Analyst Soundoff: 5 Questions for Sam Poser

NEW YORK — Sam Poser is not ready to declare an end to the recession, but he does see some bright spots emerging in the footwear market.

The athletic business, in particular, is making a comeback, the Sterne Agee analyst said. And there is opportunity in the mergers-and-acquisitions market for players with strong balance sheets, including Nike, Foot Locker and Deckers Outdoor.

“There will be a lot of consolidation,” Poser said. “There will be some big deals and there are a lot of small [players] that are running out of money.”

Here, Poser also weighs in on his top stock picks and the big changes at Macy’s.

FN: What is your outlook for spring?
SP: Athletic is off to a good start, and [the rest] of the business will be about items. We hear some sandals are doing well, and some flats are doing OK. But it’s all about buy now, wear now, so it’s still early.

FN: Which firms are your top picks?
SP: I like Foot Locker, Finish Line and Hibbett Sports. People are starting to wear sneakers with jeans again. The basketball business is making a comeback. And the athletic guys, their inventories are in about as good a shape as they can be. It really allows them to do the best they can in this environment, and when things get better, they can really go after it.

FN: Are there any wholesalers you like?
SP: The visibility for wholesalers is not as good as for retailers. You can’t judge them as easily. I have a buy on Under Armour and Steven Madden. The Under Armour footwear business has been good. It’s no Jordan launch, but it wasn’t supposed to be. Steven Madden is very focused, and that’s the key. If you think about all its brands, they’re targeting the same customer.

FN: The hot topic right now is the Macy’s restructuring. What is your take on it?
SP: There are going to be winners and losers. The buyers are all waiting. The New York buyers think it’s all theirs, but if they bring people from California to New York, it could hurt a Kenneth Cole, for example, or vice versa. The big decisions are going to have to come through New York, but with 69 districts and eight regions, there is going to be a lot lost in translation.

FN: Has the recession had any positive impact?
SP: The macro environment is making the good guys better. They’re really looking inward, focusing on their balance sheets and trying to figure out what’s next.

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