Fashion trends come and go, but one trend that has bucked the cycle and remained atop the global fashion category for several years now is the athletic apparel trend, boosting athletic stocks.
Broadly speaking, consumers have gravitated increasingly towards athletic apparel as the athletic and casual fashion categories have converged on one another to create the now immensely popular athleisure space. According to Piper Jaffray’s Taking Stock with Teens Survey, the athletic apparel category has benefited from consistently rising mind-share ever since 2008.
It’s now 2019, and that mind-share is still growing.
In other words, the rise of the athletic apparel category is starting to look more like a secular consumer lifestyle trend, than a cyclical fashion trend. As such, the athletic apparel stocks which have run higher over the past several years thanks to this trend, should continue to run higher over the next several years, too, as the trend persists.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at seven athletic stocks that are ready to run higher.
At the top of the athletic apparel category is Nike (NYSE:NKE).
Nike is the unchallenged leader in this market, and that has been the case for several decades now. To be sure, competitive threats arise in the space every few years to challenge Nike’s dominance. But all these really do is embolden Nike. NKE stock allocates a bunch of resources to growth-related initiatives, squashes the competition and expands its dominance.
This will remain true for the foreseeable future. Every trend is moving in Nike’s favor right now, including robust growth in China, margin improvements, an impressive pace of product innovation, market expansion into men’s yoga apparel and big contract wins to supply the MLB with on-field jerseys and equipment. So long as these trends remain favorable, Nike stock will remain on a winning trajectory.
Foot Locker (FL)
If there is one way to play the Nike trend without buying Nike stock, then it is buying shares of Foot Locker (NYSE:FL) instead.
For all intents and purposes, Foot Locker is Nike’s retailer. About 70% of the product sold at Foot Locker stores and online is Nike product. This is why as Nike has regained dominance in the athletic apparel industry over the past few quarters, Foot Locker’s numbers have materially improved, and FL stock has gone from $40 to $60.
This correlated uptrend in FL and NKE stock will persist. To be sure, Nike is pushing direct sales and narrowing its wholesale channel portfolio. But, that narrowing does not include any cuts to Foot Locker, since Nike sees Foot Locker as an extremely valuable channel to reach customers. Thus, the Nike and Foot Locker relationship will remain healthy for a lot longer, and that will power both of these stocks higher.
The hottest name in the athletic apparel space right now is Lululemon (NASDAQ:LULU).
Lululemon has made a name for itself over the past decade as the top provide of high-quality women’s yoga apparel. LULU killed it in that industry and developed second-to-none brand equity and customer loyalty among their core demographic (female yogis). Now, Lululemon is leveraging that supercharged brand equity and customer loyalty to significantly expand their product assortment and demographic reach. This includes jumping into the men’s business and expanding well beyond the yoga space.
Overall, Lululemon is currently in the process of shifting from a niche yoga apparel brand to a broad athletic apparel brand. Because the company has established a strong reputation for itself for developing high-quality clothing, this shift is playing out smoothly for the company.
Net result? Dramatically higher revenues and profits. This trend will persist, since Lululemon is still so small relative to other athletic apparel giants. As such, LULU stock should remain in a solid uptrend for the foreseeable future.
One of the most underrated athletic apparel brands in the world is Skechers (NYSE:SKX).
Most athletic apparel brands, like Nike or Lululemon, fight to be the coolest and trendiest brand in the space. Skechers doesn’t really care about that. Instead, this company has consistently emphasized price and comfort over coolness and style. This emphasis has made the brand unpopular among trend-oriented consumers, but has also made the brand super popular among consumers who — much like the brand — want comfort over style.
As it turns out, this market is pretty big, and Skechers is dominating it on a global scale. That is why this company has been a solid high-single-digit and up revenue grower for the past several years. But, SKX stock has failed to rally alongside revenues because margins have been an issue, and profit growth has been diluted. That margin headwind appears to be turning a corner.
Last quarter, for the first time in a long time, Skechers grew revenues and profits side-by-side. If the company can maintain this new trend, then SKX stock will continue to rally in a big way given its still depressed valuation (just 17x forward earnings).
Athletic Stocks to Buy: Puma (PUMAF)
One of the largest athletic apparel brands in the world is Puma (OTCMKTS:PMMAF), yet the company is hardly talked about in mainstream media. That’s about to change.
For the first time in over twenty years, Puma is making moves in the ultra-valuable basketball market. These moves aren’t small, either. Puma has named rapper/celebrity Jay-Z — someone who has a lot of clout in basketball circles — as creative director of Puma Basketball. They’ve also signed DeAndre Ayton and Marvin Bagley — the top two picks in last year’s NBA draft and potential future all stars — to multi-year contracts. NBA players DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay are also new Puma athletes.
Overall, Puma is starting to make some noise in the too-big-to-ignore basketball market. With Jay-Z on board, it shouldn’t be too hard to lure a few big names over to the brand. As such, this basketball revolution at Puma is just getting started, and as it plays out over the next several quarters and years, Puma’s revenues, profits and stock price should all rise.
Dick’s Sporting Goods (DKS)
Sporting goods stores were supposed to be a dying breed. However, one company that has managed to hold its own is Dick’s Sporting Goods (NYSE:DKS).
As consumers have shifted online and athletic apparel brands have shifted to focus on direct-sales channels, sporting goods stores have been increasingly cut out of the athletic apparel retail landscape, and many have been forced to shutter their doors. But, not Dick’s Sporting Goods. Instead, DKS went through a rough patch, has come out the other side and is now reporting numbers that don’t at all indicate bankruptcy any time soon.
Over the next few years, Dick’s Sporting Goods will undergo a Best Buy (NYSE:BBY)-type renaissance. Electronics stores were also a dying breed earlier this decade. But, Best Buy survived the electronics store apocalypse, came out the other side stronger than ever, and gobbled up all the excess market share, which led to robust profit growth and huge gains for BBY stock.
The same thing will happen with Dick’s Sporting Goods in the sporting goods industry over the next few years. As such, now looks like a good time to buy into a relatively depressed stock before it moves to new highs.
Often left out of the discussion about athletic apparel brands is Columbia (NASDAQ:COLM). But Columbia’s torrid growth as of late makes the company hard to ignore.
Columbia is coming off a quarter and full year that saw record sales, gross margins, operating profits, net profits and earnings per share. Last quarter, revenues rose 17% and operating profits rose 34%. Last year, revenues rose 11% and operating profits rose 30%. Next year, revenues are expected to rise in the mid-to-high-single-digit range, while gross margins are expected to expand and profits are guided to head higher, too.
Overall, Columbia is simply on fire right now. The stock isn’t terribly expensive, around 26x forward earnings, a level which has been historically normal for COLM stock. Investor sentiment is bullish. So is analyst sentiment. The technicals are healthy. Putting it all together, it looks like COLM stock can and will continue to head higher from here.
As of this writing, Luke Lango was long NKE, FL, LULU, SKX, and BBY.
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