G-III Apparel: Zacks’ Bull of the Day Play

G-III Apparel (GIIISnapshot Report), known to some for its extensive line of leather outerwear, is probably not a household name to most. But they are manufacturing and licensing partners with many top brands such as Calvin Klein, Levi’s, Guess?, and Tommy Hilfiger.

The company traces its roots back to 1956 when Aron Goldfarb, a Holocaust survivor, immigrated to the United States and established his own outerwear company located in the heart of New York City’s Garment District.

In the early 1990’s when G-III recognized the consumer’s preference for name brands, the company began partnering with nationally recognized brands such as Kenneth Cole, Jones New York, Nine West and Cole Haan to produce branded outerwear under license agreements. And that’s how a company you may never have heard of altered the landscape of how outerwear was marketed and sold in department stores in the United States.

Cool History, Hot Growth

While the history of the company is interesting, what investors care about now is the future. In short, can G-III continue to do what’s its done successfully in the past and deliver growth that continues to benefit shareholders? The numbers suggest they can.

As an established $2.2 billion midcap growing at nearly 20% annually and trading at just over 20X this year’s $5.17 consensus EPS, G-III is an attractive fashion growth story. On their Q3 conference call, management stated their capacity to support a 20% organic EPS growth rate over the next three to four years.

And its revenues, which jumped 21% last quarter and crossed the $2 billion mark on a trailing 12-month basis, put its price-to-sales valuation at just over 1X. For comparison, Michael Kors (KORSAnalyst Report) currently trades at 3.5X sales. The company also raised sales guidance for their fiscal year ending this month, from $2.11 billion to $2.13 billion.

Following its strong quarterly report and upward guidance, G-III became a Zacks #1 Rank and analysts at Key Banc raised their sales estimate for this year to $2.433 billion, representing 14% top line growth.

Growth Fueled by Key Acquisitions

G-III prides itself on strategic acquisitions. In February 2008, the company purchased Andrew Marc, a nationally recognized aspirational luxury outerwear company. G-III sought to develop Andrew Marc into a meaningful lifestyle brand and used its in house capabilities to expand Andrew Marc to additional categories such as dresses, women’s handbags and men’s denim and related sportswear.

Also in 2008, entering the retail arena, G-III purchased the Wilsons Leather retail outlet chain, which now includes over 135 stores in over 30 states. The expertise of the Wilsons team has allowed G-III to expand retail with the opening of a limited number of Andrew Marc outlet stores and Calvin Klein Performance stores.

G-III’s most recent acquisition took place in November 2013, when the company purchased G.H. Bass, a timeless heritage footwear brand that was founded in 1936. G.H. Bass is known as the original creator of the penny loafer.

The company continues to look for a “larger” acquisition, which analysts interpret as being up to $1 billion in size and adding annual revenue of up to $500 million. Here’s what KeyBanc analysts had to say recently when they raised their PT to $110…

In some ways, we think this is one of the more misunderstood companies in our coverage. Part of this may be its historical reliance on outerwear, but perhaps it is more from its lack of a conventional approach to growth. Simply put, GIII has not been solely reliant on square footage growth and/or acquisitions to drive growth (although there are elements of both), but rather, the company has been able to incubate and grow platforms and brands.

The company has grown a number of platforms to above $75 million in revenue (profitability improves here), and we think it is able to simultaneously leverage a significant degree of entrepreneurship and scale ($2.135 billion in 2014E revenue). Our investor meetings with COO Wayne Miller and CFO Neal Nackman reinforce our highly constructive framework. We reiterate our $110 price target, which implies a 21.9x 2015 P/E, and reiterate our BUY rating.

Who’s Buying G-III?

One of my filters for stock selection is institutional buying. While there were no purchases large enough to trigger an SEC 13D or 13G in the middle of Q4, the list of top holders from Q3 indicates steady interest in this name.

Plus, there are only about 22 million shares outstanding, with the CEO holding over 10%. When the company last did a share offering in June, 1.75 million shares were gobbled up immediately without a downtick in the stock price.

Institutions increased their net ownership of GIII shares by 3.6% in 3Q14. Here were the top 12 buyers in Q3…

Jenison is a $108 billion giant that soaked up all of the shares sold by Royce, who still holds 645k shares.

Some other good names here who only bought or sold less than 25k shares were Columbus Circle who holds 845k and Dimensional Fund Advisors with 800k.

And nice to see the $25 billion New Jersey State pension fund adding to their stake.

With the small float, I expect to see big fish continue to nibble on this strong growth story.

Disclosure: I own GIII shares for the Zacks FTM Portfolio.

Kevin Cook is a Senior Stock Strategist for Zacks where he runs the Follow The Money Trader.

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