In an attempt to put "knock-off" imitators out of business, high-end furnishings designer Herman Miller Inc. (NASDAQ: MLHR) will unveil a number of its famous designs on Second Life. The designs will be available at no cost to consumers who were duped into purchasing knock-offs from unauthorized vendors, as long as the buyers agree to get rid of the unauthorized inventory. For other consumers, the designs will be available at a reduced price. Consumers can find Herman Miller's entire collection within Avalon Island in Second Life. Herman Miller intends to expand its virtual world presence in order to provide detailed depictions and descriptions of its designs.
Recently released 1Q FY 2008 earnings support Herman Miller's bold expansion into the virtual world. Sales for the quarter were up 9% to $492 million, net earnings increased 17.5% to $33.4 million and diluted EPS increased 25% to $0.54. Simply put, operating earnings are up while operating expenses are down. Herman Miller has posted 15 straight quarters of YoY sales growth, driven in large measure by a 17% sales increase in its international markets, primarily Asia and the UK. International orders are up 6%, which helps to counteract a 5% decline in North American orders. Perhaps Herman Miller's expanded virtual presence will inject some energy into the North American market.
Senior management expects 2Q FY 2008 sales of $475-$500 million, with diluted EPS of $0.51-$0.57. The company has already repurchased 1.9 million shares of its stock for $60.8 milion, and recently authorized repurchases of an additional $300 million. At under $30 per share, the stock could be worth a look. Certainly its virtual show room is.