Guess?, Inc. (GES)

GES 
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Guess?, Inc. (GES)

Q4 2011 Earnings Conference Call

March 14, 2012 4:30 PM ET

Executives

Paul Marciano – Chief Executive Officer

Dennis Secor – Chief Financial Officer

Michael Prince – Chief Operating Officer

Analysts

Shreya Jawalkar – Jefferies

Jeff Klinefelter – Piper Jaffray & Co.

Helena Tse – Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Omar Saad – ISI Group

Diana Katz – Lazard Capital Markets

Eric Beder – Brean Murray, Carret & Co.

David Glick – Buckingham Research Group

Dana Telsey – Telsey Advisory Group

Margaret Whitfield – Sterne, Agee & Leach

Susan Sansbury – Miller Tabak

John Kernan – Cowen and Company

Presentation

Operator

Good day everyone, and welcome to the Guess? fourth quarter fiscal 2012 earnings conference call. On the call are Paul Marciano, Chief Executive Officer; Michael Prince, Chief Operating Officer; Dennis Secor, Chief Financial Officer; and Russell Bowers, Chief Financial Officer, North American Retail.

During today's call, the company will be making forward-looking statements, including comments regarding future plans and financial outlook. The company's actual results may differ materially from current expectations based on risk factors included in the company's quarterly, annual, and current reports filed with the SEC, including economic conditions, business strategies, results of litigation, tax and other similar proceedings and currency fluctuations.

I would now turn the presentation over to Paul Marciano.

Paul Marciano

Thank you, and good afternoon. We are pleased with our fourth quarter performance, extending our global business, and delivering record revenue even as a weak European economy continued to create headwinds for us.

We made significant progress in elevating the Guess? brand in North America Retail, where sales were up as we expanded profitability. In Asia, we gained shares with double-digit top line growth. Once again we focused on sound fundamental and solid execution. We manage our resources carefully, especially our inventories, for taking our brand throughout the holiday season, avoiding much of the massive discounting in the malls. All of that resulted in a solid financial performance, delivering earning per share of $1.05, which was within the level that we anticipate for the quarter.

Considering that what Europe went through this past holiday season, we are very pleased with these results. Our business model is (inaudible) for diversification and we enhanced that last year by developing important European markets like Germany, Russia, Portugal, Netherlands and even Finland. Our top 10 European gross market collectively grew 29%, and now represents almost 30% of our business in Europe. Strong complements to Italy, which is now less than 40% compared to 52% four years ago.

Our successes in newer market is critical to our long term strategy and they were instrumental in helping drive revenues in Europe to more than $1 billion this year considering that in 2004 revenues were only $43 million when we took over from our licensee there. The Guess? brand has become part of the retail market in Europe today. Our growth strategy in North America was focused on developing G by Guess where we see tremendous potential.

We continue to refine the concepts, the stores and the product and the customer is responding very well. G once again delivered solid positive comp. We believe we have developed an excellent niche in the G market and are making great progress. In fact, this year the brand broke even for the first time and our goal for next year is to post the brand’s first profits. In Asia, we delivered solid growth for both South Korea and China posting annual growth rate over 25%.

In South Korea, we improved productivity while expanding new doors. Our launch of G by Guess in South Korea is doing very well and we now have 47 locations. Overall in Korea we have developed a strong market share position and we ended the year with nearly 300 point of sales. In Greater China, the brand continued to develop rapidly as we expand into 63 [ph] new locations this year.

We continue to build relationships with partner to open stores in secondary cities. We also made significant progress in building up our team and infrastructure, but we will need to fully develop the market and support our partners in the future. The brand elevation was another important goal for us, as we build up our brand in equity markets comparing to other brands. By visiting our stores it should be obvious that the product has been significantly elevated.

We improved product quality, specifically in women, which translated to an AUR increase over 20% in the fourth quarter in our stores in US. We are very pleased with the customers' response to this change, especially in our dresses and denim collection and we are now focusing on accessories and men. We manage our inventory tightly and drastically reduced our markdown electing to focus on a full-price sales that were up during the year.

We enhanced the store environment with a combination of reduced stock level and new visual strategy. We also remolded 31 stores in North America and have seen improved sales. In North American retail, we managed carefully during the transitional year. Retail product margin improved and we worked more efficiently in our stores, driving sales cost rates down without affecting the customer experience. For the full-year, we expanded our retail operating margin and increased segment operating profit by nearly 10%, which is a big accomplishment given this year comps.

In Europe, we definitely are proud of many achievements for fiscal 2012. As we look back on the year, our biggest challenge certainly proved to be Europe. During the summer, as consumer reported [ph], we reported a weakening economy there. We saw the traffic fall off in early September and began to experience negative comp in our stores there. Direct marketing and digital media will be my priority going forward with social media and CRM as well, and of course, still increasing the global brand image with magazine and outdoor advertisements.

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