APPAREl: market leaders – COLDWATER CREEK

Trendy clothes are hard to find in catalog apparel. Experts agree that by and large shoppers have come to expect more conservative and comfortable-fitting clothes from catalogs, rather than the latest fashions from the runways of Paris. So if there’s any kind of “trendy” catalog to be found these days, one might consider Coldwater Creek, because its apparel epitomizes the relaxed, flowing, comfortable style that more and more women are wearing. Several apparel catalog execs, in fact, refer to this style as the “Coldwater Creek look.”

But while setting the pace in women’s fashion, Coldwater has not fared as well with the men’s market. In fact last year it sold its Milepost Four menswear book to an investor group based in Alpharetta, GA.

Coldwater has grown from $76 million in sales for 1995 to $320.2 million for 1998 – an impressive 60% a year. Its stock price, however, has fluctuated a bit over the past year, from a low of 9-7/8 to a high of 29-3/4. Lately, the company appears to be taming its growth in favor of a heftier bottom line. Coldwater posted a 4.2% net sales decline for the nine-month period ended Nov. 27, while net income leaped 29.6% – although the activity did include a pretax gain of $826,000 from the Milepost Four sale.

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