The North Face Far Northern Parka.

Despite the current challenges at retail — particularly the department store segment — Wells Fargo Securities’ retail analysts led by senior analyst Ike Boruchow resumed coverage of VF Corp. and PVH Corp. this morning.

Boruchow described VF Corp. as a “best-in-class” operator, but said “it simply seems like there are currently more questions than answers creating a lack of visibility into future top and bottom-line growth.”

“On one hand, we believe [VF Corp.] has been one of the most consistent and well-run operations in our space over the past decade-with management creating meaningful value for shareholders as ‘brand builders’ as they worked to diversify the business across categories and geographies over that time,” Boruchow noted. “With that said, the business has been a bit choppier over the past 12 months (’16 organic growth likely the slowest since ’09), with some questions now looming around 2 of their 3 Outdoor & Active brands (Vans and Timberland).”

The analyst said that any bullish view on the company would be in the area of mergers and acquisitions. The last deal the company made was five years ago for Timberland, Boruchow said. “We view the potential for another transaction over the next 12 months as likely, but with valuations in the space high (while growth is slow), it may be difficult to find the right deal at the price that would please the investment community in the near-term (long-term value creation not withstanding),” he added.

Earlier this year, Eric Wiseman, VF’s chairman and chief executive officer, told Wall Street the company has spent considerable time analyzing consumer shopping patterns to gauge where their behavior is headed over the next five to 10 years. That includes preferences for shopping online and expecting same-day delivery. “We know that to win five years from now, one needs to provide a consistent brand message for consumers however they engage with you, whether online, in-store or on mobile — it all has to be identical,” Wiseman said during a call with analysts in Feburary.

Wiseman also said its outdoor and active brands were key to its growth. In Boruchow’s research note today, the analyst said it was this part of the company’s business that has him taking a wait and see approach to the stock. As a result, the firm resumed coverage of the company with a “market perform” rating and a stock price range of $57 to $59.

Shares of VF Corp. were up 1.2 percent in pre-market trading to $59.10. The stock’s 52-week high is $73.81 and the low is $52.21.

For PVH Corp., Boruchow resumed coverage with an “outperform” rating on the stock as a price range of $125 to $127. Shares of PVH were flat in the pre-market at $107.15. The stock’s 52-week high is $116.99, and its low is $64.16. “In a late-cycle retail world filled with broken/slowing fundamental stories, we view PVH as a standout – with company-specific drivers in place across multiple brands and geographies that can continue to deliver relatively impressive results,” Boruchow said adding that the company’s Calvin Klein brand is “the largest opportunity going forward.”

“With CK recently adding a new chief creative officer (Raf Simons, formerly of Christian Dior), we think this should only accelerate the evolution of the product/image globally,” Boruchow explained.

 

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