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The Stock Acronym For People Who Like Money. Also $DKS!

Dick’s Sporting Goods reports this morning.

Estimates for Q1 stand at 54-cents on $2.28b. Full year is $2.89 on $7.31b. The co already warned for Q4.

Here’s my real-life pre-release cheat sheet*:


At this point you may be sick of retail coverage. You may prefer sexier stocks doing business in the cloud or selling $10 hamburgers. Or maybe you’re looking to scrape some goop off the bottom of the wreckage field that is energy.

Maybe you want to debate Apple some more or chase Tesla. Can Disney regain its downtrend?

I get it. Those are sexy stocks in the headlines. I was asked me about Palo Alto Networks as I was getting prepped for a routine colonoscopy last week. (The answer: “Too much risk just to get back to even. Go for ANF if you want the same danger seeking rush with more upside. Can I get the Michael Jackson drug now?”)

If you want cocktail party chatter stocks go play with Valeant. I hate cocktail parties in general and giving stock picks at said parties in particular. Professionally speaking I’m in it for winning, making money and scratching my creative itch, in no particular order.

Retail is where the money is in stocks right now. That alone makes the sector sexy as far as I’m concerned but I’m sort of a hussy that way.



5 minutes ago I dubbed this basket of stocks-I-own MALT just because I wanted to respond to something I heard my friend (name drop!) Becky say on the TV. It stands for Mr Awesome Likes These. Later I realized MALT is also the first initial of these stocks in order of performance year to date (Macy’s, ANF, LULU and Target).

I prefer Mr Awesome Likes These but the company initials might make a better mnemonic strategy.



Retailers are shaking off horrendous earnings and exploding to the upside when they hurdle the lowest of bars. URBN thinks it’s a pizza chain and shares are up 10% after they avoided blowing up by more than expected last night. These stocks move big and have been reacting well. In part that’s because merchants started reporting near the market lows February 11th.

Something else is going on here. The retailers were sticky before the market cratered. Dicks is up 25% in 3 months, a period during which they guided lower! The stock is way outperforming shares of the companies whose product it sells. Nike and UA have been slumping while Dick’s keeps chugging along.

BBY shares are up 8% since the miss. They never really even dropped. JWN sounded like lost children on their call and the stock has already recovered. With futures lower this AM and Dick’s set to report any minute I think DKS shares are your market tell of the day.

There are a lot of moving parts to this story. If you do conference calls, tune in to DKS through the webcast at 10am. Management is a hoot (the quarter they chucked golf under bus is legendary) and the company has its finger on the pulse of things you wouldn’t expect like fashion via Athleisure.

Some stocks are for buying (like the MALT group!). Dick’s is just one to watch.

Rememeber: it’s about guidance, stock reaction and brands.

Enjoy! And… Just because I’m not mature and it must be said… I don’t know why the company has kept the name.

  • I know the notes look chaotic. That was also true of yesterday’s Shake-Shack cheat sheet, which ended up mostly being a bubble shaped hamburger when I realized how insane SHAK’s valuation is. Do your best to make sense of what I’ve written. I promise there’s value in there somewhere.



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“Idiot Bankers Can’t Retail”: Sunday Lessons From Ken

In response to The Butcher of Sears Holdings It is Showtime writes

I could write a whole history of retailers failing due to leverage and / or being run by financial gurus, if I thought anyone would read them.

I was a senior in high school when the Haft Family made its early push for Dayton Hudson / TGT. I left for college the next year and never really moved back to MN. That was 1987. My earliest memories of tagging along on store visits with my dad (he worked for Dayton’s) are mixed in with Ali – Foreman which puts them in 1974 and 5. By that math “Asshole Bankers Don’t Understand Retail” was the final lesson of a 12 and a half year live-in retail apprenticeship under the guy who was central to the creation of the modern Target.


Which is nothing I did. I was just lucky as hell to be raised by (and get along with) a very unusual guy who was certainly one of the top 10 merchants from 1950-2000. He’s wildly underrated but I’ll argue his placing with anyone.

(Forgive the digression. Quite a bit of coffee is involved in these Sunday morning columns and visits to the comment section.)

Ken’s problem with retail LBOs was the debt. He wasn’t afraid of the risk. He loved risk. What he hated were cheap, dirty stores. Or empty cash stands when there was a line. Or flimsy displays… Wow, did Ken Macke hate flimsy displays. You end up with all of those when you lever up retailers whether it’s to do an LBO or buyback or dividend.

Retail margins are terrible. 10% is about your cap. There’s no room to add excessive debt payments without cutting spending. Cutting spending leads to sloppy execution which becomes a messy store. So help me God if a Target store was dirty my dad would grab the nearest flimsy display and use it as a staff to Smite the store manager dead like Ken was Moses himself (I may be conflating that memory… I was a kid).

The Haft family ended up crapping out of Daytons. The Hafts had been front-running their own press clipping. They’d get long, announce a bid then sell down the position in the ensuing ramp. (Did you honestly think Ackman invented the idea?) Lather-rinse-repeat. In the summer of 87 the Hafts were out. By the time of the article, October 15 1987, the Hafts were long up to 4.9% at $50. They’d bought huge in the fall of 1987.

Which means the Hafts were levered long into about $300m of DH right into the crash of 87. The stock fell somewhere around 40%. So Endeth the lesson on mixing leverage and actual business.

(Another funny point on the article… Check the part where it says Daytons sent a “tersely worded 2 page fax”. The original draft of the fax was 2 words. “F— you”. The lawyer wouldn’t let Ken send it. I was listening to my dad on the call when he complained “Which part of ‘f*** you’ do you think the Hafts won’t understand?”)

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Buyback-Lash: Investors Calling BS on Wall Street

Buyback-Lash(TM) is picking up steam as investors sell-off shares of companies with monster buyback programs. Apple, IBM, Chipotle, Gilead… the list is growing.

The story is also picking up steam. Perhaps inspired by the Weekend Buyback Primer I created with links to pieces on AutoNation, Apple, WholeFoods Markets, Macy’s and IBM) Fortune went through Apple’s hypothetical P&L on repurchased shares yesterday:

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It’s a decent read but misses the main points. Allow me to elaborate:

Repurchased Shares Go to $0 Immediately

I went over exactly why in the nuanced piece “Wall Street Street Screwed You Again! Buyback Mailbag“. It’s a nice exercise to point out that Apple is down 21% on buybacks but it misses the point.

If shares move higher after a repurchase the company has no direct benefit. Apple doesn’t trade its shares. If AAPL were trading at $200 the company itself wouldn’t be able to flip stock for a profit. Unlike literally every other potential investor corporations can’t just flip shares in the open market. The stock is instead retired to reduce share count.

In part this offsets dilution from stock option programs. That means buybacks are a good pay to hide pay and help push EPS higher all things being equal. Most executive pay packages are based at least in part on earnings per share. Buying back stock is easier than coming up with new business ideas and can lead directly to an executive team getting paid more, regardless of what the stock itself does.

Buybacks Don’t Work

On their call last night Gilead announced it had spent an insane $10 billion repurchasing shares at an average cost of $95. As a result EPS in the fourth grew faster than net income! Ya! Everyone got a bigger chunk of the earnings pie! Gilead added another $12 billion to its $15 billion repurchase program last night. $27 billion and the company is openly accelerating buybacks right this second.

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The problem isn’t that Gilead is down $10 on its investment. Gilead is down $10b but that’s not even the problem. The real issues are a) shares are going lower anyway b) that money might come in handy some day c) Gilead is competing for stock with its own investors even though Gilead has no real use for the stock.

That’s not returning cash to shareholders. It’s screwing them in the short term so your monster options package is less visible.

Yes, Gilead generates a ton of cash. So did IBM at one point. $75b in buybacks later IBM, a company once so powerful it was considered a monopoly, has missed every trend of the last decade. IBM shareholders are left with net profits of $0 since 2010.

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Parade of Dunces

Financial media is like a game of telephone. Somehow has an insight then everyone passes it alone in some slightly different form. I’m not complaining or bragging about other folks picking up on this story without attribution. I expect that to happen. I just want to make sure they get it right. It’s important because investors should be insanely outraged right now and it’s not quite happening.

Among the inanity…

Chipotle spent 30 minutes detailing every margin-crushing hell that can befall a company on last night’s call. -36% comp sales, loyal customers abandoning them, promotions of unknown expense and higher costs in general. I was on the call. Shares held up fine right up until the CFO said this:

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 5.46.23 AM

This was after the company guided to breakeven for Q1 and pulled guidance for the rest of the year because he openly has no idea how much the company will have to spend to buyback shares. How about settling the NoroVirus investigation before getting long CMG, guys? Because the stock really isn’t a buy as long as we’re synonymous with both bacterial and viral ways of contracting explosive diarrhea.

Comcast hiked buyback by $10 billion. Because the best way to fight cord cutting and ad drops is investing in your own stock.

Buybacks Need to Die Before Walmart Does

They never make sense. “Opportunistically buying back shares” is the 2016 version of Citi’s Chuck Prince blithely telling the New York Times that his bank was taking on more debt because “as long as the music is playing you’ve got to get up and dance“.

Citi still has risk to $0.

Walmart has $20b in repurchases in place. Target is buying its own stock. Amazon is not. Amazon is going into bookstores. Those are Trojan Horse distribution systems. Target and Walmart have a combined growth rate of 0%. Both chains get less than 5% of its sales from online. By Christmas Amazon will be killing them ecommerce and brick and mortar stores.

Walmart is spending under $1b developing its internet business this year. How much cash do you think there will be to return to shareholders in 10 years if Walmart doesn’t create a viable online presence?

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