A tale of 2 sectors: Soda down, luxury up

Coca-Cola is in the doghouse, while Michael Kors and Fossil impress investors. The lesson: Drawing broad conclusions about consumers can be problematic.

By Jonathan Berr Feb 12, 2013 1:04PM
Credit: The Coca-Cola Company
Caption: ‘Stay Extraordinary’ can designAre people skimping on carbonated beverages and splurging on high-end accessories and watches? Perhaps. But the bigger lesson here for investors is in how companies manage expectations.

(KO) disappointed Wall Street while Michael Kors (KORS) and Fossil (FOSL) posted better-than-expected results Tuesday.  

The world's largest soft drink company is in Wall Street's doghouse because case volumes rose in the quarter at a lower-than-expected rate, another indication of the fading popularity of carbonated beverages.   

CEO Muhtar Kent refuted this claim on CNBC, pointing out that the 3% increase seen in the quarter was within the company's own expectations. Coke's earnings topped expectations while revenue lagged. For now, investors aren't buying Kent's argument and shares of the Atlanta company were trading down some 3%. For a closer look at the numbers, click here.

Ever since rivals Tiffany (TIF) and Coach (COH) posted lackluster results, pundits have fretted about a slowdown in spending by wealthy consumers. Some argued that fears of the fiscal cliff may have caused a slowdown in retail sales during the holiday season. Those fears, though, appear to have been overblown, judging from Tuesday's reports from Michael Kors and Fossil.

Michael Kors, whose products include $448 tote bags, $250 black leather pumps and $148 wallets, posted a monster quarter. Comparable-store sales, a key retail metric measuring performance of stores opened at least a year, rose an eye-popping 41.4% in North America during the quarter. The company demolished earnings expectations. Click here for a closer look at Michael Kors' results.

Fossil, an accessories maker whose products range from the affordable to the extravagant,  had a good quarter as well, thanks to a double-digit increase in sales of watches. The Richardson, Texas, company, which also produces products for higher-end brands such as Michael Kors and Armani Exchange, saw strength around the world, including a 15% increase in North American wholesale sales. Its shares were on the rise Tuesday as well.

Whether the luxury consumer will remain resilient remains to be seen. According to data cited by Luxury Daily, consumer confidence among the top 20% of U.S. households recently showed its second-biggest drop since 2008. Only 29% of these consumers feel confident about the direction of the U.S. economy, an 8% drop since October 2012.

There is a gold-plated lining to these data: Those lucky enough to be able to afford the finer things in life will find loads of bargains.

--Jonathan Berr owns a small stake in Coca-Cola. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.

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Well to be honest Coke has been one of the most exspensive products in the market . pepsi has always been 4 12 packs for 11 dollars . When every dollar counts you cannot afford to waste it on a company that charges 4 dollars a 12 pk .for a product that is alike. 

Feb 12, 2013 4:30PM
Only Republican kooks love Koch and Coke while damaging even further their pea brain with Aspartame and fascist wingnut propaganda.
Feb 12, 2013 2:32PM
So the Navaho Nation in New Mexico will have its own free Medicaid program where almost everyone will be on it but funded by the rest of us who actually pay taxes. And 71% of babies in New Mexico are on Medicaid. How tragic that so many people are unable to take care of themselves. The Democratic progression to single payer government health care (OBama Care included) where so much is free welfare is unsustainable. You can only print worthless dollars and borrow from the Chinese so long!
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