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Tickers in this Article: WWW, DECK, TBL, SKX, CROX
While many apparel makers continue to struggle in the face of the necessities-only buying trend that appears to dominate consumer behavior these days, shoe makers and retailers manufacturers have lately been benefiting from some new fashion trends that have helped their profitability take a step in the right direction.
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Boot Craze Kicks Off Profit Surge
The boyish craze for heavy lace-up combat boots that fashion conscious young women started taking up earlier this year appears to gained enough popularity that traditional makers of rugged outdoor and work-related footwear like Wolverine World Wide (NYSE:WWW) and Timberland (NYSE:TBL) have seen the demand for their products experience a healthy jump.

After recently reporting better than expected third quarter results, Wolverine upped its full year earnings guidance to $2.04-2.08 a share as it reported an "exceptionally strong" order backlog. And rival boot maker Timberland, also manage to post a narrower-than-expected second quarter loss due to better product pricing; another way of saying that better demand for its products resulted in less discounting. (For related reading, see Can Earnings Guidance Accurately Predict The Future?)

Footwear Fads Rule Profitability
Athletic footwear maker Skechers USA (NYSE:SKX) is another company that has wound up on the winning side of hot footwear trend. Strong demand for its popular toning shoes helped the company move back into the black in its latest quarter, as it reported a profit of 82 cents share versus a loss of 13 cents. While some studies have challenged the claim that the shoes help the wearer lose weight and improve fitness, there's no sign yet that sales of these unique athletic shoes are slowing down.

Health concerns about the lack of arch support in the wildly popular Uggs sheepskin boots marketed by Deckers (Nasdaq:DECK) haven't led to slowdown in their sales either. Also criticized for being ugly, the boots appear to owe their consistent popularity to the fact that they constitute an "anti-fashion" statement on the part of the wearer.

Betting on Trend Key to Invest
With fashion trends being such a key determinant of profitability in the footwear these days, assessing the staying power of these trends is key to investing in this group. It's not an easy call to make, as trends can quickly appear and just as rapidly fade, only to come right back again as was the case with the love 'em or hate 'em plastic clogs made by Crocs Inc. (Nasdaq:CROX). But with the triple-digit gains that can at times be realized from a well-timed investment in this group, the occasional glance at the fashion pages may provide enough of an insight to play this always interesting sector.

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