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Edited Transcript of VRA earnings conference call or presentation 11-Dec-19 2:30pm GMT

Q3 2020 Vera Bradley Inc Earnings Call FORT WAYNE Dec 18, 2019 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Vera Bradley Inc earnings conference call or presentation Wednesday, December 11, 2019 at 2:30:00pm GMT TEXT version of Transcript ================================================================================ Corporate Participants ================================================================================ * John Enwright Vera Bradley, Inc. - Executive VP & CFO * Mark C. Dely Vera Bradley, Inc. - Chief Administrative & Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary * Robert T. Wallstrom Vera Bradley, Inc. - CEO, President & Director ================================================================================ Conference Call Participants ================================================================================ * Dana Lauren Telsey Telsey Advisory Group LLC - CEO & Chief Research Officer * Eric Martin Beder Small Cap Consumer Research, LLC - CEO & Consumer Analyst * Mark R. Altschwager Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division - Senior Research Analyst * Oliver Chen Cowen and Company, LLC, Research Division - MD & Senior Equity Research Analyst * Steven Louis Marotta CL King & Associates, Inc., Research Division - MD & Director of Research ================================================================================ Presentation -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [1] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for standing by. Welcome to the Vera Bradley Third Quarter Earnings Conference call. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder, today's conference call is being recorded. I would now like to turn the call over to Mark Dely, Vera Bradley's Chief Administrative Officer. Please go ahead. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Mark C. Dely, Vera Bradley, Inc. - Chief Administrative & Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary [2] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Good morning, and welcome, everyone. We'd like to thank you for joining us for Vera Bradley's quarterly earnings call. Some of the statements made on today's call are prepared remarks and response to your questions may constitute forward-looking statements made pursuant to and within the meaning of the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, as amended. Such forward-looking statements are subject to both known and unknown risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those that we expect. Please refer to today's press release and the company's most recent Form 10-K filed with the SEC for a discussion of known risks and uncertainties. Investors should not assume that these statements made during the call will remain operative at a later time. We undertake no obligation to update any information discussed on the call. I will now turn the call over to Vera Bradley's CEO, Rob Wallstrom. Rob? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Robert T. Wallstrom, Vera Bradley, Inc. - CEO, President & Director [3] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thank you, Mark. Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us on today's call. John Enwright, our CFO, also joins me today. Both of our brands, Vera Bradley and Pura Vida had a strong third quarter performance. Vera Bradley's comparable sales, full price selling and customer count, once again, rose in the quarter and Pura Vida sales were at the high end of our expectations. As a result, our consolidated non-GAAP diluted EPS of $0.20 was at the top of our guidance range and nearly 70% higher than last year's third quarter EPS of $0.12. The addition of Pura Vida business to the Vera Bradley, Inc. portfolio has strengthened our position as a unique lifestyle company. We are sharing resources and expertise as we grow the brands together. Pura Vida is a great strategic fit for Vera Bradley, with their expertise in social media and other digital marketing strategies. And Pura Vida has already begun to leverage Vera Bradley infrastructure, partnerships and back-office support to bolster its growth. As previously discussed, in fiscal 2019, the first stage of Vision 20/20 was to restore our brand and company health. We have continued to build upon that progress in fiscal 2020. During the first 9 months of this year, we, once again, improved the quality of our sales in our Vera Bradley full-line stores and on verabradley.com by increasing comparable full price selling in these 2 channels by approximately 7%. And this is on top of the nearly 20% increase in the first 9 months of last year. As we complete year 2 of our 3-year journey, we remain steadfastly focused on growing our customer base, sales and profitability. And as a reminder, our 3 key areas of focus for fiscal 2020 are: Number 1, growth. Our plan is to return positive comparable sales growth this year and through the first 9 months, Vera Bradley's comparable sales were up 3.8%, in line with our expectations. Even in this space, a challenging North American handbag market, our improvement is being driven by exciting innovative products and supported by data-driven marketing and a relentless focus on customer engagement and consumer experience. Customer count is up double digits year-over-year and the acquisition of Pura Vida is adding to our growth as well; number two, operational excellence. Midyear, we began a 2-year process or replatforming our ERP, or enterprise resource planning, and other key information systems to become more streamlined, nimble and efficient in our technology and business processes. We have also successfully focused on mitigating the impact of increased tariffs; and number three, ownership. We are reinforcing our unique culture as an ownership based model where every associate can drive significant value creation through both individual and team efforts. Let me shift to Thanksgiving and the Black Friday weekend. Overall, with a shortened time frame between Thanksgiving and Christmas, most retailers began their promotional activity earlier this year, spreading the spending over more days. We also began our promotional activity earlier at Vera Bradley, and our customer responded to this modestly increased level of targeted promotions. Pura Vida exceeded their expectations over the same period. We have 2 very important weeks of selling to go before Christmas and at both Vera Bradley and Pura Vida, our inventories, promotional calendar, service levels and upsides have us well positioned for the important days ahead. Now I will turn the call over to John to review the financial results and outlook. John? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- John Enwright, Vera Bradley, Inc. - Executive VP & CFO [4] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thanks, Rob, and good morning. Financial results have been consolidated to include Pura Vida beginning July 17, 2019, the first full day following the acquisition. Prior period numbers have not been restated. The current year non-GAAP third quarter and year-to-date income statement numbers exclude the Pura Vida acquisition-related charges, including inventory step-up amortization, intangible asset amortization, transaction costs and accretion of the earn-out of liability as well as information technology replatforming charges, which were outlined in today's release. Third quarter consolidated net revenues totaled $127.5 million, at the higher end of our $122 million to $129 million guidance range. Excluding Pura Vida, Vera Bradley net revenues totaled $102.5 million, a 4.9% increase over $97.7 million in the prior year third quarter. Excluding charges, consolidated third quarter, Vera Bradley, Incorporate net income totaled $6.9 million or $0.20 per diluted share. This included $0.07 attributable to Pura Vida. As Rob noted, our third quarter results were at the high end of our guidance of $0.16 to $0.20. Last year, we posted net income of $4.2 million or $0.12 per diluted share for the quarter. Current year third quarter Vera Bradley Direct segment revenues totaled $78.4 million, a 6.7% increase over $73.5 million in the prior year third quarter. Comparable sales increased 4.7% for the quarter at the high end of our expectations. We closed 11 full-line stores and opened 6 factory outlet stores in the last 12 months. Vera Bradley indirect segment revenues totaled $24.1 million, basically flat with $24.2 million in the prior year third quarter. A reduction in orders and in the number of department store doors was offset by the timing of certain revenues that were planned for the second -- for the third quarter -- for the second quarter, excuse me, but realized in the third quarter. Pura Vida segment revenues totaled $25 million at the high end of our expectations. Excluding inventory step-up amortization, gross profit totaled $74.1 million or 58.1% of net revenues compared to $57.2 million or 58.5% in the prior year third quarter. Pura Vida benefited the current year third quarter non-GAAP gross margin by 110 basis points. The non-GAAP gross margin percentage was slightly better than our guidance range of 57.5% to 57.9%. As expected, improvement in Vera Bradley's full price selling and sourcing and operational efficiencies were more than offset by the impact of incremental tariffs and increased shipping cost, causing a year-over-year decline. Excluding the intangible asset amortization, accretion of the earn-out liability and information technology replatforming charges, consolidated SG&A expenses totaled $64 million of 50.2% of net revenues for the quarter compared to $51.9 million or 53.1% of net revenues in the prior year third quarter. The non-GAAP expenses were within the guidance range of $62.5 million to $64 million. In addition to $2.5 million of intangible asset amortization excluded above, Pura Vida added $11.4 million of SG&A expenses. In addition to Pura Vida expenses, total SG&A expenses were higher than the prior year, primarily due to new factory store openings. Excluding charges, current year consolidated operating income totaled $10.1 million or 7.9% of net revenues compared to $5.3 million or 4.5% of net revenues in the prior year third quarter. Consolidated net revenues totaled $338.3 million for the current year 9 months ended November 2, 2019. Excluding Pura Vida, Vera Bradley net revenues totaled $307.9 million or a 3.4% increase over $297.9 million in the prior year 9-month period. Excluding charges, Vera Bradley, Inc. consolidated net income for the 9 months totaled $13.8 million or $0.40 per diluted share. This performance included $0.08 from Pura Vida. For the prior year 9 months, we posted net income of $12.1 million or $0.34 per diluted share. Vera Bradley Direct segment revenues for the current year 9 months totaled $243.9 million, a 6% increase from $230 million in the prior year. Comparable sales increased 3.8% for the period. Full price selling in our full-line stores and on verabradley.com increased by approximately 7% for the 9 months. Vera Bradley Indirect segment revenues for 9 months decreased 5.8% to $64 million from $67.9 million in the prior year, reflecting a reduction in orders and in the number of department store doors. Pura Vida segment revenues totaled $30.4 million. Excluding the inventory step-up amortization, gross margin for the 9 months totaled $192.9 million or 57% of net revenues compared to $171.5 million or 57.6% of net revenues in the prior year. The inclusion of Pura Vida benefited the current year non-GAAP gross margin by approximately 50 basis points. As expected, improvement of Vera Bradley's full price selling and sourcing and operational efficiencies were more than offset by the impact of Chinese tariffs and increased shipping costs. Excluding the Pura Vida acquisition-related charges and information technology replatforming charges, SG&A expense totaled $175.3 million or 51.8% of net revenues in the current year 9 months compared to $156.3 million or 52.5% of net revenues in the prior year. In addition to the $2.9 million of excluded intangible asset amortization, Pura Vida added $13.8 million of SG&A expenses. Excluding charges, the company's consolidated operating income was $18.7 million or 5.5% of net revenue in the current year compared to $15.4 million or 5.2% of net revenues in the prior year 9-month period. Now let me turn to the balance sheet. Net capital spending for the quarter and 9 months totaled $3.3 million and $11.4 million, respectively. During the third quarter, we repurchased approximately $3.9 million of common stock. At the end of the third quarter, we had approximately $38.1 million remaining under our $50 million share repurchase authorization. Cash, cash equivalents and investments over quarter end totaled $48.8 million compared to $131.6 million at the end of last year's third quarter. The reduction from the prior year was primarily related to the Pura Vida acquisition. We continue to have no outstanding debt. Total quarter-end inventory totaled $134 million, which included $23.1 million of inventory related to Pura Vida. Inventory was $96.3 million at the end of third quarter last year. The consolidated inventory level was modestly higher than our guidance range of $120 million to $130 million, primarily due to the acceleration of quarter end receipts in order to minimalize the impact of tariffs. Now let me take a couple of minutes to review our outlook for the fourth quarter and full year. All forward-looking guidance numbers that I will discuss are non-GAAP include expected Pura Vida performance. Prior year numbers exclude Pura Vida. The gross profit, SG&A and EPS numbers exclude the charges related to the acquisition of Pura Vida, including inventory step-up amortization, contingent asset amortization, transaction costs and the accretion of the earn-out liability and information technology systems, replatforming charges. For the fourth quarter, we expect net sales of $155 million to $162 million, which includes estimated Pura Vida revenues of $36 million to $40 million. Prior year fourth quarter revenues totaled $118.2 million. For the quarter, we expect Vera Bradley's Direct segment net sales to increase in the low to mid-single-digit range, including flat to low single-digit increases in comparable sales. These expectations reflect a shortened holiday selling period and modest reductions in retirement selling in the fourth quarter. We expect the Vera Bradley Indirect net sales will be down in the low-single-digit range for the quarter. We expect fourth quarter gross margin will be between 57.5% and 57.8% compared to last year's fourth quarter rate of 56.8%. The planned increase reflects the benefit of Pura Vida and moving Vera Bradley manufacturing to lower-cost countries, partially offset by Vera Bradley increased shipping costs and modest increase in promotional activity. Fourth quarter SG&A expense is expected to range from $66 million to $67.5 million compared to last year's fourth quarter SG&A expense of $55.6 million, reflecting incremental expenses related to new factory store locations partly offset by full-line store closures and approximately $13 million to $13.5 million of estimated expense related to Pura Vida operations. We expect consolidated fourth quarter diluted EPS to be $0.49 to $0.53, reflecting accretion of approximately $0.14 to $0.16 from Pura Vida. Diluted EPS was $0.25 in the prior year fourth quarter. We expect inventory to be in the $125 million to $135 million range at the end of the fiscal year compared to $91.6 million last year. Included in the estimates is approximately $20 million of Pura Vida inventory. In addition, the Vera Bradley portion reflects the acceleration of our receipts in order to minimize the impact of tariffs. For full year, we expect net sales of $492 million to $500 million, which includes estimated Pura Vida revenues of $66 million to $70 million. Net revenues totaled $416.1 million last year. Our full year revenue guidance assumed Vera Bradley Direct segment net sales will increase in the low to mid-single-digit range compared with prior year, including a low single-digit increase in comparable sales. We expect that Vera Bradley Indirect sales will be down in the mid-single-digit range for the full year. We expect our consolidated gross margin for fiscal 2020 will be between 57.3% and 57.4% compared to 57.3% last year. For Vera Bradley, improvement in full-price selling and sourcing and operational efficiencies were more than offset by the impact of incremental tariffs and increased shipping costs. However, the inclusion of Pura Vida should have a positive impact on the annual consolidated gross margins. We expect SG&A expense to total between $241 million and $243 million for the year compared to $212 million last year, reflecting incremental expenses related to new factory store locations, partially offset by full-line store closures. Approximately $26.8 million to $27.3 million of the estimated expense relates to Pura Vida. We expect full year diluted EPS range from $0.90 to $0.94, an increase of over 50% from $0.59 last year. Approximately $0.22 to $0.24 of that increase is attributable to Pura Vida. And upon tariffs, we continue to expect the tariffs will negatively affect gross margin by approximately 80 basis points for the year, equating to about $0.08 per share. We expect capital expenditures will total approximately $13 million compared to $8.1 million last year, reflecting investments in new factory stores and technology and logistics enhancements. We expect to generate $30 million to $40 million of consolidated operating cash flow in fiscal 2020. This estimate is lower than our prior estimate primarily due to projected year-end inventory levels. Rob? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Robert T. Wallstrom, Vera Bradley, Inc. - CEO, President & Director [5] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thanks, John. Let me take a few minutes to give you an update on both of our brands, Vera Bradley and Pura Vida. Let me start with Vera Bradley. As planned, we have returned to positive sales growth this year. Our strong 4.7% third quarter comp shows we are successfully engaging our current customers, reengaging lapsed customers and bringing new customers to Vera Bradley with our compelling and innovative products supported by our targeted marketing initiatives and customer experience efforts. On the product front, we continue the dominance in our key franchise areas of travel, campus, gifts and beach, as well as our top 10 items. We had a good back-to-school selling season in August and September, with sales of backpacks and lunch bags higher than last year. We benefited from innovation this season, including our Clearly Colorful Collection, merger school backpacks, smaller fashion backpacks and slings. Backpacks and slings are important components of our hands-free focus, which is continuing to gain momentum. We have brought a lot of innovation and newness to the market this fall. The rise of the athleisure movement has made customers' purchasing decisions increasingly driven by performance. In August, we introduced our first in a series of innovative performance fabrics called Performance Twill. Performance Twill is a beautiful solution that is lightweight, durable and water repellant. Customers love it. It is especially appealing to both younger and higher income customers. We will continue to innovate and add sustainability elements to our products. Our reactive collection made of fabric from recycled plastic bottles will be introduced in January. We have enhanced our signature duffel franchise by adding more sizes and shoulder straps. This fall, we introduced our innovative Lay Flat collection, versatile pieces, including our duffel, weekender and cosmetic bag that end zip on all 3 sides and open flat for easy accessibility and ultra-organized packing. In September, the Accessories Council selected our Lay Flat Duffel as a winner for its design excellence awards in the travel luggage category. Hardside luggage continues to be growing in popularity with our customers, and we will continue to add more options to our collection. Now (inaudible) and products continue to perform well. Our fun and playful Cat's Meow capsule collection debuted in September and it was a big hit with our cat-loving customers with many pieces selling out quickly. These types of special limited-time capsule collection centered around seasonal periods or novelty, add excitement and a sense of urgency for our customers to shop. They also attract new customers to the brand. We are certainly in the middle of the holiday selling season and have an amazing assortment of gifts to appeal to a wide range of customers. Our holiday collection includes our Beary Merry Polar Bear novelty styles as well as a popular buffalo check pattern, our Cozy Collection of top-selling throes as well as holiday robes, sleepwear and slippers are always great gift ideas. We have made it easy for holiday shoppers with our gifts under collections of gifts under $25, $50 and $100. Let's shift to product collaborations, offering limited edition collections in collaboration with unique partners increases our brand exposure, introduces new customers to our brand and provides momentum to our growth. These partnerships are truly a testament to the strength and wide appeal of our brand. As you know, we have entered into several very successful and high-profile product collaborations this year, including Gillette Venus, Starbucks and Crocs. In October, we introduced the co-branded Vera Bradley plus PopSockets collection of 5 Vera Bradley inspired designs for PopSockets' patent phone grip. In November, we were proud to partner with Sword & Plough to create an exclusive limited edition, mini collection consisting of a backpack and coordinating zipper pouch, which debuted on Veterans Day. Supporting military families is very important to our customers, and this was a great opportunity for us to join in. The collection was manufactured in the U.S. and support Sword & Plough work with American manufacturers who are owned or partially owned by veterans. We also designed an exclusive backpack inspired by the central character in Hulu's original series Holly Hobby. Holly's signature backpack is featured through season 2 of Hulu's breakout hit and additional Vera Bradley backpack styles and designs are spotlighted throughout the 10 episode season. We are working with several other iconic, internationally known brands on exciting future product collaborations. Most notably, we are thrilled about our 2020 collaboration with Warner Bros consumer products to create a Vera Bradley + Harry Potter back to campus in dorm line and the Vera Bradley + Harry Potter Cozy capsule for holiday gifting. We know that many of our Vera Bradley fans are also Wizarding World Devotees, who will love these products. Now let's turn to marketing. Our digital and marketing teams are focused on growing our customer base and enhancing customer engagement. In midyear, we completed the in-sourcing of our customer data science team, added to our business analytics team and completed the rollout of our new customer data platform. The insights gained from our robust customer data allow us to adjust our marketing mix and approach on a real-time basis. The investments we are making are paying dividends. We are experiencing a double-digit increase year-over-year in customers for the brand and double-digit increases in revenue directly related to these activities. Brand collaborations and influencer engagement continue to be important for the brand. Each of our product collaborations showed the strength and relevance of our brand and generated tremendous media buzz. Our back-to-school and Performance Twill influencer campaigns drove awareness. Through 9-month period, year-over-year medium impressions have increased more than 150%, largely attributable to these collaborations and influencers. In the spirit of sharing experience between our 2 brands, we are learning from Pura Vida's social media successes. We are evolving our presence on key social media channels, especially on Instagram, and that led to a double-digit growth in new website visitors and revenue attributed to social media in the third quarter. As we reinforce our position as a total stakeholder focused and socially conscious organization, marketing and social media engagement are key to this endeavor. We continue to strengthen our community support and charitable initiatives under the umbrella of VB Cares, identifying areas where we can make a meaningful impact and that are meaningful to our customers, particularly in the light of women and children. We want to create positive change and often invite our customers to participate with calls to action. We just wrapped up our second year back-to-school partnership with Blessings in a Backpack, an organization that mobilizes communities, individuals and resources to provide food for the millions of elementary school children in North America, who might otherwise go hungry. We donated 50,000 backpacks to Children in Need. And with the support of our customers, we were able to donate nearly 140,000 to the organization this year. In addition to supporting a great cause in helping children and their families, our collaborations with Blessings in a Backpack also generated over 2 billion media impressions during the third quarter. At Vera Bradley activity supporting the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer go on all year. With the support and compassion of our customers, our Be the Hope campaigns raised $2.1 million this year, bringing our total donated to the foundation to $34.6 million, since its inception. The foundation funds advanced breast cancer research at the Vera Bradley Foundation Center for Breast Cancer research at Indiana University School of Medicine. Moving on to distribution. Our goal is to grow sales in each of our direct customer channels in fiscal 2020. And through the first 9 months of this year, we are on track. In our full-line stores, we continue to focus on our highest potential stores by enhancing the customer experience, further localizing our assortments and making our windows and in-store presentations pop with excitement. We continue to rationalize and strengthen our full-line store base. We closed 8 underperforming full-line stores in the first 9 months of the year and expect to close a couple more in January. This will bring our total full line closings to 25, since the beginning of fiscal 2018. And we potentially close up to an additional 15 stores following this fiscal year. At the end of the quarter, we had 91 full-line stores. This year, we have focused on strengthening our factory performance by refining our pricing model and adding 6 locations. In addition, we successfully relocated and expanded 3 of our top factory stores in high domestic tourist destinations: Sevierville, Tennessee; Destin, Florida; and Branson, Missouri. And post expansion, we are experiencing double-digit sales growth in each of these locations. At the end of the quarter, we had 63 factory stores. Our goal is to create an engaging customer experience in our Hawaiian factory stores on verabradley.com, in our fulfillment operations and in our customer service department. Our Voice of the Customer initiative and our full line customer service model continue to drive industry-leading customer satisfaction scores quarter-after-quarter. In the specialty channel, we remain focused on growing our top accounts, while we are beginning to see stabilization in our reengaging lapsed customers. As you recall, we are reducing our department store distribution to focus on the most productive locations. Vera Bradley is currently represented in about 2,200 specialty stores and 440 department stores. Now let's talk about Pura Vida. Pura Vida had a terrific third quarter with sales up more than 50% over last year. We experienced very healthy growth across both Direct and Indirect channels. Like Vera Bradley, Pura Vida is focused on continuing to grow and expand as a lifestyle brand, retaining existing fans and adding new customers along the way, by constantly evolving their designs and product offerings and enhancing customer engagement through marketing and social media. On the product front, Pura Vida continues to experiment with and introduce new designs in their signature core bracelets and jewelry as well as introducing new trends outside of their core beachy vibe. This year's launches other mood ring and mood bracelet and enameled daisy collection, semiprecious stone charms and jewelry and stone hoops have been wildly popular. Expansion into other jewelry categories remained strong. For breast cancer research, to the boys' and girls' cause, to save the dolphins, charity bracelets continue to be a big draw with Pura Vida reaching $2 million in lifetime charitable contributions during the quarter. And leaning into the personalization trend, Pura Vida's engravable collection will debut in January. For the holidays, they have created jewelry exclusives and giftable box sets and they introduced a holiday gift guide for the first time this year. Turning to marketing and consumer engagement. Pura Vida is one of the most highly engaged brands in the accessory space. They surpassed the 1.9 million market followers on Instagram this quarter, and the number is growing monthly. They are consistently listed as one of the most, if not the most, engaged jewelry brand on Instagram. Pura Vida's creativity and effectiveness in social media engagement is nearly unsurpassed. Their army of 80,000 micro influencers is a key part of their strategy. And during the quarter, Pura Vida successfully partnered with several of their key influencers for special style pack launches that were extremely popular. Pura Vida also did co-branded social media giveaways with such iconic brands at Sephora and Movement. For the Sephora collection giveaway, both brands posted give away imagery on their respective feeds, offering a bundle of Sephora collection goodies, along with a set of Pura Vida bracelets to 3 lenders. For Movement, they offered a watch and a pair of sun glasses, and Pura Vida offered a clutch of Pura Vida items to 1 lender. These types of collaborations are ongoing and create excitement, increased Pura Vida's brand awareness and bring new customers to the brand. As a final note, like Vera Bradley, Pura Vida consistently ranks at the top of the industry for their net promoter and customer satisfaction scores. Just to wrap up, we are certainly pleased with our EPS growth of nearly 70% in the third quarter, with our strong brands, our talented and innovative teams, solid balance sheet and our clear strategic direction, we are well positioned for the future. Over the last 2 years, we have made significant progress in restoring our company to health and have returned to growth. We are looking forward to completing our Vision 20/20 journey in fiscal 2021 and continuing our momentum into the years ahead. Operator, we will now open the call to questions. ================================================================================ Questions and Answers -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [1] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- We'll now take our first question from Mark Altschwager with Baird. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Mark R. Altschwager, Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division - Senior Research Analyst [2] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Congratulations on a solid quarter. With respect to the comp growth, can you break down, I guess, traffic and ticket and AUR? I guess, more broadly, as we think about the low single-digit comp growth this year, how much of that is a result of some of the pricing actions you've taken to offset tariffs? And how do you expect the complexion of the comp to change as we head into 2020? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Robert T. Wallstrom, Vera Bradley, Inc. - CEO, President & Director [3] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Well, thank you, Mark. From the comp standpoint, what we're seeing is improvement in traffic. Overall, traffic is up slightly. We're seeing conversion up slightly. We're seeing ads up slightly, while we're seeing a little bit of negative pressure, again, slight, is in AUR. So that from an AUR standpoint, we're seeing customer continue to go towards this hands-free movements, smaller items, which is driving down the AUR slightly. As we look forward to next year, what we're planning on is similar type of performance in terms of positive comps across both of our store channels as well as continuing to lead comps with our e-commerce business is the big driver. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Mark R. Altschwager, Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division - Senior Research Analyst [4] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Okay. And with respect to the new customers you're attracting to the brand, what does the average spend look like relative to some of your more mature customers? And I'm curious what categories, if any, they're over-indexing to? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Robert T. Wallstrom, Vera Bradley, Inc. - CEO, President & Director [5] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In terms of the detail, in terms of the new customer, what we are seeing is the new customer is definitely responding to what we're bringing in innovation, whether it's new fabrics, whether it's novelty. So they're definitely coming in with the newness that we're bringing overall into the brand. And obviously, as they're joining in, we're going to watch their spend. We kind of need them to anniversary a year to see how their spend goes throughout the holiday season, but we're encouraged by the early signs. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Mark R. Altschwager, Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division - Senior Research Analyst [6] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- And maybe one last one for me, just on the tariff front. I guess if a deal is reached on tariffs in the coming months. I'm wondering if you could frame up the various scenarios we should be thinking about from an earnings perspective next year. Just wondering how much of a lift would you see the margins and earnings, all else equal, to the extent that there is a lift? Would you think about reinvesting some of that in customer acquisition versus letting it falls to the bottom line? And Obviously, none of us know how this is going to play out in the short run, but just curious how you're thinking about that in the near term? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- John Enwright, Vera Bradley, Inc. - Executive VP & CFO [7] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes, and Mark, this is John. So from a tariff perspective -- right now, we're planning for tariffs to be around, but if tariffs were to, excuse me, go away. I think when we think about next year, it won't have an 80 basis point impact, but probably we'll have, call it, 40 to 50 basis point impact of improvement. And I think we'll have to think about kind of how we reinvest that, right. So I think we probably would reinvest some of that in customer acquisition. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [8] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- We'll now take our next question from Oliver Chen with Cowen & Company. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Oliver Chen, Cowen and Company, LLC, Research Division - MD & Senior Equity Research Analyst [9] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Regarding next year, what are your thoughts for some of the key product drivers or initiatives that will lead to your constructive view of positive comps as we look at next year? I would also love your updated thoughts on customer acquisition and progress you've made towards new customers? And how that will continue to evolve? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Robert T. Wallstrom, Vera Bradley, Inc. - CEO, President & Director [10] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thanks, Oliver. First of all, as we look forward, what we're excited about is the platform of innovation that we have planned across a couple of categories. One of it is just really around fabric. You've heard with our Performance Twill, how our customers responding to that. We have the reactive collection that's planned in January, which we think, again, will have some response from the consumer. And then we're continuing to drive that fabric innovation, which we believe will be key, and we have more in the development pipeline for even the following year. In addition to that, we believe that the collaborations continue to be an important part of the story, which helped partially through revenue, but also through customer acquisition, we think that Harry Potter is going to be a really important of collaboration for us next year. As we think about product categories, it's really in the areas where we have always had strength, and we're just really doubling into. So the backpack classification continues to be very strong for us. The travel classification continues to be strong. So those are the 2 primary areas of focus. As we think about driving our business next year, the other thing that becomes really important is our whole customer piece of the business. In terms of everything that marketing has been doing, in terms of data and using data to improve our marketing effectiveness. So we can leverage our marketing spend to bring more customers in and re-engage more customers who have lapsed. That becomes really important. And then as we think about next year from channel breakdown, our investments not only in data and customer acquisition, but just in the digital experience overall, in terms of e-commerce or ERP working completed, we believe, we'll really keep digital as the fastest-growing channel that we have. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Oliver Chen, Cowen and Company, LLC, Research Division - MD & Senior Equity Research Analyst [11] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Okay. And what's important for us to note, as you think about Indirect? And how that channel should grow or be flattish? Would love your thoughts on the run rate and the related strategies? And what ending you're thinking about the health of that channel? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Robert T. Wallstrom, Vera Bradley, Inc. - CEO, President & Director [12] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. The Indirect channel, our real strategy there is about just trying to bring that more to a sustainable level of performance. We don't see that as a high-growth area with inside of it. There's obviously mix changes in terms of what's doing well and maybe what is getting smaller. So if you think about what's happening inside that channel, digital, things like Amazon are growing. They invite department stores are shrinking, which I don't think would probably be a surprise based upon everything that we're seeing in the market. In our specialty channel, it's encouraging to see that our top accounts, our best customers are stabilized in beginning to show us some growth. The one negative pressure we have there, continue to just kind of that channel in terms of mom and pop ownerships and the number of stores that closed. And so offsetting growth under our best customers within store reduction. It's how we're approaching that. But we think, overall, we're expecting that channel to be relatively flat as we go forward. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Oliver Chen, Cowen and Company, LLC, Research Division - MD & Senior Equity Research Analyst [13] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Okay. And on the promotion front, you gave a lot of details around the environment being competitive and -- but you've also managed doing a good job with your own full price selling. How are promotions this year versus last year? And what is the outlook for merchandise margins as you see it? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Robert T. Wallstrom, Vera Bradley, Inc. - CEO, President & Director [14] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Well, I think, promotionally, year-over-year, as we've gone through it, in terms of our core promotion, although, the Black Friday period was very similar to last year. So it's not so much that the prices went deeper, it's more of what is the consumer responding to. And so what we're seeing here is being very discerning in terms of pricing and very driven towards the promotional period. So we're trying to manage that out. But we're very committed to our core strategy of reducing retirement. And we're not moving off of that at all. We're still planning to take $2 million out of this quarter. So we feel that we definitely are on track, but we are seeing more discernment from the customer in this quarter in terms of she's more price sensitive, it feels like, than she was in the price -- in the previous quarter. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Oliver Chen, Cowen and Company, LLC, Research Division - MD & Senior Equity Research Analyst [15] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- And Rob, what do you think about the best strategy going forward to optimize that? And how do you anticipate your thoughts around promotions this year versus last year into next year? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Robert T. Wallstrom, Vera Bradley, Inc. - CEO, President & Director [16] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- We think, really, the key is becoming more and more driven towards individual customer promotions. And really, how do we kind of leverage and really promote appropriately to each customer differently. And the building up of the data practice that we have, the analytics, the data scientists, the database in-house and really been able to target promotions is going to be critical to kind of navigating through this. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Oliver Chen, Cowen and Company, LLC, Research Division - MD & Senior Equity Research Analyst [17] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Okay. And the traffic was really helpful that it was slightly positive. Do you expect traffic to be volatile? Will that be a risk factor than an industry factor in many cases? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Robert T. Wallstrom, Vera Bradley, Inc. - CEO, President & Director [18] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes, we definitely been -- it's been an interesting holiday season because I think with the condensed calendar and how the customer is shopping. It's been a little bit of erratic, kind of up and down. So we really have to kind of get through the whole season and see how it all balances out. So we are watching that. But overall, we've been encouraged with everything that we've been doing from a product and marketing standpoint that we've seen our traffic become more stable. Where if you look over the last few years, traffic was definitely a significant negative drain for us. We're seeing it become more stable. We're not seeing it turn into robust growth. But we're seeing it become more stable, and we're hoping to see that as we go forward. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Oliver Chen, Cowen and Company, LLC, Research Division - MD & Senior Equity Research Analyst [19] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Okay. And our last question is about your digital road map. What are your thoughts on what your customers may want in terms of the buy online pickup in-store and mobile functionality? And where you're headed with that priorities? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Robert T. Wallstrom, Vera Bradley, Inc. - CEO, President & Director [20] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I would answer in a few ways. So first of all, from our ERP standpoint, there's a lot of things that were a priority in that. But as we did the ERP and kind of replatforming the e-commerce of really making a seamless unified commerce experience were -- is critically important. It's one of the drivers underneath that. And what we are seeing from the customers, we are -- we currently do buy online and pick up in store. We think that, that's an area that can continue to grow. We think that the digital experience too, is about how do we use the data and the individual experience to make the digital experience individualized. And how can we really show the customer what's most important to her as opposed to just giving her generic messages. So it's really focusing on each consumer and give a very customized experience long term. And that's obviously a long-term road map, and we'll start with some wins and then build them as we go forward through next year and the following years. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [21] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- (Operator Instructions) We'll now take our next question from Eric Beder with SCC Research. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Eric Martin Beder, Small Cap Consumer Research, LLC - CEO & Consumer Analyst [22] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Talk a little bit about Pura Vida. I know you've been running some tests of the product in the Vera Bradley stores. What is the future for that? And is there a potential down the road, maybe to be stand-alone Pura Vida store down the road? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Robert T. Wallstrom, Vera Bradley, Inc. - CEO, President & Director [23] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. Eric, a couple of responses. First of all, we have done a few tests with Pura Vida in the Vera Bradley store. We did our backpack collaboration. We did the Breast Cancer Foundation bracelet. We think there is an opportunity to do a little bit of cross promotion. We are working on continuing to expand the Pura Vida plus Vera Bradley Charity Bracelet program. We think that's a perfect partnership for both brands. Both brands have this great history of giving back, and we're seeing our customers get very excited by that and the ability to be engaged. So I would expect to see that continue to grow as we go into next year. In terms of Pura Vida and stand alone stores. We are definitely working with the Pura Vida team to understand really going forward with the kind of channel mix. So we are evaluating all of those things, and we'll have more to talk about next year. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Eric Martin Beder, Small Cap Consumer Research, LLC - CEO & Consumer Analyst [24] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Great. And when you look at the tariff situation, what is your -- I know you brought up on the last conference call or your Investor Day, what was the percentage you believe you're going to have from China this year? And how should we be thinking about that going forward? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- John Enwright, Vera Bradley, Inc. - Executive VP & CFO [25] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Eric, this is John. So we said we'd be roughly, call it, mid-20s by the end of this year, and we expect to get down to, call it, mid-teens, so 15%, 16%. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Eric Martin Beder, Small Cap Consumer Research, LLC - CEO & Consumer Analyst [26] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- And is that only Vera Bradley or is that the entire company? Because I know Pura Vida lower -- should lower that even more, right? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- John Enwright, Vera Bradley, Inc. - Executive VP & CFO [27] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. So that specific -- it's just specific to the Vera Bradley brand. So if you were to look at all purchases associated with the total company, which I don't have that in front of me, but that would lower the total percentage. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Eric Martin Beder, Small Cap Consumer Research, LLC - CEO & Consumer Analyst [28] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Okay. I still have the impact -- last question, is the impact on the accruals from the buyout for Pura Vida. Are those going to continue? And when do you expect to make a cash payment on the Pura Vida buyout? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- John Enwright, Vera Bradley, Inc. - Executive VP & CFO [29] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- So I think you're talking about the earn-out liability or the accretion to that. Yes, we expect to see some accretion actually in the fourth quarter. So the total payout be about $22.5 million and the timing that payout would probably be first quarter of next year. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [30] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- We'll now take our next question from Steve Marotta with CL King. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Steven Louis Marotta, CL King & Associates, Inc., Research Division - MD & Director of Research [31] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Rob, you mentioned Black Friday weekend, promotion started earlier during the week. Can you quantify a little bit -- maybe Monday through Cyber Monday versus last year, can you quantify a little bit the performance on a company-wide basis during that period of time? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Robert T. Wallstrom, Vera Bradley, Inc. - CEO, President & Director [32] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. In terms of Black Friday promotion, what we saw is a couple of different things. One, large retail industry. I think we've seen Black Friday start to become almost a month of November, right as you think about the best buys and everybody else out there. But specifically, within our world, more close competitors, what we thought everybody really begin to move to the weekend prior. So the weekend prior to Thanksgiving is really when they started kind of a Black Friday promotions. We did a more moderated version of a Black Friday promotion in the weekend before and then really kind of stepped it up as we moved into the Black Friday period. So if you take that entire period from the weekend prior through kind of Cyber Monday, what we were seeing is performance across channel is very similar to what we're guiding with for the quarter, kind of in line with that low growth rate. But definitely, a lot of movement in terms of where the volume is showing up by day. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Steven Louis Marotta, CL King & Associates, Inc., Research Division - MD & Director of Research [33] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Okay, that's very helpful. Also, can you please remind me of the split of Pura Vida between Direct and Indirect? And if you could also comment on the integration, where you are from savings and synergies standpoint, from a costing standpoint? I know that there's more benefits, obviously, coming down the road. So on Pura Vida sharing their social media capabilities with you. But I mean, just on a income statement standpoint, how is your -- and operational standpoint, how integrated and when do you think that will be complete? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- John Enwright, Vera Bradley, Inc. - Executive VP & CFO [34] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. So from a Indirect, Direct perspective, we think about from a period that they're roughly about 30% wholesale right now. So that -- and it's going to be 70% Direct. We don't anticipate that changing much; it might fluctuate to -- depending per quarter, but that's roughly about the rate we expect. And in regards to synergies, we're -- we've made some progress in regards to some of the back office, so think about finance, HR, some of the corporate functions. We've taken on some of that responsibility. There'll be a more significant response that we've taken on kind, call it, first half of next year. But as you stated, there was -- there's not significant cost savings both into this plan. There's not going to be a significant P&L impact on the savings. I think it really is going to bring both brands together and you look at kind of what we can do for each other from a help drive sales, help drive performance for each brand. I think that's really where you'll see the savings -- or see the synergies, excuse me. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Robert T. Wallstrom, Vera Bradley, Inc. - CEO, President & Director [35] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. I think just to reiterate what John was saying, the biggest benefit we see is sales growth across Pura Vida as well as bringing it into Vera Bradley. And what I will call cost avoidance for Pura Vida. As they continue to scale the importance of that and in more infrastructure has become an important one. And we can do that in a way that's very low-cost by leveraging what we already have here at Vera Bradley, and can help them avoid cost as they continue to scale the business. And so you don't see it as a quick line in the P&L, but it's going to allow them to continue to drive that approximately 20% EBITDA that they're delivering, we think that the synergy between the 2 companies will help support it. But just remember that they are a very, very lean organization. They have got 30-plus employees in their organization. So there's not a lot of areas to take a lot of expense out because the #1 is really investment in marketing. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [36] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- (Operator Instructions) We'll now take our next question from Dana Telsey from Telsey. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Dana Lauren Telsey, Telsey Advisory Group LLC - CEO & Chief Research Officer [37] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- As you think about the new collaborations you've done on products is the newness in fabrics, how much of that do you see driving the business lately and impacting AUR? And what are you seeing with the reception to that product in the Indirect channel and how it's helping? And what you're seeing in the Direct channel? And lastly, on the Indirect channel, how do you see that customer base there? Is it continuing to be fine tuned? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Robert T. Wallstrom, Vera Bradley, Inc. - CEO, President & Director [38] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thanks, Dana. From a co-lab standpoint, I would say, year 1 of this expansion into co-lab, we were very focused on being prudent in how we did it. We focused on our Direct channels, a lot of what we were doing was more exclusive to our Direct channels. And so we've seen more of the benefit come through as align in e-commerce business. As we're moving into year 2 of the strategy, and we have a better baseline understanding of how the consumer is responding to various collaborations. We believe there's an opportunity to bring some of our indirect partners into that, and we're very excited by that. I believe our indirect partners are very excited by that. So you'll see that begin to expand as we move into year 2 of that. It's been really important to get a new customers in the brand and also keep our current customers excited. A lot of our customers are very passionate, very loyal, have a big closet of Vera Bradley, and they're looking for us for what's new and unique and things like collaborations and fabric innovations, get them coming back. And we've really seen very nice results in terms of lapsed customers returning to the brand as we've been bringing these new -- this new innovation. So we think it's really critical to what we do going forward. As you think about Indirect, kind of what we spoke to earlier, we definitely are continuing to see that mix rebalance. We believe as we continue to go forward, more of that indirect business will become e-commerce to digitally focused and less of it will be in the department store channel. That's one area. As we think about the specialty channel, again, we're very encouraged to see our best customers and our top accounts, begin to see Vera Bradley growing again, and we're seeing renewed enthusiasm and excitement around the brand as we've been working together and really a strong level of partnership and continuing to strengthen that partnership. We've seen nice results to top accounts. The one headwind we continue to have is just the economic pressure that some of the mom-and-pops are feeling. And so that's the piece, that I think we're navigating through with, what's the best way to handle and offset some of that, what I'll call, macroeconomic pressure. It's less about our brand and just more about their distribution channel. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [39] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- It appears we have no further questions at this time. I'd like to turn the call back to CEO, Robert Wallstrom. Please, go ahead. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Robert T. Wallstrom, Vera Bradley, Inc. - CEO, President & Director [40] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Well, thank you very much for joining us on today's call. And thank you for following our journey and the progress we have made since we launched Vision 20/20, 2 years ago. We remain confident about the future and our ability to deliver enterprise growth in revenue, profit and shareholder value. Thank you for your time, and happy holidays. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Operator [41] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- This concludes today's call. Thank you for your participation. You may now disconnect.