Oct 29, 2018
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Esprit still struggling in Q1, to update on turnaround strategy next month

Oct 29, 2018

The news doesn't get any better for Esprit Holdings with the fashion giant, which is listed in Hong Kong but has a business mainly focused on Europe, saying that its first quarter was tough. And the warm summer weather continuing into early autumn seems to have been partly to blame.


But while the revenues-only report looked bad, its shares actually rose as we have to assume that investors might have expected even worse news.

Its revenues in the three months to September 30 fell sharply with a 16.2% drop on a constant currency basis to HK$3.33 billion.

The decline seems to have been broadly spread across the business with even its digital operation suffering, something that's unusual as many companies that have declining store sales still manage to enjoy positive activity online.

Of course, it's no surprise that its physical store sales fell as the company has been closing shops, and it reduced its selling space by more than 10% during the last quarter alone, as well as exiting Australia and New Zealand completely.

So let's look at the figures. Its womenswear sales, which is its dominant category, dropped by 15.9% to HK$2.25 billion, while menswear was down 10.1% to HK$549 million. Meanwhile its lifestyle sales were down an even worse 22.8% to HK$531 million. Lifestyle covers bodywear, accessories, shoes, and the sales and royalty income from licensed products such as kidswear, watches, eyewear, jewellery, bed & bath and homewares. Total wholesale revenues were also down 27%.

In local currencies, its total sales at retail dropped 17.8%, which is bad news as they make up more than a third (actually 37%) of its total. On a like-for-like basis, which excludes online operations, they fell 14.1% “mainly due to declining customers' traffic to our stores and extended warm summer temperature in Europe, which impacted sales of our autumn merchandise.”

The company had a challenging time in some of its biggest markets with Germany, which is its largest market of all, seeing sales down 16.3%. The rest of Europe fell 15%, but Asia-Pacific managed to rise 0.3% (with e-tail excluded) and this was “mainly attributable to successful promotional activities.”

But what about that weak performance online? The digital unit, known as Eshop, accounts for just short of 25% of revenue and declined almost 15%. That was largely due to the weakness in Germany and Europe generally as Europe accounts for almost all of its digital total and fell 14.1%. Eshop APAC, accounting for just 2.6% of total e-sales, plunged 36.7% year-on-year, “due to the closure of ANZ Eshop in July… and the decline in consumers' traffic to our Eshop on Tmall.”

The company said that it’s undertaking “corrective measures to reignite sales momentum,” but we won't know full details about those until its investor relations day at the end of November.  For now the firm said it will “sharpen our brand identity and put the customer at the centre of everything we do; improve product offering and how it relates to our consumer and brand positioning; reduce complexity and improve accountability in the organisation; become a leaner organisation; and eliminate loss-making parts of the business to build a stronger foundation for the future.” 

And while it'll be interesting to hear what the company has to say, we can't ignore the fact that Esprit has been trying to turn itself around for some time already.

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