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Retail Plays to Wall Street in Miami

Executive gather at the 14th Annual ICR XChange conference to court investors.

Appeared In
Special Issue
Men'sWeek issue 01/12/2012

Retail executives went down to Miami Beach Wednesday to show a bit of leg to Wall Street.

This story first appeared in the January 12, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

And although the economy leaves much to be desired, the U.S. is seen as overstored and technology is pushing systematic change through the industry, the retail chiefs at the 14th annual ICR XChange Conference each had a reason for why the future was theirs.

There was plenty of bragging about the still-growing potential of e-commerce, store expansion in a flat U.S. market and financial wherewithal as executives courted investors.

Here’s a look at what retail leaders from public companies had to say on day two of the three-day conference.

Michael Prince, chief operating officer, Guess Inc.
• “Today we have virtually no business in Latin America, and we are working with a short list of candidates to partner with in Brazil. We know that Brazilian customers love Guess, so this is a high priority for us.”
• “We are pushing partnerships in other markets — such as Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Indonesia and Peru — as we rebalance our supply chain to give us greater price-negotiating power.”

Christine Day, chief executive officer, Lululemon Athletica Inc.
• “Our core focus right now is on run and yoga. We want to take all the oxygen out of the space in those areas.”
• “There is potential for 350 stores in North America. We’re only a third built out. We launched our e-commerce channel in 2009, it’s now just over 10 percent of sales and we are just planting the seeds for international and we have a new concept called Ivivva.”
• “What we anticipate doing in the future is actually launching online concepts first, and then taking them to brick-and-mortar.”

Gary Schoenfeld, president and ceo, Pacific Sunwear of California Inc.
• “We’re really narrowing and zeroing in how we communicate to 16- to 24-year-olds, getting in their heads.…PacSun is a lifestyle brand.”

Robert Fisch, ceo, Rue21 Inc.
• “We have Paris. It’s not in France, so — but it’s Paris, Texas. It looks like a prison, but this store will do — I sometimes stand up here, and I go, ‘Oh, my God, people are going to laugh me off the stage’ — but this store will do over $1.5 million in business in less than 5,000 square feet at low rent. So we’re very proud of that Paris prison.”

William L. McComb, ceo, Liz Claiborne Inc.
• “Juicy has an enormous consumer footprint.…I can’t believe how big the business and brand is around the world. It can be something in China I believe that Ralph Lauren Polo can’t be.”

Andrew T. Hall, president and ceo, Stage Stores Inc.
• “Small towns do not have any competition for us. We are the only ones who are bringing national brands to those towns. Those customers are under-served, and they welcome us with open arms.”
• “There is a Wal-Mart in almost every one of our small-market stores. We like Wal-Mart. We have a symbiotic relationship with Wal-Mart. They have a wide draw, and certainly our customer shops Wal-Mart, but she is shopping Wal-Mart for grocery, pharmacy…not buying her apparel at Wal-Mart.”

Chuck Rubin, president and ceo, Ulta Salon, Cosmetics & Fragrance Inc.
• “We’re still only about 45 percent built-out on our 1,000-store objective, and that 1,000 stores are of our current format, which is 10,000 square feet.”
• “Ulta.com today is a very small portion of our revenue base. It’s low-single digit as a percentage of our overall business. So, clearly, that’s one opportunity.”

David Jaffe, president and ceo, Ascena Retail Group Inc.
• “Since we paid off our mortgage, we now have a debt-free balance sheet and, as of the end of the first quarter, over $400 million in cash. [That] gives us a lot of optionality to return value to shareholders — whether it’s built into a war chest for a potential acquisition someday or we continue to do stock buybacks.”

Michael Barnes, ceo, Signet Jewelers Ltd.
• “Our merchandising strategy is consumer pull rather than retailer push, and therefore it significantly increases our ability to succeed. We’re increasingly focused on the personalization of our inventory on Web sites.”
• “We see the potential to increase space in the U.S. by about a net 40 percent to a total of about 850 Kay mall stores, about 500 Kay off-mall locations and 300 Jareds over a period of time. We’re seeing more real estate opportunities this coming year, and we’re targeting to open 40 to 50 stores in fiscal 2013, including six to eight Jared stores, giving us a net increase in U.S. space of about 3 percent.”