Retailers Tout Internet, Europe

Nordstrom, Urban Outfitters and Abercrombie & Fitch pitch to shareholders at Piper Jaffray conference.

Markets rallied Wednesday — pushing U.S. retail stocks to their best day in over a month — as investors sensed that central bankers in Europe and the U.S. were warming to the idea that the economies might require a cash infusion.

This story first appeared in the June 7, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The S&P Retail Index rose 2.4 percent, or 14.33 points, to 607.30, the strongest gain since April 27. The Dow Jones Industrial Average increased 2.4 percent, or 286.84 points, to 12,414.79.

Among the gainers were three retailers schmoozing with investors at Piper Jaffray’s 32nd Annual Consumer Conference in New York. Urban Outfitters Inc. rose 3.3 percent to $27.59, as Nordstrom Inc. gained 1.6 percent to $47.82, and Abercrombie & Fitch Co. advanced 0.7 percent to $32.64.

Investors wanted to know about Europe, the Internet and everything in between. Here’s what executives had to say.

Michael Koppel, executive vice president and chief financial officer, Nordstrom Inc.
• “The e-commerce channel is the next major wave of consumer distribution as malls were 40, 50 years ago.”

•  “When we brought [private sale firm HauteLook] back in March of 2011 it had four million members; now it’s got over eight million members. We’re a 110-year-old company and we have roughly 10-plus million names that we had some relationship with and here is this small company and a small shop with less sophisticated technology.…There’s something to be learned there.”

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Frank Conforti, cfo, Urban Outfitters Inc.

• “It’s very difficult with social media to go and to say, ‘How did that translate into a sale?’ But the way we look at it is all traffic is good traffic. And if our marketing efforts, if our social blogs, if our community is increasing the amount of users that we have, it’s increasing our demand, then that’s good for us.”

•  “The Urban brand has 30-plus stores in Europe now, and we believe it could get to a 100-plus stores. Anthropologie is in Europe [and] now has three stores, and we believe that brand can continue to grow [there].”

Jonathan Ramsden, executive vice president and cfo, Abercrombie & Fitch Co.
•  “If you go back to three years ago today, we had one [Abercrombie & Fitch] store in Europe and we had three Hollister stores in Europe opened. By the end of this year, we’re going to have over 100 stores in Europe and over that relatively short period of time we built a highly profitable, very significant business in Europe and we fully expect to continue with that.…We clearly need to be mindful of the environment and a little bit more conservative in the volumes that we are looking at in the current environment.”