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Australian retail - Christmas outlook 2023

Santa to deliver a soft landing

15 December 2023

Australian consumers appear to be in the mood to celebrate Christmas and retail spending is likely to be better than “feared” by many this year.The lead-up before Black Friday was soft, but Black Friday promotions stirred up demand and the ramp into Christmas is likely to be sufficient to lead to better than consensus outcomes. We see upside risk to earnings for 1H24e for Super Retail Group, City Chic, JB Hi-Fi and Wesfarmers. While near-term earnings upside exists, we remain cautious because the path over the next two years is challenging with sales growth likely to remain below cost growth.

Bapcor Ltd (BAP) - sales outlook

Mean reversion in sales still playing out

15 December 2023

We expect Bapcor is likely to experience further weakness in sales as the company cycles through elevated demand during COVID-19. The easing of price inflation and the recovery in new car sales are headwinds. We expect declining LFL sales for both its Trade and Retail divisions at Bapcor. Moreover, Bapcor has higher operating leverage given its fixed cost base. The cost saving program is weighted to 2H24e and will help to mitigate the earnings impact.

Domino's Pizza (DMP) AGM 2023 trading update

Joining the second-half club

03 November 2023

Domino’s trading update revealed that sales trends have softened in Europe and remain negative in Japan. Sales are solid in Australia/NZ. The company emphasised earnings are recovering, but the qualifier is that 1H24e EBIT is likely to be down year-on-year. Domino’s is focused on improving franchisee profitability.

Wesfarmers (WES) FY23 result analysis

Managing the cycle well so far

28 August 2023

Wesfarmers reported FY23 group EBIT of $3,863 million, growth of 6%. The result showed some signs of slowdown in the second half where retail EBIT only rose 2%. We expect sales to slow from here given recent trends and weakness in discretionary income for consumers. The company will cut costs and the margin pressure should be modest, but it will still be challenging to grow retail earnings in FY24e. The WesCEF business could see a drop in EBIT of 17% on our estimates. The core business will suffer a larger drop, but lithium earnings will start from 2H24e onwards.

City Chic (CCX) December AGM trading update

City Chic’s costly inventory clear out - reveals margin pain

20 December 2022

City Chic has provided another trading update showing slowing sales in Australia. We think it is best to describe the company’s sales position as normalising. We doubt there is a rebound in FY24e. With a reversion in sales, the company’s inventory position is far too high and hence profitability will be largely wiped out in FY23e. The real question is to what level do profit margins recover? We forecast long-term EBITDA margins of 10% and a return to net cash by the end of FY23e. While it is a difficult 12 months and there are many risks, we reiterate our Buy rating with a target price of $0.85 per share (prev $1.25).

Sales trends deteriorate

City Chic’s sales trends have slowed in the past four weeks. At its AGM for the first 20 weeks, sales were down 2% FYTD, now for the first 24 weeks, sales are down 7%. Some of the weakness can be explained by the normalisation of sales in Australia given the reopening last year boosted November 2021. Sales are likely to be down 7% for 1H23e and we estimate a drop of 10% in 2H23e given less of a currency tailwind. Our FY23e sales estimate is $337 million, which, on our forecasts, means that Avenue dropped back towards its acquisition level and there is only modest growth in EMEA. Such a reset reframes its growth. While sales growth should resume, it will be costly to continue to acquire customers. We expect sales growth of 5%-12% going forward.

Gross margins down given excess inventory

City Chic has flagged an EBITDA loss for 1H23e. We forecast -$1.1 million with +$7.7 million in 2H23e. Our 2H rebound reflects a likely reduction in marketing costs and smaller headwind from fulfillment costs vs the pcp. We highlight two things about near-term earnings. Firstly, management has an incentive to make a small positive EBITDA across FY23e. A cash realisation above 1.5x will trigger short-term incentives. Secondly, management has an incentive to drop inventory. An inventory level of $125 million leads to full payment of this short-term incentive.

Can it get to net cash and where do margins settle?

With the share price as low as it is, the market is clearly sceptical about its ability to lower inventory and return to a net cash position. Given financial incentives for management, we expect inventory reduction is a major motivation. We forecast a net cash position of $10 million in 1H23e, rising to $42 million by FY23e. The company has historically targeted 15% EBITDA margins. We assume 10% on the basis that the company will have higher marketing, advertising and fulfillment costs in order to grow sales.

Earnings revisions

We lower our sales forecasts by 3%-5% over the next three years. We reduce our EBITDA (pre AASB-16) for City Chic to $7 million for FY23e from $19 million previously. A small loss across the full-year is possible. The swing factors for us are the level of discounting in 2H23e and the willingness to lower marketing costs.

Our view

City Chic’s sales performance suggests to us that the boom in sales over the past two years is in a large part a function of lockdowns. As a result, the company has far too much inventory and a financially painful 12 months to clear the product. However, fundamentally the company has a good market position in the plus-size market and its balance sheet should have a net cash position. We reiterate our Buy rating with a 12-month target price of $0.85 per share.


Woolworths 1Q23 result insights

It gets better from here

05 November 2022

Woolworths reported 1Q23 sales growth of 1.8%. This low rate of growth simply reflects a high hurdle from lockdowns over the past two years. We expect sales growth to recover to 5%-6% from here and the growth gap to Coles will narrow. The market remains orderly around price inflation, which will support earnings growth. Moreover, the headwinds in NZ should ease soon and margins are likely to recover in calendar 2023.

JB Hi-Fi FY22e trading update - Higher starting point

Trading update reveals very strong 2H22e

19 July 2022

JB Hi-Fi provided a FY22e trading update with consistently strong sales and better gross margins in 2H22e. EBIT was 9% ahead of our forecast. The strength in sales, tightness of inventory and price rises make us more bullish in the near-term (FY23e) but more cautious on FY24e. With a net cash position, good dividend yield and low PE, we expect the stock to perform well.

Super Retail (SUL) May 2022 trading update

Momentum continues

02 May 2022

Super Retail Group’s trading update shows largely consistent sales trends over the past 10 weeks, with LFL sales up 3.4%. Supercheap Auto remains the standout segment. Gross margins are steady and the company is more optimistic about store openings. Super Retail’s PE ratio has derated on concerns about its inventory position. We think those concerns are misplaced given the challenges in securing inventory that will continue throughout 2022.

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