VF Earnings Call Insights: European & Chinese Inventories, Timberland Europe

VF Corporation (NYSE:VFC) recently reported its first quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

European & Chinese Inventories

Kate McShane – Citi: I was wondering, if you could help us understand your inventories look like they are in very good shape on the balance sheet. But regionally, can you walk us through what the inventories are like in Europe and China at this point in time?

Eric C. Wiseman – Chairman, President and CEO: Actually, Kate, we’re in good shape across the board. As you know, we’ve — this is an area, we put a lot of focus on and that focus has been placed on our global inventory levels the calls that we’ve referenced in the past, we have — we do those calls on the global basis and touch base with the our leaders around the globe. So, our inventories right now across our businesses, across our brands and across our geographies are really in pretty good — are in good shape.

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Kate McShane – Citi: Then my second question is I was just wondering if you could talk through your backlogs into the back half of the year. Now, that you have an increased visibility into that, were the backlogs better or worse than you expected when you last spoke to us in February and is there still the possibility for the North Face to get more orders at this point in time for the winter?

Steve Rendle – VP and Group President, Outdoor & Action Sports Americas: I’ll take this question since you seem to have the North Face in the middle of it. It’s — we’ve come through the fall booking season. I mean we mentioned the caution that’s in the retail community and this year’s booking sequence is a little bit longer. There is longer tail to this than we’ve seen historically. So, it’s a little early for us to cite actual numbers, but I can tell you that the orders that we’re taking in are very much in line with our expectations and our high single-digit guidance that we gave in our year-end call.

Timberland Europe

Robert Drbul – Barclays Capital: I’ve got two questions. The first one is on Timberland. Timberland Europe, are there any plans to rationalize the Southern Europe exposure? And what could be the inflection point in the European business there?

Karl Heinz Salzburger – Vice President, President – VF International: As you know Southern Europe is the largest market for Timberland in Europe, particularly Italy. We all know Italy at the moment is a tough spot to sell any kind of goods. We have two kinds of channels where we work with Timberland. One is the wholesale channel, which clearly suffered especially in Southern Europe as we said in the press release. The other one is DTC, which has two components, one is own stores and the other one, which has – Timberland has a great presence is partnership stores. Now even in challenged market like Italy, where we have 150 stores we have seen last year actually positive comps on our own — partnership stores and the same for Q1. So, we just won also an award in the U.K. for the hottest footwear company, which you know we’re pretty confident that clearly we’re not immune from what is happening in the market. But the fact that in our own stores the comps are good, it shows that the brand is strong.

Robert Drbul – Barclays Capital: My second question is around the mid-tier channel for you guys, maybe Eric or I don’t know if Steve, but the Denim business in the mid-tier and the outlook there, and some of the other brands that you have in the mid-tier, could you just help us understand how you have that estimated and forecasted for the rest of the year right now?

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Eric C. Wiseman – Chairman, President and CEO: Bob, it Eric. I’ll take a shot at that since it is across VF. Our three biggest businesses in the mid-tier; our Lee jeans business, our Vans business and License Sports business and there is really no change in our outlook from where we started the year. The channel has been a little difficult for host of reasons that have been well documented in the press. The interesting thing is actually there may be – it may get a little bit better for us than we are currently thinking and the reason I’m saying that it’s around the Lee business. JCPenney is indicating that they are going to try to attract their traditional shopper, and that traditional shopper was a good Lee customer. And if to the extent they are successful at getting that traffic back in the door, we are very confident that the Lee brand has the right products and value equation to get more business. The Vans business in the channel has actually done pretty well. JCPenney, in particular, who decided to use Vans as an action point to connect with youth consumers our Vans business is actually up. So, we are pretty confident about that and the License Sports business is so much a factor of which teams are playing and who is winning. There is no change in that. Did that get to the heart of your question?

Robert Drbul – Barclays Capital: Yeah definitely.

A Closer Look: VF Earnings Cheat Sheet>>