The most valuable and dynamic fashion and beauty companies in the world are either one or the other.
That is one of the key takeaways of the WWD Global Stock Tracker, which launched on WWD.com Wednesday and puts 100 of the most important fashion, retail, luxury and beauty stocks in one place and — after a currency translation — on the same playing field.
Millions of investors vote every day — from New York to Hong Kong to Paris — collectively deciding who’s on their way up and who’s on their way down. It’s a never-ending distillation of everything that makes up a business, from branding and distribution to management and marketing.
The verdict? Competition is fierce and sheer size offers efficiencies of scale and market might that helps the big stay big and grow bigger — albeit at a slower pace than some of their scrappier competitors. There are a host of companies that still have speed and momentum on their side, from Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. to Under Armour Inc., that are being richly rewarded by investors.
By market capitalization — the value of all of a firm’s outstanding shares at the current price — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is the most valuable company playing in the fashion sphere, weighing in at $247.09 billion. Beauty giant Procter & Gamble Co., a big Wal-Mart supplier, ranks as number two, with a market cap of $217.99 billion. Then there’s a big fall-off in terms of size. L’Oréal SA comes in at number three at $104.33 billion. (Market caps of companies trading on foreign exchanges are listed in current U.S. dollars for comparison sake.)
As the rankings move from the truly gigantic to the intensely large, a clear divide in customer base emerges — reflecting the squeeze felt by the middle class.
Fashion’s largest and therefore most successful players are going after the two ends of the price spectrum. The tendency is for these companies to zero in on the luxe consumer or remain laser focused on the low-income shopper.
“The hollowed-out middle class is an important part of this story,” said Jonathan Low, founding partner at Predictiv Consulting, noting that household incomes for many have been stagnant for decades.
The trend is made most visible by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Zara parent Inditex, which are vastly different companies playing in vastly different markets, but when it comes to overall value, investors view them as nearly identical.
They round out the top-five most valuable companies in the Tracker with LVMH at $96.54 billion, and Inditex at $95.12 billion.
It’s no accident that these companies find themselves on top of the heap. To be that big, a firm needs to do many things and be fairly good at all of them: It needs to be global and focused on the nuts and bolts of operations to reliably get product into the hands of consumers.
“These are all companies that have been around for a long time, for the most part, and they’ve established a huge base business, which has a bunch of assets that are going to generate value,” said Todd Hooper, partner in the private equity practice of A.T. Kearney.
Those assets include stores, brands and product development capabilities, he said.
“Broadly speaking, these valuations are a fair long-term assessment of…the neighborhood that these businesses should be valued in,” Hooper said. “The market is pretty smart at understanding what’s driving growth and what’s driving margins.”
While market cap is not the same as market share, with the former referring to a company’s value and the latter referring to how strong its positioning is in a particular area, overall stock market value does tend to hew closer to a company’s sales or sales trend than to its earnings.
Kate Spade & Co., for instance, logged net earnings of just $73 million last year. But investors chose to focus on the 61 percent sales growth at the company’s namesake brand, while pushing it to a market cap of $4.7 billion.
Growth is the story most companies sell to investors, but often it’s just a different spin on the story the company is selling consumers.
The top and quickly growing companies in the Tracker have clear brand positioning — which analysts said is perhaps the most important variable for investors.
People putting their money to work in the markets are looking for growth and security and that’s what they get in a brand, said Christine Chen, senior investment analyst at Ashfield Capital Partners.
“You’re selling the brand and the brand is selling the dream — that creates the moat [around a business],” Chen said. “Wall Street wants that moat. Wall Street values brand and growth and the two are intertwined. You can’t have growth if you don’t have a story to tell. Look at those that have fallen the hardest, it’s ones who don’t have a moat or didn’t protect that moat.”
This impulse to protect a brand has caused many companies to branch out and emphasize their own stores.
@fearofgod and @maxfieldla have teamed up on a pop-up installation. The store, located in the gallery space across from Maxfield’s Melrose Ave location, is the site of the brand’s House of God pop-up in which Fear of God founder @jerrylorenzo has created a church-inspired installation. A dozen vintage church pews sit in front of an LED screen playing 90s gospel singers in an effort to re-create an environment akin to a Southern Baptist Church, Lorenzo explained. Read more about the pop-up on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Jennifer Johnson)
Known for his sleek, sophisticated American glamour, Norman Norell is the subject of an upcoming exhibition at @fitnyc. “Norell: Dean of American Fashion,” which runs from February 9 through April 14, will feature approximately 100 ensembles and accessories. His best work is exemplified by the designer’s glittering “mermaid” gowns frosted with thousands of hand-sewn sequins – like the one pictured. (📷: William Helburn) #wwdfashion
For pre-fall 2018, @balmain didn’t let go of the glitz. A crystal embroidered baseball jacket priced at around $40,000 hangs in the “couture” section of the brand’s first men’s pre-collection. Sporting the words “Balmain Army” across the back, the item took around two months to make. “When it was completed, it was like Christmas, it was like, ‘It’s done, it’s exactly what I wanted,’” said Balmain’s creative director @olivier_rousteing during a tour of the collection in a Paris showroom on Monday. #wwdfashion
Eighty degree temperatures and outdoor installations at the annual Art Basel Miami Beach called for bright, elevated beachwear. See more street style pictures on WWD.com. #theyarewearing #ABMB (📷: @lifeinreverie)
Following September’s emotional tribute to her brother Gianni, Donatella Versace wanted to bring the spring show’s deep sense of intimacy to her @versace_official pre-fall collection. Donatella found inspiration in Versace Palazzo in Milan and from Gianni’s opulent apartment. Archival patterns and new motifs were splashed on silk shirtdresses and fitted jersey frocks. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com. #wwdfashion
Demna Gvasalia continues to shake up the Paris fashion calendar — and experiment with new runway timetables for his @vetements_official brand. WWD has learned that Vetements plans to stage its next coed show for the fall 2018 season on January 19 during Men’s Fashion Week in the French capital. Details about the timing and venue have not been confirmed — stay tuned on WWD.com to catch the latest. #wwdnews (📷: @giovanni_giannoni_photo)
@zacposen's go-to holiday gift? Cookies! "I'll usually bake cookies and send them as a gift," said the designer, who recently released his cookbook "Cooking With Zac: Recipes from Rustic to Refined." Get the recipe for his Brown Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies via link in bio 🍪🍪🍪 #wwdeye #cookingwithzac
For @monsemaison’s pre-fall 2018 collection, Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim honed in on the brand’s many signatures — men’s wear, which was tweaked and feminized through deconstruction, proportion play and lots of bare shoulders. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: George Chinese)
On Friday night, @yohjiyamamotoofficial received the Design for Asia Lifetime Achievement Award in Hong Kong. The 75-year-old designer has been celebrated for many years and is best known for his dark and avant-garde tailoring. “In my long career, in design, architecture, [I’ve been to] so many parties, this is the very first time that I have such a warm feeling, I really appreciate this,” Yamamoto said. #wwdfashion (📷: @dominiquemaitre)