What stocks to invest in
I haven’t owned Tiffany (TIF) for a long time, but the ticker is still on my screen. Watching the stock slide on a weak earnings report yesterday prompted me to look for the latest Bain study of the luxury goods industry, which was published about a month ago.
Although structural change is not the main focus of the report, that’s what really jumps out to me from it.
exiting the twentieth century…
Fifteen years ago, the personal luxury goods market was perhaps 40% European purchasers, 35% American and 25% Asian, most of that being Japan. Each purchased primarily in his own region.
Although the report doesn’t mention this, the pricing structure for identical items was/is 100 in Europe, 120 in the US and 140 in Asia. This difference is partly a function of import tariffs outside Europe, partly a judgment about what the market would bear. Asian sales were unusually lucrative because, in addition to the much higher selling prices, wholesale margins were significantly higher and most profits recognized in Hong Kong, where the corporate tax rate for international concerns is zero.
Virtually all sales were at full price. European luxury goods makers had few retail stores; their distribution was primarily wholesale.
Chinese consumers, who represented 1% of the market in 2000, accounted for about a third of all purchases in 2015. Japanese consumers, who were about a quarter of the market at the turn of the century, now make up about 10%.
Today, sales in Europe and the US each make up about a third of the personal luxury goods market, with Japan and China dividing the rest about equally. However, more than half the European sales are by extra-regional tourists. About a third of US sales and 25% of Japanese are also by tourists. Tourist sales in China are negligible. I’m not sure why; high prices and counterfeiting are my guesses.
Looked an nationalities a different way, European customers buy 90% of their luxury goods in Europe in 2015. Americans bought almost exclusively in the US, with a tiny fraction in Europe. Japanese consumers made 40% of their purchases outside Japan, primarily in non-China Asia, with the US and Europe taking smaller slices. Chinese consumers bought only 20% of their luxury goods domestically last year. They made about 30% of their purchases in Europe, another 25% elsewhere in Asia and the rest in the US and Japan.
One of the factors driving the large tourist market is, of course, the much higher domestic prices for Asians. A second is the significant currency depreciation of the yen and the euro, which have made not only foreign stays but also foreign luxury goods purchases much less expensive.
10% of the global market is now in off-price stores. That’s double the percentage of three years ago. Markdown sales, including off-price stores, accounted for about a third of the market last year.
7% of sales are online, most of that in the US.
an inflection point
Bain thinks–correctly, in my view–that much greater awareness of regional price differentials, significant recent currency fluctuations, the rise of markdown sales at a time of steady price increases by luxury goods manufacturers have all conspired to undermine the belief that branded luxury goods have enduring value.
I suspect there’s more at work as well–generational change and the rise of new high-end local brands with greater appeal to younger customers.
Back to TIF for a moment, the company’s announcement that it expects a 10% fall in earnings for fiscal 2015 and “minimal” earnings growth in 2016 limits its near-term appeal. At some point, though, it could become attractive again, despite ructions in the overall luxury goods market. …$50 a share?
– What stocks to invest in