Stocks to buy

Bloomberg Opinion contributor Leticia Miranda recently discussed how the sneaker bubble was bursting, and Nike (NYSE:NKE) will be hugely affected by this cataclysmic event. That’s not good news if you’re considering investing in footwear stocks like NKE.

Miranda states that Nike was a major beneficiary of the consumer largesse delivered in the form of pandemic stimulus money. Now that it’s gone and interest rate hikes are hitting people in the pocketbook, getting the latest pair of Air Jordans is not nearly as important. Like all businesses, Nike’s experiencing some weakness in its business model, and sneakers are an easy expense to cut as the interest rates increase.

People will keep their wallets slammed shut until something hits the streets that is irresistible. Even though consumers might resist their temptation to spend in this environment of higher interest rates, there will always be brands that are exceptions to the rule. 

In the long run, you can’t count Nike out. However, there are footwear stocks crushing the market. Here are the three I’d be looking at as alternatives. 

Lululemon (LULU)

Source: lentamart / Shutterstock

Although Lululemon (NASDAQ:LULU) is up 36% over the past year, nearly double the S&P 500, it almost seems like a failure for one of retail’s leading growth brands. However, it has significantly outperformed Nike, so shareholders can celebrate this victory. 

In fact, over the past decade, it’s outdone Nike by five-fold and the index by more than 3x. 

I have followed Lululemon for more than a decade. Its DNA is all about quality, comfort, and style. Regarding footwear, I can testify that the brand’s sneakers are super comfortable. My 70-something mother-in-law bought a pair a few months back and she won’t use anything else now for her daily walk. 

In November 2022, Lululemon was given Footwear News’ Launch of the Year Award. It’s not surprising, given my anecdotal evidence of its footwear quality. 

“‘It feels like a long time coming that women get a shoe that’s built for us,’ said Colleen Quigley, a track-and-field athlete and Lululemon ambassador. ‘As a brand that has long been driving innovation, inclusivity and accessibility, it’s especially fitting, and personally very exciting for me that Lululemon is entering footwear with a women’s running shoe,’” Footwear News reported Quigley’s comments. 

Investors continue to underestimate Canada’s greatest apparel success story. With its footwear line off to such a great start, it could soon also be Canada’s greatest footwear success story. 

It remains one of my 10 favorite stocks for the long haul.

Deckers Brands (DECK)

Source: It for you / Shutterstock.com

Deckers Brands (NYSE:DECK) stock has more than doubled in the past year due largely to its Hoka sneaker brand. It’s a big reason the company changed its name from Deckers Outdoor. The company has become a footwear powerhouse with two billion-dollar brands and counting. Its updated branding reflects that it’s much more than UGG. 

The first time I wrote about Deckers for InvestorPlace was in October 2011. I recommended that investors forget about Crocs (NASDAQ:CROX) and buy Deckers instead. I wrote at the time: 

“Deckers might appear to be an overnight sensation, but it has taken almost four decades to get where it is today, which is at the pinnacle of footwear success. Gradual change is at the heart of its business. For instance, as of the end of the second quarter, it had 30 retail stores open in the U.S. and elsewhere. Meanwhile, Crocs has 397 stores or kiosks open worldwide, 10 times more than Deckers.”

At the time, its shares were trading for less than $100. It had generated $1.38 billion in annual sales and an operating profit of $284.84 million. Today, its share price is over $530, and its 2022 revenue was $3.63 billion, with an operating profit of $652.75 million. That’s compound annual growth of 9.2% for revenue and 7.8% for operating income. 

That might seem like a little. However, a big chunk of the growth came in the past three years.

In 2011, Hoka wasn’t even part of the company. It acquired the business in late 2012 for approximately $8.8 million. At the time, the brand had roughly $3 million in sales. In 2023, they were $1.41 billion. 

A third billion-dollar brand would almost certainly send its share price to four digits.

Skechers (SKX)

Source: ThamKC / Shutterstock.com

Over the years, Skechers (NYSE:SKX) has had its ups and downs. However, its long-term performance for shareholders is undeniable. A $10,000 investment in SKX in 2008 is worth $81,265. That’s $33,030 better than the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (NYSEARCA:SPY).

The difference buys a lot of Nike’s. 

It’s been a while since I’ve taken a closer look at Skechers. As a golfer, I am intrigued by their Go Golf Elite Slip ‘In golf shoes. Not only are they supposed to be super comfortable and light, but they’re also waterproof. That’s huge. And, of course, they’re easy to slip on and off. 

I just bought a pair of Adidas (OTCMKTS:ADDYY) golf shoes. While similar in price and comfort, I don’t believe my shoes are waterproof, granting a big competitive edge for the new Skechers. 

Looking at its Q1 2023 results, its direct-to-consumer business is doing very well with revenue growth of 24.5%, to $707.3 million, with a gross profit margin of 66.0%. That’s 100 basis points higher than a year ago. Its DTC sales account for 35.3% of its overall business, up 410 basis points from Q1 2022. It should represent half the business in a year or so if it keeps up this pace. 

Trading at 1.07x sales — NKE is 3.30x sales — you’re getting growth at a reasonable price.   

On the date of publication, Will Ashworth did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

Will Ashworth has written about investments full-time since 2008. Publications where he’s appeared include InvestorPlace, The Motley Fool Canada, Investopedia, Kiplinger, and several others in both the U.S. and Canada. He particularly enjoys creating model portfolios that stand the test of time. He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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