Is Men's Wearhouse a Buy on Long-Term Prospects?

Is Men's Wearhouse a Buy on Long-Term Prospects?

Continuing the trend of retail companies getting a summer trim, Men's Wearhouse disappointed both analysts and investors with slashed full-year guidance, and a dip in customer traffic for the recently ended quarter. Overall, management sounded very cautious, as the macroeconomic outlook for retail businesses remains strained. However, with the precipitous drop in stock price -- more than 14% in after-hours trading on Wednesday -- the company now trades at a relatively inexpensive valuation that could provide investors with compelling upside over the long term, once the retail environment improves, and the business stabilizes. Is Men's Wearhouse a buy on short-term weakness?

A retailer for the long run
Over the past three years, Men's Wearhouse has increased its operating cash flow, while capital expenditures have climbed substantially -- keeping free cash flow relatively stagnant. Top-line sales have grown by nearly $400 million since 2011, and operating income has nearly doubled. At the bottom end of the income statement, the company saw its profits rise from $67.7 million, to nearly $132 million.

Though financials do not necessarily reflect the strength of a retailer's merchandising capabilities, and the period referenced took place during an ongoing economic rebound, Men's Wearhouse has shown some ability to move merchandise in recent years.

Retailers are particularly susceptible to short-term market movements and macro-related issues. A weak consumer-spending environment can spell disaster for companies on a quarterly basis. Over the long-term, however, a good merchandiser is just that -- and this creates pricing inefficiencies that are more a product of general conditions than company-specific shortcomings. For this company, the situation appears to be a bit of both macro element, and some issues behind the boardroom doors.

Men's Wearhouse delivered all of the bad buzzwords for the just-ended quarter, the coming quarter, and the remainder of the year. This comes on the back of a major boardroom shakeup last spring, when founder George Zimmer was ousted as executive chairman over strong disagreements in the strategic direction of the company.

Net income for the quarter came in at $1.01 per share, which came in sharply lower than analyst expectations of $1.14 per share. Management cut guidance for the full year, down to $2.50 at the low end, whereas it had been as high as $2.80 per share. The company also lowered its guidance for same-store sales -- down 2% from prior estimates.

The question investors need to ask is not whether Men's Wearhouse will be able to reverse the downward sales trend in subsequent periods -- things will improve as the spending environment does. Instead, the focus should be on management's strategic decisions.

For example, in July, the company bought clothing line Joseph Abboud for $97.5 million in an effort to provide exclusive brands at its stores. The Joseph Abboud name is a well-respected one in men's fashion, often found at high-line department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue. By offering the products exclusively at Men's Wearhouse, management is putting an interesting twist on the business -- one more known for its cheap deals for multiple suits. The company is also ridding itself of the larger format K&G stores -- a line that has been sucking cash for some time.

This week's shave on stock price provides investors with an interesting opportunity. If performance over the next six months is not at the forefront of your mind, but long-term merchandising prowess is, the recently discounted shares may deserve a spot in your retail portfolio.

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