Berna Barshay Short Ralph Lauren Presentation: Kase Learning Conference ~ market folly

Monday, June 4, 2018

Berna Barshay Short Ralph Lauren Presentation: Kase Learning Conference

We're posting up a series of presentations from the recent Kase Learning Short Selling Conference.  Next up is Berna Barshay of Viola Capital Management who pitched a short of Ralph Lauren (RL). 

Berna Barshay's Presentation: Short Ralph Lauren (RL)

-  Consumer specialist.  Industry ripe with disruption.

-  80% of household purchase decisions made by women, 80% of investment choices made by men

-  Ralph Lauren in the middle of attempted turnaround:  Co has lost 19% of sales last three years.  Why?  Historically positioned as an upscale brand, they over distributed (discounting, margin pressure).  Longtime COO departure led to disruption.  Trying to now pullback on promotions and try to reach a new, younger customer.  Stock up 70% in last 9 months, she's more skeptical on turnaround attempt and speed at which it would happen.

-  In the age of Instagram, brands can't control their story as much.  RL is too focused on North America.  Department stores in secular decline.  Trying to replicate Coach merely by reducing points of distribution

-  Ratio of outlets to full price stores is out of whack and is a challenge to elevating the brand back up.  Co is also omnipresent in the 'off price' channel.  TJMaxx and Marshall has a lot of inventory and continued to grow.  The difference between the $89 polo shirt at their flagship store wasn't that much different from the $35 polo shirt at TJMaxx.  RL has devalued their signature item and devalued their brand in the process.  This will be a headwind in the brand elevation efforts.

-  Co wants to update the product and modernize the brand: does this alienate the core customer they have?  Tough to straddle.  It's a preppy, country club look that's been around since the 70s.  Millennials and younger have much different street style

-  She talked to 200 Millennials about favorite clothing brands and received a wide array of responses: RL hardly on the radar, lots of newer brands, niche brands, etc.  Barriers to entry in clothing have come way down.  RL did much better with men than women in survey.

-  Near-term return to topline growth is nearly impossible due to off-price channel and department stores in secular decline.  Trading at 18x like a luxury goods stock but needs to show tangible results

-  Brand turnaround takes years and thinks that while expectations are low, still thinks estimates are too high.  Upcoming investor day could be a catalyst.  Thinks earnings will be flattish for next 2 years.  N. America growth will be down 4%, 11% earnings miss.  Thinks it should trade around 13x, for 30% downside though it's not a valuation short 

Embedded below is the video of Berna Barshay's presentation:

Be sure to check out the rest of the presentations from the Kase Learning Short Selling Conference.

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