Consumers overseas still want Michael Kors products, but there are increasing questions about the level of demand in the U.S.
That’s because Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. — which posted a 32.2 percent jump in third-quarter profits and an 8.6 percent gain in global comparable-store sales — reported a North American comps gain of 6.8 percent, representing a continued slowdown from quarterly growth in the second quarter of 10.8 percent and the first quarter’s 18.7 percent rise.
John D. Idol, chairman and chief executive officer, told analysts during a conference call, “We believe that the shopping behavior of certain consumers in North America is changing, and they are migrating their purchases to our e-commerce site at a greater rate than we had initially anticipated, which is impacting traffic and comps in our North American retail stores.”
Idol said the shift in buying patterns means that a more accurate reflection of the company’s performance is a comps number that includes its e-commerce business. Including e-commerce, comps for North America would have been 380 basis points higher, Idol said.
J.P. Morgan analyst Matthew R. Boss said that would translate into a 10.6 percent comps gain for the third quarter, still lower than that of the second and first quarters.
The company took its U.S. e-commerce operation in-house in September and saw a 73 percent increase in sales versus its previous outsourced site, Idol said, noting that e-commerce accounts for 7 percent of retail sales in North America. Plans are in place for an e-commerce site in Canada this year and for Europe and Japan in 2016.
Idol, for his part, said: “North America will eventually slow,” noting that growth in other components of the business, such as international, is still in the early stages.
In addition to e-commerce, the company expects to grow market share in women’s ready-to-wear, footwear, jewelry and men’s wear. Idol also said Kors will be in the wearables category in partnership with Fossil, its watch licensee. “We expect to have some announcements for the marketplace in the next few months about what our strategy is.…And we have a whole strategy around it.…What we want to make sure is that we have an ecosystem that our customer really believes in and thinks [is] a viable addition to not only their fashion wardrobe, but also to having [in] their life,” Idol explained.
Investors didn’t seem to care for the longer-term growth prospects of the Kors juggernaut, preferring to focus on short-term expectations. They sent shares of Kors down 2.3 percent to $69.77 in Big Board trading.
The company expects total revenue in the fourth quarter in the range of $1.05 billion to $1.08 billion, presuming also a comps increase of midsingle digits on a reported basis and an increase of high-single digits on a constant currency basis. Diluted earnings per share is forecasted in the range of 89 cents to 92 cents. That’s below analysts’ consensus forecast of 94 cents in EPS for the fourth quarter on revenues of $1.15 billion.
For the three months ended Dec. 27, net income rose 32.2 percent to $303.7 million, or $1.48 a diluted share, from $229.6 million, or $1.11, a year ago. Total revenues gained 29.9 percent to $1.31 billion from $1.01 billion, which included a 30.9 percent jump in net sales to $1.26 billion from $964 million. Wall Street analysts on average were expecting $1.33 a share on revenues of $1.3 billion.
By category, wholesale net sales rose 24.4 percent to $573.8 million, driven by growth in accessories and footwear. Retail net sales rose 37 percent to $689.4 million, driven by 114 net new store openings since the end of the year-ago quarter, the updated e-commerce site in the U.S. and the 8.6 percent global comps gain. Licensing revenue was up 8.6 percent to $51.5 million. By region, revenue in North America rose 22.6 percent to $1.1 billion. European revenue jumped 72.1 percent to $241.4 million, with comps gaining 21.2 percent. In Japan, revenue grew 72.1 percent to $16 million on a comps gain of 35.4 percent.
While Idol acknowledged on the call that “we were a little bit more promotional during the third quarter, you can see our margins still came out very, very strong,” noting their strength even when including foreign currency headwinds. Gross margins in the quarter slipped slightly to 60.9 percent compared with 61.2 percent a year ago.
One product that didn’t do so well in the third quarter was the bucket bag, of which Idol said, “from a fashion standpoint, you have to be a part of, but unfortunately from a retail standpoint [was] not getting the same type of resonation as we had liked.…So you have to be a little bit more aggressive when those things don’t work.”
As for the current quarter, Joseph Parsons, the chief financial officer, added, “We feel very good about our inventory position. And so we’re not anticipating significant levels of markdowns and allowances in the quarter.”