Carter's Down 30% in a Year: Can Strategies Aid a Turnaround?

Shares of Carter's, Inc.CRI have plunged 29.6% in a year compared to the industry 's 3.4% growth. The underperformance can be mainly attributed to softness across its U.S. Wholesale business due to the bankruptcy of Toys "R" Us.

The closure of Toys "R" Us stores, which is the company's key wholesale customer, is largely weighing on the performance of Carter's U.S. Wholesale segment. In third-quarter 2018, sales at this segment decreased 8.3% year over year, owing to fall in shipments due to loss of sales to Toys "R" Us and Bon-Ton.

Moreover, Carter's higher cost of investments toward technology, brand marketing and expedited shipping have been hurting operating margin. SG&A expenses, as a percentage of sales, increased 180 basis points (bps) in third-quarter 2018. This uptick was mainly driven by increased investments in new stores and e-commerce business, higher marketing spending, distribution, speedy deliveries and infrastructure. Consequently, operating margin contracted 220 bps in the third quarter. Going forward, this can be a threat to the company's profitability.

Additionally, high inventory levels remain a worry for the company. At the end of the third quarter, Carter's saw a 14% increase in net inventories owing to the timing of inventory receipts and increased baby replenishment inventory. While management is working to normalize this equation, it expects net inventory growth to moderate to up 8% by the end of 2018.

Growth Strategies

Despite these potent limitations, we are optimistic about Carter's Retail strategy that focuses on improving store productivity, strengthening e-commerce business and enhancing product offerings. The company's Skip Hop and Age Up initiatives are likely to significantly drive retail sales growth in 2018. Additionally, the company is witnessing a positive response for its co-branded stores, which have been receiving maximum return on investment.

By 2022, Carter's plans to open nearly 160 co-branded stores. Further, it targets increasing the mix of these stores to at least 50% of its store base compared with 20% at the beginning of 2017. Simultaneously, management intends to shut down roughly 115 less-productive stores, comprising mainly Carter's and OshKosh outlets. This is expected to improve customer's experience and boost the company's profitability.

Moreover, Carter's efforts to strengthen e-commerce capabilities through investments to speed up deliveries are impressive. Notably, the company has been witnessing double-digit growth in e-commerce sales, mainly backed by higher domestic demand. In 2019, it plans to launch the e-commerce capabilities in Mexico. Combined with wholesale, the company expects to reach $1 billion in online purchases of its brands in 2019.

Meanwhile, Carter's International business is witnessing solid growth, thanks to acquired licensee business in Mexico and robust demand in markets outside of North America. Further, the company is on track with the integration of the Mexico business, acquired in 2017. It anticipates about $30 million sales contribution from Mexico in 2018, with the potential to double its sales in the next five years. Moreover, Carter's expects China to generate about $20 million sales in 2018, with significant e-commerce sales growth.

Bullish Outlook

Despite dismal third-quarter 2018 results, management issued upbeat guidance for the fourth quarter. Carter's expects net sales to grow 5% and adjusted earnings per share to rise roughly 10% year over year. In fact, the anticipated sales and earnings growth for the fourth quarter might be a partial recovery of the lost sales, which would have come from Toys "R" Us and Bon-Ton.

Moreover, the company witnessed double-digit comparable-store sales growth initially in the fourth quarter driven by higher traffic, conversion rates and improved price realization. Management projects quarterly retail comps to increase approximately 4%, backed by various strategic initiatives, including gains from Age Up size expansion and Skip Hop.

For 2018, management anticipates sales increase of nearly 1.5% and adjusted earnings growth of about 5% from 2017 figure.

Bottom Line

We believe Carter's may spring back to growth in the near term backed by the aforementioned initiatives. An upbeat fourth-quarter and 2018 guidance also support our view.

Currently, Carter's has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

Interested in Consumer Discretionary Space? Bet on These

Crocs, Inc. CROX delivered an average positive earnings surprise of 126.3% in the last four quarters. Moreover, the company currently sports a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today's Zacks #1 Rank stocks here .

Ralph Lauren Corporation RL outpaced the earnings estimates in each of the trailing four quarters by an average surprise of 7%. It currently carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

lululemon athletica inc. LULU is also a Zacks Ranked #2 stock, which has an impressive long-term earnings growth rate of 19.3%

Looking for Stocks with Skyrocketing Upside?

Zacks has just released a Special Report on the booming investment opportunities of legal marijuana.

Ignited by new referendums and legislation, this industry is expected to blast from an already robust $6.7 billion to $20.2 billion in 2021. Early investors stand to make a killing, but you have to be ready to act and know just where to look.

See the pot trades we're targeting>>

Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report

Carter's, Inc. (CRI): Free Stock Analysis Report

lululemon athletica inc. (LULU): Free Stock Analysis Report

Crocs, Inc. (CROX): Free Stock Analysis Report

Ralph Lauren Corporation (RL): Free Stock Analysis Report

To read this article on click here.

Zacks Investment Research

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

In This Story


Other Topics


Latest Markets Videos


    Zacks is the leading investment research firm focusing on stock research, analysis and recommendations. In 1978, our founder discovered the power of earnings estimate revisions to enable profitable investment decisions. Today, that discovery is still the heart of the Zacks Rank. A wealth of resources for individual investors is available at

    Learn More