Bulls and Bears: Blue Skies Ahead?

Ticker symbol Company Price as of 4/30/03 52-week high 52-week low % price change last month Revenue per share T4Q % total debt/total capital
DIRECT TO CONSUMER
FLWS 1-800-Flowers.com $7.61 $14.60 $4.75 13.3% $551 11.3%
BL Blair Corp. 21.85 26.80 18.25 (7.1% 570 6.2
CWTR Coldwater Creek 9.75 17.05 7.97 3.0 473 0
HNV Hanover Direct 0.19 0.41 0.16 (13.6) 458 43.9
JILL J. Jill Group 14.35 27.50 9.51 23.7 348 13.5
LVC Lillian Vernon Corp. 7.15 8.25 3.65 69.8 247 0
MBAY MediaBay 0.71 6.04 0.67 (16.5) 48 63.2
SPGLA Spiegel 0.07 1.75 0.04 (7.5) 2,973 466.8
DIRECT TO BUSINESS
BBOX Black Box Corp. $31.75 $55.70 $25.58 7.2% $631 13.9%
CDWC CDW Computer Centers 42.63 56.90 36.30 4.5 4,279 0
HSIC Henry Schein 43.12 57.73 34.17 (4.4) 2,825 22.5
MSM MSC Industrial Direct 18.5 21.25 9.30 15.7 831 0.3
NEB New England Business Service 25.45 29.05 19.99 (0.6) 543 52.4
PCCC PC Connection 7.04 10.12 3.72 34.1 1,238 4.2
MALL PC Mall 3.40 4.65 1.76 7.9 906 4.1
PFP Premier Farnell 6.40 9.68 4.25 16.6 1,066 74.9
SCHS School Specialty 18.58 28.8 17.02 4.6 860 52.1
SSPY Sport Supply Group 1.80 2.10 1.07 (7.7) 102 31.6
TESS Tessco Technologies 6.50 15.55 6.25 (9.9) 274 20.8
ZONS Zones 0.79 1.92 0.60 (2.5) 414 0.7

Investors apparently welcomed Ripplewood Holdings and ZelnickMedia’s purchase of Lillian Vernon Corp. — and that helped push up the overall stock performance of the consumer catalogers tracked for Catalog Age by Waukee, IA-based Financial Advisory Partners. On April 15, the day before the acquisition was announced, Lillian Vernon closed at $4.20 a share. The next day, it closed at $7.10 a share. That strong performance pushed the direct-to-consumer catalog stocks to a 9% improvement in April over March, says Financial Advisory Partners’ Ken Packer. That’s in line with the performance of the S&P 500 retail index, which also increased 9% for the month.

The business-to-business catalogers didn’t perform quite so well. Overall, their share prices rose 4.9% in April. The biggest gainer on the b-to-b side was computer reseller PC Connection, with a 34% rise in value. Investors responded favorably to the company’s 20% rise in first-quarter sales and its $1.6 million net income for the quarter, a turnaround from the $2.1 million it lost in the first quarter of 2002.

And Packer, for one, is confident that things will only get better. “With the war over, interest rates low, GDP growth continuing, and corporate profits up nicely from the lows of last year, it appears we are in the early stages of an economic recovery,” he says. “As investors begin to appreciate the likelihood of better sales and profits in the Christmas 2003 selling season, we believe direct marketing stocks will move higher.”

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