenetrated retail concept. The specialty firm plans to increase its U.S. retail presence over the next four to five years to 250 stores from 150. “We find this initiative encouraging, as Coach has consistently demonstrated a successful retail store format that reinforces its brand image, generates approximately $900 in annual sales per square foot, and can be readily adapted to various location requirements,” Drbul observed.

The Lehman analyst also wrote that Coach has significant international growth opportunities. Coach currently has between 2 and 3 percent of the Japanese market, a share that Drbul projected could double to at least 6 percent over the next few years.