Front-page wisdom has it that Europe is not the place to be right now. Maybe you can pop in if you're looking for crepes and skiing, but the serious investor is better off piling money into a fireplace and just setting the whole thing ablaze -- at least you'll be warm. But some recent economic releases along with company-specific data are painting a different picture. In fact, for a few companies, Europe is the place to be. Here are three of my favorites.
The land of the huge steamer trunk
If old, stereotypical views of Europe have taught us anything, it's that everyone speaks with a British accent and travels on trains with suitcases big enough to stow bodies in. In reality, fewer people are taking trains. But bags are everywhere, and no one is getting in on the action like Michael Kors (NYSE: KORS) . The luxury retailer has had luck all over the world recently, and Europe has been a standout.
In the company's updated second-quarter guidance, same-store sales in Europe outshone the rest of the world, rising 50% quarter-to-date. That's a combination of a few things. First of all, and most important, the Kors brand is gaining strength. As the company expands its store count and increases its partnerships, more Europeans are getting to know the brand. Last quarter, the company increased licensing revenue by 61%, ensuring that the Kors name gets spread beyond the company's stores.
On top of Kors' specific growth, the company is benefiting from an increase in overall European sales. While the continent rides the ebb and flow of bailouts, banking scandals, and civil unrest, consumers have been spending more than anyone expected. French retail sales increased in September, and even Spain fell slower than anticipated. That trend has helped companies like Kors and rival Coach (NYSE: COH) , stay afloat, and even surge a bit, this summer.
Another bag joke
I know that it's poor form to put all your eggs in one carry-on, especially since eggs count toward your liquid-gel limit, but I can't seem to get away from Coach. The company keeps hinting at strength, and even showing some of that strength from time to time. In its most recent earnings call, CEO Lew Frankfort talked about the company's plans in Europe. This included expanding locations, especially in chic-and-seen Paris, where Coach has partnered with Printemps, a high-end French department store chain.
Coach is still meandering along, which means that investors can still get in at a relatively cheap price. The company is trading at a forward P/E of 12, but has the potential to pick up steam over the next year. While the stock suffered this summer when management talked about 2013 as an investment year, I think the market overreacted to a sensible idea. While I'm not expecting a full-sized portmanteau of growth, there's no reason not to look closer at this solid grower and dividend payer.
Froth on the stock, none on the drink
Did you know in French, latte means slow-growing-but-predictable stock? Some languages just have words for everything. The only word that Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX) has been concerned with recently has been growth. The company just dived headfirst into the single-brew machine market with its Verismo machine, which has been released in Europe as well as in the U.S.
Starbucks also had good things to say about the Continent in its last earnings call. CFO Troy Alstead called the signs of a European turnaround encouraging, and CEO Howard Schultz named the turnaround as a contributing factor to the company's EPS growth goal for 2013. That optimism could turn into celebration, if Starbucks has a strong Christmas of Verismo sales. In Europe, the leading home single-brew espresso brand is Nestle's (OTC: NSRGY) Nespresso, which controls 21% of the market.
But Starbucks is a strong brand in Europe, and Nespresso suffers from the same shortfall that Green Mountain Coffee Roasters currently has -- the brewers only make one kind of drink. Nespresso machines make espresso, while Green Mountain's only make brewed coffee. The new machines from Starbucks can brew both traditional coffee and espresso. It should be a fun fight to watch.