NEW YORK — Just blocks away from the final fashion week prep at Lincoln Center, retail and fashion’s top executives gathered at The Plaza for The Goldman Sachs Nineteenth Annual Global Retailing Conference.
Fashion’s bigwigs tried to woo investors with a variety of statistics and growth plans, but after formal presentations, they all faced some form of the same question from Goldman analysts: What are your second-half expectations relative to first-half performance?
Here’s what they had to say:
Bill Simon, president and chief executive officer, Wal-Mart U.S.: “We’re optimistic about the fourth quarter. We do expect it to be challenging. The retail environment is getting very aggressive. We have [competitors] that are struggling. We have people that are growing, so that, ones that are doing well, they are fighting us in doing well….We expect a very aggressive fourth quarter — and by the way, we like that because that’s when we do our best.”
Ken Hannah, chief financial officer, J.C. Penney Co. Inc.: “We’re assuming that the back-half is consistent with what we experienced in the first half….Our [comparable-store] sales were down 20 percent in the first half. We saw some very encouraging results [during] the first couple of weeks of August.”
Emanuel Chirico, chairman and ceo, PVH Corp.: “There continues to be volatility out there, but given the strength of the business, particularly the Calvin [Klein] and the Tommy [Hilfiger] businesses, we’re pretty bullish about how we see the year laying out. Back-to-school season in North America has gotten off to a very strong start. [We] continue to believe we can grow earnings per share with the assets that we own today, somewhere in the 15 percent to 17 percent range.”
John Idol, chairman and ceo, Michael Kors Holdings Ltd.: “The economic environment for the accessories business, in particular for the second half of the year on a macro basis, still looks very healthy. And we believe that this accessories trend is a global trend….The consumer who is shopping in our stores, and we think in other luxury stores, she wants a new handbag for fall season and she is not going to let much stand in the way.”
Stephen I. Sadove, chairman and ceo, Saks Inc.: “Barring any kind of an unforeseen event, our expectations are that you’re going to see a fall season that’s about the same as what you saw in the spring season. The stock market in the 13,000 range is pretty healthy for the luxury consumer….We don’t expect to see Europe totally blowing up in the next few months. So our expectation is for [the second half] to be relatively the same as what you’re seeing out there right now.”
Blake Nordstrom, president, Nordstrom Inc.: “In spite of some real serious fundamental issues with the economy…the customer is responding to newness….There is not a lot of price resistance if that newness is there. [If while planning inventory] we get a little safe, the customer has so many choices today that it impacts our business. So as we look forward, we’re going to continue to be prudent with our planning and be in the low-single-digit range, but that’s not our goal.”
Brendan Hoffman, president and ceo, The Bon-Ton Stores Inc.: “The thing that we are most excited about is hopefully getting some real cold weather — 2011, while we hate to blame the weather, I saw the effect of the warm weather on two department stores now and how much it influences not just your cold-weather items, but just a trip to the store.”