Foot Locker Earnings Call Nuggets: Private-Label Side and Comps Analysis

Foot Locker (NYSE:FL) recently reported its first quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Private-Label Side

Matthew McClintock – Barclays: Ken, a lot of good commentary on the apparel piece of the business this quarter and it really seems like team additions been great for you. I was wondering if you could maybe talk more on the private-label part of the apparel business and specifically, when we think about this business longer term to get the business to where you wanted to go, what are some the building blocks that you still need to put in place to achieve your vision for that business?

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Richard A. Johnson – EVP and COO: What we – we believe private label apparel gives us an opportunity to fill voids that are not provided by the brands. We’re going to be primarily a branded apparel retailer, but we are — there are voids that we use private label and continuing to build on them, such as the Cargo Shorts business, very strong business for us, some t-shirts. We also have the ability to develop brands such as what we’ve done with Sneaker Freak in Europe and Actra with women’s business. So, what we continue to do is evolve that business from a very promotional business that it used to be and use it to fill voids where we believe there are significant opportunities. And that may involve brands or it may involve just using the private label as we do in shorts and fleece.

Matthew McClintock – Barclays: Thank you and if I can actually get one more question in just real fast. One of those points, the e-commerce opportunity seems pretty large in Europe. And I was just wondering if you could maybe think — discuss a little bit more how you view their business in Europe is positioning and the potential to take that banner — that e-commerce banner to the rest of Europe?

Richard A. Johnson – EVP and COO: We believe Runners Point Tredex operation first of all is best-to-class. It obviously is the significant part of their business. They have significant capabilities that will allow us to further develop our capability. We just started rolling out in most of the countries in Europe within the past year. They’ve been in place for several years. They also have a very good understanding, for example, of payment terms in Europe and Germany. There are six different ways that you can pay in Germany. We don’t even have the capability for all of those within our current (Foot Locker.Germany) operation. This will give us that capability to better serve the customer to have better processing capabilities and expand to the other parts of our operations. So, you are correct in picking up that Tredex is one of the important parts of the acquisition and one that we are very excited about using not only in Europe, but some of the ideas and things they do and bring that back to the states to further strengthen our good dot com position here.

Comps Analysis

Paul Trussell – Deutsche Bank: Wanted to start-off in SG&A, Ken or Lauren, could you just speak to the flexibility that you have in the scenario where comps for the balance of the year do fall short of your mid-single-digit view. If comps are only up, for example, low-single-digit do you have enough flexibility or would you be able to maybe moderate your plans for investments or remodels that you could still leverage or how should we think about that?

Kenneth C. Hicks – Chairman, President and CEO: We have said all along, Paul, that we can leverage low-single-digit comps. We do have flexibility as we see the trends to make adjustments and there are number of different things that we can adjust ranging from store labor to what we’re doing in terms of receipts and resulting markdowns to marketing. So, we have flexibility. One of the issues we had at the end of January was as you know not just for us, but for all of retail, the precipitous has dropped the last two weeks of January. It’s more difficult to adjust, but we feel we have the flexibility to adjust and work very hard to control our expenses. We are very proud. We have the lowest expense rate in our history this last quarter and it’s something that Lauren does an outstanding and her team do an outstanding job monitoring. That said, we still believe looking at the product that’s out there and the things that we have coming that we are going to achieve mid-single digit sales growth. Lauren, I don’t know if you have any?

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Lauren B. Peters – EVP and CFO: No, I think you’ve covered that. We remain focused on profitability and keep close eye on the top line and we adjust where we can if that moves.

Paul Trussell – Deutsche Bank: In 1 May commentary that you made, there are some changes in the release calendar this month I know that the retro Jordan products for example are coming out tomorrow versus coming out a week earlier last year. How meaningful do you think that is to the flat comp and deceleration from April and what are the other kind of factors that you think may have driven this slow down?

Richard A. Johnson – EVP and COO: Well, there is no question that just as in the department store industry, the shift of a sale one way or the other the shift of a release for us has an impact and particularly when it’s a significant shoe because you’re talking a few million dollars here, few million dollars there, make a big difference in what the comps are. The other thing — and it’s not an excuse for lack of sales, it’s an excuse for the — or it’s a reality of a shift to sales because we believe the customers will buy apparel when the weather is right. It’s been cooler. We did a very good job getting out of fleece in the spring season. So we don’t have a lot of fleece. But we got a lot of t-shirts and shorts. People aren’t quite wearing them. You’re in New York today and you know that the high today and tomorrow it’s going to be in the low 60s, in Europe, it’s been in the 50s. That doesn’t – I’m not putting that as an excuse why we haven’t sale. What I’m saying is, it’s a reason why the sales have shifted somewhat. And we expect to get those sales back, and we’re in good shape. And where we have seen the weather warm up, such as places like Vegas where it’s in the 90s, the customers are out there and they’re buying the product. So, we know the product is right. It’s just getting the conditions right and we anticipate picking up…

Paul Trussell – Deutsche Bank: Just one last one quickly. Ken, could you just speak to the overall women’s footwear trends across the industry, so we can understand what the spread is overall versus the business you are seeing in Lady’s Foot Locker because if they’re not shopping there, where do you think that that customer is primarily purchasing their athletic goods? And you also spoke about the larger Lady Foot Locker stores outperforming. What is the composition of large versus smaller Lady Foot Locker?

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Kenneth C. Hicks – Chairman, President and CEO: Couple of things. One, there is two basic things that we are seeing going on in the women’s business; one is that the performance business things like running and training shoes are doing well for us. There are some fashion elements that are doing well like the wedges and athletic shoes from Nike and Reebok, adidas and those are two different customers. What we’ve done in our business is we shifted Lady Foot Locker to a more performance customer. By doing that we fire the customer that was there who was primarily a fashion customer. We are now sending her to our Foot Locker and Champs stores and they are coming and up until this quarter they bought – our business in those stores was actually up compared to the Lady Foot Locker stores and remember we said, historic – for the up until this quarter again our women’s business overall was up, it was the Lady Foot Locker business that was down. This quarter, I think that one of the things that happened as we probably didn’t have enough of the fashion in Foot Locker to satisfy that fashion customer and that’s something that we are working feverishly to address. In this larger stores and the re-skinned Lady Foot Locker stores, we have made a major effort for the new customer to find and see what we are and we are starting to see that customers finding us and coming in. In the basic Lady Foot Locker stores, it’s a little more difficult because we don’t have the room and haven’t shown the apparel which is really the signal to that customer that this store is more performance-oriented. The good news is we are seeing where we’ve put the apparel in a significant way in those re-skinned stores and in our SIX-02 stores. They are starting to perform better and we — that that shows that we’re on the right track. We’ve got to make adjustments to that sort because we are finding the customer is buying the product differently than we had initially thought they would buy, but we are making that transition. I would say that right now in the women’s business, they aren’t exactly — in the fashion side, they are not moving as aggressively as they had been in the past, they are probably moving into other shoes, but I think as we get the right shoes, we will be positioned well.

Lauren B. Peters – EVP and CFO: Paul, you asked about the count of larger SIX-02. There are three of those. And we’ve got 14 of what we call re-skinned Lady Foot Locker, so that’s a 17 doors 282.