Ever since Michael Kors (KORS) became a publicly traded company in 2011, the fashion company’s shares have been on a tear, buoyed by quarter after quarter of double-digit sales growth.
But even as the company has gained market share, largely at Coach’s (COH) expense, several Wall Street analysts have sounded the alarm about hints Kors may be heading back down to earth, and shares fell 7.6% on Tuesday.
Barclays Capital analyst Joan Payson said in a research note that store visits found “a larger portion of product on sale (30%-50% off) in June” than is usual, while as much as 15% of items on the brand’s web site was on sale compared to nothing a year earlier. What’s more, Google searches for Michael Kors have declined compared to the year-earlier week five weeks running, which could be ominous for the brand if it means interest in it is waning. Payson lowered her price target on the shares to $82 citing “challenging trends.”
Citigroup cut its price target on Kors to $98 from $107, pointing to a survey of 62 stores the found that retailers believe Michael Kors is not refreshing its assortment enough. Citi’s analyst also noticed an uptick in discounting. And Maxim downgraded the stock to hold from buy after store visits showed some weakness in Kors’ U.S. sales, which is likely to translate into damage to gross margins if it proves to be true since the company would have to cut prices to clear merchandise.
This is a rare rebuke to a company whose shares have quadrupled since its IPO in December 2011.
Its sales rose 51.3%—comparable sales jumped 26.2%—in its most recently completed fiscal year. (Coach’s sales declines are getting worse each quarter- most recently comparable sales fell 21.4% in North America.) Kors’ fleet grew to 279 stores as of March 31, from 158 two years earlier. (It still gets about half of its sales from wholesale accounts such as Macy’s (”JWN”))
Perhaps this is the inevitable result of torrid growth and quick expansion. But Kors could take heed from Coach’s painfully learned lessons—last month, Coach announced it was closing 20% of its North American stores and would focus on 12 top markets to revive its brand.
Besides, Kors itself reported quarterly results in May that show its aggressive store expansion is decimating its operating profit.