• REUTERS

Michael Kors to Close 100 to 125 Stores

Michael Kors swung to a fourth-quarter loss and said it would close between 100 and 125 full-price retail stores over the next two years.

NEW YORK, United States — Michael Kors Holdings Ltd gave a bleak full-year forecast and said it would shut more than 100 full-price retail stores in the next two years as it struggles in its turnaround strategy.

Shares of the luxury fashion company, which also swung to a fourth-quarter loss, fell more than 6 percent to $34 in pre-market trading on Wednesday. The company said it expected revenue of $4.25 billion for fiscal year 2018, while analysts had estimated revenue of $4.37 billion. Michael Kors also forecast a high single-digit drop in same-store sales for the fiscal year.

Total sales fell 11.2 percent to $1.06 billion in the fourth quarter, while analysts had expected $1.05 billion. The company's comparable-store sales fell 14.1 percent in the quarter, below analysts' estimate of 13.4 percent.

“Michael Kors' precipitous drop in sales does very little to reassure that the company's nascent recovery program is on track,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, in a note.

“We believe that Michael Kors is right to cut back on promotions and discounts, just as it is right to restrict distribution through third parties that are not able to communicate the essence of the brand. In this sense, the 17.2 percent decline in wholesale revenues is… a necessary evil to reduce the exposure of the brand in a bid to restore premium status.”

Reduced wholesale distribution should result in a rise in retail sell-through, said Saunders, especially given that the market for premium accessories has grown at a reasonable rate. But for Michael Kors, this has not happened.

“The retail figures were catastrophic,” he said. “A 0.5 percent rise in total sales may appear to be a green shoot; however, when put in the context of the 159 stores added over the past year, it is a highly unsatisfactory outcome.”

Saunders warned that Michael Kors could fall further if it does not successfully reinvigorate its offering. “Ranges and collections lack oomph and definition, and across many established stores levels of service and merchandising are lacklustre,” Saunders said.

“The brand is nowhere near where it needs to be if it wants to excite and inspire consumers.”

Certainly, Michael Kors' problems mirror those of a number of major American luxury brands, an issue outlined by Luca Solca, the head of luxury goods at BNP Exane Paribas, in a recent article for BoF.

"Today’s luxury market is about maintaining the illusion of exclusivity, while selling units by the millions. Shatter the illusion and brand cachet is lost," Solca wrote. "America’s large luxury players [have been] sprinting to sell as much as possible, as fast as possible, then suffering the consequences."

Solca also anticipated Michael Kors' woes, and does not expect a turnaround any time soon. "Michael Kors seems close to the bottom — at least in terms of its stockmarket value — and the company seems likely to remain there for some time before there is any hope of another meteoric return," he wrote.

Net loss attributable to Michael Kors was $26.8 million, or 17 cents per share, in the latest quarter, compared with net income of $177 million, or 98 cents per share, a year earlier. The company also booked non-cash impairment charges of $193.8 million related to its underperforming full-price retail stores.

Excluding certain items, the company earned 73 cents per share, while analysts had expected 70 cents per share.

Michael Kors also said it would buy back $1 billion of shares.

By Gayathree Ganesan, with additional reporting from the BoF team; editor: Anil D'Silva.

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