FU Top 100 weathers the storm

Wednesday, 02 March 2011

FashionUnited Top 100 Index closed Tuesday at 1,251.67 thanks to a rise of 10.67points and defying the weight of an awful lot of losing European stocks such as Next, Burberry, French Connection or Hermés.

In the meanwhile, AB Foods slipped 6%, or 60.5p to 966.5p, as it revealed Primark had seen a "noticeable" slowdown in UK consumer demand. Next was also impacted by the Primark update as its shares fell 48p to 1976p, losing finally 0.41%.

As the U.S. consumer market matures and becomes saturated, Gap is launching an aggressive push to catch up internationally with its competitors, with its attention squarely focused on China. The company has said that by 2013, it wants international and online operations to generate 27% of revenue versus 16% in 2007. Despite Japan's aging population, persistent deflation and slow growth, retail goods in the country are sometimes significantly more expensive than in the U.S. For example, a lace-backed cardigan retails for 7,800 yen ($95.34) in Japan, but is on sale for as little as $34.99 on the U.S. website.

"The Japanese consumer is the most astute fashion consumer in the world, and also in Asia," John Ermatinger, Gap's president of Asia Pacific, said. "We are still bullish about Japan. We still think there are tremendous opportunities here with online, Old Navy, more stores. … We're not done." However, its toughest rival in the area, Fast Retailing, was up yesterday by 1.3%.

Finally and according to Data Explorers for Bloomberg, the apparel makers with significant short interest this week that commences are VF Corp (VFC) and Nike (NKE), which both see short interest at more than double the index average on loan at 8.8% and 6.4% respectively. As with Asia, it is the middle market firms which appear to suffer from a consumer spending freeze, with low short selling in the luxury brands. This negative sentiment is slowly on the increase here too.

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