Fashion Stocks Take A Pounding In ’93

NEW YORK -- Fashion stocks got socked in 1993, reflecting the general malaise in the fashion industry. And analysts don't expect much improvement in 1994 until demand for apparel improves.<BR><BR>The WWD stock index tumbled 6.9 percent in 1993,...

NEW YORK — Fashion stocks got socked in 1993, reflecting the general malaise in the fashion industry. And analysts don’t expect much improvement in 1994 until demand for apparel improves.

The WWD stock index tumbled 6.9 percent in 1993, compared with a 13.7 percent climb in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and a 7.1 percent gain in the Standard & Poor’s 500-Stock Index.

Decliners on the WWD index outpaced advancers, 46 to 24, almost a two-to-one margin.

Fashion stocks strongly outperformed the market in 1992 and 1991, when the WWD index shot up a combined 35 percent and many issues racked up even more spectacular gains.

Apparel manufacturers suffered the most in 1993, falling a combined 25 percent They were followed by the discounters, down 21.9 percent, and, apparel specialty stores, off 18.1 percent.

Many of Wall Street’s former darlings got rocked in 1993. Liz Claiborne Inc. fell 45.7 percent to 22.63, Fruit of the Loom Inc. plunged 50.4 percent to 24.13, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. slumped 21.9 percent to 25; The Limited Inc. dropped 37 percent to 17, and Dillard Department Stores Inc. fell 23.6 percent to 38.

Wall Street analysts said the declines reflected anemic demand for apparel at retail and the high valuation of many stocks entering the year.

Although the economy showed some strengthening in the latter part of 1993, analysts said low interest rates will lead consumers toward big-ticket items such as cars, houses, large appliances and home-related products, leaving little cash for apparel. Also, apparel demand has been restrained by a lack of any exciting fashion trends to catch the consumer’s eye.

But if there was any good news in 1993, it was a buoyant new issue market — despite the postponement in November of the most publicized one, The Donna Karan Co.

Among the winners in apparel retailing were Chico’s FAS Inc., rising 143 percent from its March offering price; The Gymboree Corp., soaring 123 percent from its March offering price; The Talbots Inc., rising 35.9 percent from its November offering price, and Urban Outfitters Inc., ahead 48.6 percent from its November offering price.

In the apparel area, IPO winners included St. John Knits Inc., climbing 36.8 percent from its March offering price; Cygne Designs Inc., moving up 90 percent from its July offering price and Donnkenny Inc., up 41.5 percent from its June offering price.

Fossil Inc. was up 153 percent form its April offering price and Sunglass Hut International Inc. gained 57.5 percent from its June offering price.

Looking to 1994, Wayne Hood, who covers retail stocks for Prudential Bache Securities, said he expects consumer spending to remain under pressure in 1994, dimming chances for a turnaround in retail issues.

“Retailers will be facing a wall of worry throughout 1994,” Hood said. “Consumers took on a mound of debt this Christmas, and there’s still the issues of higher taxes on the upper-income brackets and the unknown effect of health care reform.”

Hood expects the retail group to be “market performers” for 1994, though he said there may be some winners in the group.

Todd Slater, who covers apparel issues at UBS Securities, said a stronger fashion trend could lead to a resurgence in many apparel issues.

“It’s not enough that consumer confidence improves; there’s got to be a reason to buy,” Slater said.

Liz Claiborne’s decline came as the company indicated earnings would likely drop 40 percent in the year and an imminent turnaround was not guaranteed in 1994. Leslie Fay Cos. Inc., which lost 73.7 percent to 3.25, was forced to file Chapter 11 after losing most of its trade credit following the disclosure that false bookkeeping entries inflated profits in the years 1990 through 1992.

Bernard Chaus Inc. tumbled 64.3 percent to 2.5 while posting steep losses in nine months. He-Ro Group Inc., which was forced to downsize following the death of founder, Herbert Rounick, in September, fell 4-points to 1.88.

Crystal Brands, down 3.63-points to 0.75, and Gitano Group Inc., off 1.13-points to 2.5, continued to face liquidity shortages in 1993 and are also in the process of downsizing.

Even basic apparel stocks were hurt this year, facing oversaturation in the T-shirt and fleece industry. Besides Fruit of the Loom, Russell Corp. was off 10 percent to 28.25 and VF Corp. slid 13.4 percent to 46.13.

Meanwhile, Jones Apparel Group Inc. fell 21.6 percent to 29.9 and Warnaco Group Inc. fell 23.6 percent to 30.4 despite both reporting improved results in the nine months. Jones recently recovered from being as low as 18 5/8 in July.

The big winners in apparel were men’s wear. Farah Inc. rose 57.9 percent to 11.25, Phillips Van Heusen Corp. gained 29.3 percent to 37.5, Tommy Hilfiger Inc. rose 15.7 percent to 31.25, and Oxford Industries Inc. added 21.2 percent to 25. Kellwood Inc. jumped 48.2 percent to 40, benefiting from an increased focus on brands.

The discounters group was dragged down by a 22.3 percent decline from Wal-Mart Stores, which finally saw some slower growth at its discount stores and faced declining sales at its Sam’s Wholesale Club concept. Wal-Mart rose 110 percent in 1991 and 1992.

Rose’s Stores Inc. and Jamesway Corp., both of which lost about 80 percent in value, filed Chapter 11 petitions amid intensified competition within the discount sector.

Other decliners in the discount group were Caldor Corp., slipping 13.6 percent to 25.5; Venture Stores Corp. 15.8 percent to 23.38, Family Dollar Stores Inc., 27.7 percent to 17, and Bradlees Inc., down 26.7 percent to 13.38.

Most specialty stores were hurt by slow mall traffic and improved sales at department stores. The Limited faced sluggish sales trends at most of its apparel chains, particularly Limited Stores. Merry-Go-Round Enterprises Inc. plunged 79.2 percent to 3.25 as it faced liquidity problems and still faces rumors of a pending Chapter 11.

Charming Shoppes Inc. dropped 34.5 percent to 11.88 and Nordstrom Inc. sagged 14.8 percent to 33. On the upside, The Gap Inc.’s stock climbed 19.3 percent, recovering from a 41 percent slide in 1992. The Gap’s earnings rebounded in the third quarter as the company concentrated on improving margins and emphasizing more fashion in its stores.

Ann Taylor Stores Corp. was also a winner, moving up 20.7 percent to 24.75 on better results. Ann Taylor’s stock gained 34.4 percent in 1992.

The department stores, up 8.1 percent, and the fibers group, gaining 8.5 percent, were the top performers on the WWD stock index. The department store gain was helped by May Department Stores Inc., rising 11.5 percent to 39.38, and J.C. Penney Co., which gained 35.4 percent to 52.6 percent.