At PVH Corp., the international business — driven by its Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger brands — is where the company has been outperforming, although in the last six weeks since the end of July there’s been a “bit of an uptick in the business” in the U.S. market. And expect more acquisitions, just probably not another large one for another 12 to 18 months.
That was the gist of PVH’s chief executive officer Emanuel Chirico’s conclusion about the current state of consumer health. Chirico was a company presenter at Goldman Sachs’ 24th Global Annual Retailing Conference on Wednesday at the New York Plaza Hotel.
While the company has been “on plan” in the U.S. market for the first half of the year, Chirico said there’s been some strengthening with the international consumer in the U.S., perhaps due to the weakening U.S. dollar. Further, cooler-than-normal weather has been a good start to the fall season. That has helped with good sell-throughs on fall products with more regular price selling early and, in turn, helping with margins, the ceo said.
And even though the U.S. market is improving somewhat, it remains challenging, the ceo said. He told attendees that while inventory levels at the department store channel seem to be relatively clean, there’s a chance that the holiday season will be as promotional as last year during December and January when retailers need to clear out goods if they get end up getting over inventoried.
Over the next five to 10 years, Chirico said he expects that the ongoing retail shifts will translate into more retail doors being closed, with some retail players going away and others being “absorbed by some of the stronger players.” He cited Macy’s, Kohl’s, Nordstrom’s and Hudson Bay as the strong players who will continue to be strong. And while Chirico said, “I also think that there’s too many stores in North America,” he added the next three years will likely continue to be a volatile market even though over time all the changes, even the closing of stores, will be “healthy for the overall channel over time.”
Looking ahead, and putting geopolitical concerns aside, Chirico said there could be an opportunity for the company over the next 24 months should the dollar level off, which would be a tailwind for the businesses. Offsetting that could be the possibility for more bankruptcies with some of the regional department store players.
As for acquisitions, Chirico said, “Valuations are not cheap today, when I look at them. And uncertainty is higher than you’d like,” adding that what’s available to purchase is limited at the current time. That means that a larger acquisition isn’t likely over the next 12 to 18 months, Chirico said. “Long term, I would like to make another acquisition,” he said, adding that PVH has the infrastructure in place, whether it is the strong platform in North America, Europe and Asia or the developing platforms in South and Latin America. Chirico concluded: “So acquisitions will continue to be a part of our strategy; it just doesn’t feel it right now given this environment.”
For PVH, the healthiest categories continue to be its Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger businesses, particularly in jeans, although the intimates and underwear businesses “continues also to be very strong for us,” Chirico said.
The ceo noted that its business at Macy’s, its largest customer, has been driven by both brands, and that with some of Ralph Lauren Corp.’s brands exiting the market, such as Denim & Supply, that has opened up some opportunities in terms of more square footage available for the two PVH brands. Chirico noted during the presentation that the Calvin business in the U.S. will likely continue to see a 3 percent growth range, while the target range in the international markets is between 8 to 9 percent.
Europe remains a growth market for both brands, although the Calvin business — which Chirico predicts will be close to $700 million this year — is about “40 percent the size of the Tommy business.” He expects that women’s sportswear and women’s jeans will help grow the Tommy business in Europe, while Calvin — currently in jeans, underwear and accessories — will see growth next year from the women’s sportswear and women’s active businesses. Chirico said the Calvin Europe business could get to $1 billion over the next 3 years.
For the women’s sportswear and active launch in the Calvin brand next year in Europe, Chirico said it “will be less classification-driven than it is in the United States.” He explained while the U.S. is more focused on dresses and suits, as examples, in Europe it is presented “from a collection point of view, which is good [but] at times somewhat more challenging to get right.” He also said it will launch initially at a higher positioning in Europe for about 18 to 24 months “and then bring it to more competitive price points later,” adding that there weren’t any plans to scale it up right away but to let the business grow organically over the next 5 years.
Elsewhere, Asia is another important growth market, driven by China. In China, Calvin is about 2 or 2.5 times the size of the Tommy business, and is “growing high single digits. Our Tommy business, as we expand the base, we took that business in-house. We brought the China business back. That business is going double digits for us, and should continue to grow at that pace. And China is by far our most profitable market in the world. So that’s healthy growth at high margins, and I don’t see that slowing down at all,” Chirico told investors.
The ceo also said that China is a direct-to-consumer business, noting also that even if one is selling to department stores, it is a concession model and that means it is still direct-to-consumer because brands are running the business and taking on the risk.
Over at Tommy, Chirico said the Gigi Hadid ambassadorship has “given the brand more authenticity in the women’s space,” adding that the brand is about 30 percent women’s and 70 percent men’s. “The jeans business in particular for Tommy has been outstanding. And that business just continues to grow for us. We’re in a bit of a Nineties renaissance, and that plays into that strength of both Calvin and Tommy. And we don’t see that slowing down at all in the marketplace — it’s gaining more momentum so that opportunity is in front of us,” the ceo said. The Gigi Hadid ambassadorship will continue into the spring, and there likely will be some new men’s ambassadorships going forward, he said.