Earnings Guide Part 2 : Using Sentieo’s Alternative Data to Predict This Week’s Earnings Announcements

Note: The content of this post references an opinion and is for information purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.

With earnings season continuing this week, the Sentieo team has been making their predictions about earnings using alternative data from Sentieo Mosaic. Last earnings season, the team accurately predicted the Netflix, Snapchat, Twitter, Skechers, Grubhub, Trupanion, and Hubspot beats.

Our Methodology: Why Does This Data Predict Earnings?

In the graphs below, we are presenting Quarterly YoY growth in Google Trends, Website Visits (Alexa Panel), and Twitter Mentions. In all cases, we have compared the data against quarterly revenue growth. Alternative datasets like these are offered in the Sentieo platform and can provide an edge in analyzing consumer-facing businesses, as they often have a high correlation with revenue growth and are available ahead of traditional financial metrics for the period. As consumer behavior shifts more and more towards digital, indicators like these have become more predictive of tech and consumer company results. Below each chart is a link to the interactive version of the graph.

Here’s what we’re thinking for Floor & Decor:

 

FND – Floor & Decor Holdings (Call on Thursday, May 3, 2018)

 

Floor & Decor Holdings is a leading specialty retailer in the hard surface flooring market, selling tile, wood, and other accessories at low prices. The company was founded in 2000 and is headquartered in Atlanta.

We used Sentieo Mosaic to analyze alternative data for the brand, plotting it in the chart below. The chart shows that Google Trends (green line) and Alexa Website Visits (red line) have historically correlated with FND’s revenue growth; both datasets caught major revenue growth inflections in early and late 2017. For Q1 2018, Google Trends decelerated, but has leveled off more recently, while Alexa data has moved sideways in the face of an expected revenue deceleration from analyst estimates.

View Interactive Chart: http://snt.io/VW5jpdqoc

 

The Google Trends data below shows that business is growing nicely for FND. The top blue line represents Google Trends data for 2018, and demonstrates that FND is hitting new heights this year.

 

FND is a high multiple stock and has moved up a lot since last earnings, suggesting that the bar is high. FND looks like a likely beat this quarter, but if the company misses estimates, expect the stock to go down.

Analyzing Promotional Activity in the Sportswear Industry with Alternative Data ($NKE, $UA, $ADS:GR)

The global sports industry is huge, estimated to be around $1.3 trillion. Within sports, the sportswear market is a great place for investors looking at strong brands in a large and growing market.

Recently, the sportswear industry has seen a rise in promotions and discounting activity, as have other segments of the retail industry. A combination of factors such as a decline in tourist spending, slowing foot traffic and a negative consumer spending environment has affected the majority of companies in the space, limiting their growth potential and pricing power. These headwinds, together with the companies’ aggressive expansion plans and excess inventories (as is the case for Under Armour and, in part, Nike), has triggered a rise in promotional activity by many players.

In order to understand the current status of inventories in the industry and to verify the balance between supply and demand, it’s necessary to understand how promotional activity is evolving.

Sentieo’s Mosaic product allows investors to get a clearer idea of how promotional activity is evolving in the sportswear and athletic footwear markets by looking at alternative data, giving analysts a view into the current sources of pressure on gross margin.

Using Twitter Mentions, we can build queries to track the number of mentions of any word or combination of words. Twitter is one of the most important social media networks for businesses, and every brand and third-party retailer in the sportswear and athletic footwear industry promotes on the platform. Let’s go directly into the chart below to see how Nike’s promotional activity has evolved over the past three years.

Sentieo nike promotional activity

The chart shows the 30-day moving average for the number of Twitter mentions for promotional activity, including phrases such as “Nike discount,” “Nike 30% off,” “Nike clearance,” and so on. We can see that promotional activity was particularly intense between 2015 and 2016, but declined substantially in more recent times. It has been very slow since the beginning of 2018, reaching a four-year low.

Now that we have an idea of how Nike’s promotional activity has trended, let’s look at Adidas. Adidas is Nike’s main competitor, and its successful expansion strategy for the past few years has diminished Nike’s market share and created more opportunity for other smaller competitors. It has limited the American giant’s growth both internationally and in the domestic market. As we can see in the chart below, Adidas’ discounting mentions were lower during the high-growth phase between 2015 and 2016, while Nike was facing strong competitive pressures and engaged in more aggressive promotion. The situation has changed in the recent past, with Adidas’ promotional activity increasing significantly in 2017 and remaining a bit higher than it was in 2015/2016.

Sentieo Adidas

The data clearly shows that the situation has reversed in comparison to last year, and the Adidas brand, for one reason or another, has shown an increase in promotional activity, while Nike has moved in the opposite direction.

Let’s look at another interesting name in the industry: Under Armour. Under Armor has enjoyed years of aggressive expansion with revenue growth rates around 27%-32%, some of which can be attributed to the increasing popularity of its endorser, basketball star Stephen Curry. However, the growth rate plummeted from 21.8% in 2016 to just a bit above 3% in 2017.

Sentieo Under Armour

 

Under Armour’s aggressive expansion plans backfired and a strong imbalance between supply and demand generated a steep increase in inventory levels, which reached 23.3% of revenue at the end of 2017, compared with 19.7% in 2015 and 17.4% in 2014. It shouldn’t be a surprise that promotional activity skyrocketed in the second half of 2017, which was a necessary response to the alarming rate of inventory build-up. The chart below shows that mentions of promotional activity reached a historical high in December 2017.

Sentieo Under Armour promotions

Sentieo’s alternative datasets have allowed us a unique view into key industry dynamics like promotional activity, one of the primary drivers of margin pressure in the sportswear industry.

Investors and analysts should take these insights into account when they assess the attractiveness of the aforementioned stocks; datasets like Twitter mentions can definitely shed light on the probable direction of margins.

While we were looking at promotions, we looked at alternative data to forecast Nike’s next quarter using Google Search Trends data. Google Trends tends to lag Nike’s revenue growth by about a quarter and recent trends seem to indicate that they make not make the growth target for next quarter. It’s still early, however, and the most recent month of data has not fully come in yet.

Nike Sentieo

Is Skechers (SKX) Management Guidance Too Conservative?

Skechers USA (SKX) is a lifestyle and performance footwear brand that was founded in 1992. We looked at Skechers’ recent performance using Sentieo Mosaic to assess how they will perform on their next earnings call on Thursday of this week.

SKX started off with a strong rally in October that included an earnings beat and raised guidance. However, Skechers still hasn’t gotten the deserved love from the market yet.

SKX trades lower than its peers, both in the shoe segment and in the athleisure industry, trading at just 9.5x full-year EV/EBITDA, quite a low multiple compared to its closest peers. The chart below plots 2018 CY EV/EBITDA vs. 2018 CY Revenue Growth, showing that Skechers is not getting the multiple it deserves based on revenue growth.

Skechers Revenue Growth vs Multiples

The Street seems to doubt Skechers’ profitability since margins have been a bit volatile in the past. It seems that the market has only started to recognize Skechers’ growth recently, after seeing the better-than-expected operating margins last quarter. Skechers operates in a segment of the footwear market that doesn’t give the company the pricing power and margin stability of a market leader like Nike.

In any case, as the most recent earnings release showed, the Street didn’t properly forecast Skechers’ operating margins. Analysts questioned the company’s ability to deliver necessary operating leverage while the domestic market was showing signs of uncertainty. Operating margins were roughly a 20% beat over analyst estimates, and only part of the better-than-expected EPS was a result of a more favorable tax rate.

The strong rally during the past few months was bolstered by the buzz around Trump’s tax reform and the positive effects that a lower tax rate would potentially have on Skechers’ bottom-line. However, it seems that the market has failed to keep up with the pace of Skechers’ improving fundamentals.

The black line in the chart below shows the YoY revenue growth, with the solid part showing and actuals and the dotted part showing analysts’ expectations. The Sentieo Index (which includes alternative data sets such as Google Trends and Twitter) demonstrates Skechers growth potential (dashed blue line), while Wall Street has very low expectations for revenue in the next few years, forecasting a significant deceleration (again, dotted portion of the black line). Analysts haven’t adjusted their expectations enough, and it’s likely that a big revenue beat is coming both in Q4 and in the following quarters.

Sentieo Index vs Revenue YoY

Wall Street continues to be skeptical about Skechers’ acceleration, despite underestimating Skechers’ revenue growth for four consecutive quarters and getting the margin picture completely wrong. Analysts also don’t seem to understand that Skechers’ management is offering particularly conservative guidance numbers, and has been mentioning better-than-expected results for a while.

In Q2, the management offered the following guidance:

Management Guidance – Q2

Both revenue and EPS were far above those levels, surpassing the higher end of the management’s guidance.

Something similar occurred in Q2, when revenue growth definitely surpassed the upper end of the management’s guidance. In the excerpt below, management highlights that the results were well above their own expectations:

Skechers Transcript – Sales

Perhaps management wants to set expectations low, or perhaps they have actually underestimated the sales acceleration. In any case, it’s probable that they have undervalued the potential growth in Q4 just as they did for the previous two quarters.

With sales guidance for Q4 at $860 to $885 million, the implied Y/Y growth rate would be between 12.5% and 16%, basically just in line with Q3’s growth rate even if we use the higher end of the guidance range.

The Sentieo index tells us something different. Since management has provided its guidance, the index has significantly accelerated, showing a strong confidence in Skechers. The guidance for Q4 was provided just before an inflection point of strong acceleration, shown by the Sentieo index dotted line below:

Sentieo Index and Guidance

 

We’ll be tuning into the earnings call on Thursday to see if Skechers has underestimated their performance again. To continue tracking SKX, and to study other tickers using our alternative dataset tools, sign up for a free trial with Sentieo.

try free Sentieo

Mosaic Quick Take: $FIT needs a new New Year’s Resolution (and guide)

Fitbit (FIT) surged over +7% earlier this week after the Fitbit app jumped to the #2 spot on iTunes on Christmas Day. Although short interest was 30% of float, there was a desire in the market not to be offside if the company’s wearable bands were once again a popular gift for the holiday season. 

It was not long before some analysts and news outlets pointed out that Fitbit was not highlighted as a top overall best seller by amazon.com this year (Link: http://blogs.barrons.com/techtraderdaily/2016/12/27/fitbit-wasnt-a-winner-in-amazons-holiday-press-release-notes-cfra/). Momentum reversed and the stock fell back to previous levels in a few days.

In this post we show how subscribers used Mosaic to track Fitbit in realtime.


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Fall of Dawn of Titans: $ZNGA’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Launch with Apptopia data

ZNGA stock is off 15% since launching Dawn of Titans worldwide on Dec 8. While it is normal for gaming companies to see sell-the-news reactions following expected catalysts, the evidence that Mosaic users are seeing with Apptopia data indicate that there is serious cause for concern as the momentum at launch has completely fizzled out. We have gotten great feedback from you on our first post detailing what we were looking for on launch day, and thought it was time to take a look at the real data 2 weeks in.

znga1

The Current State of Affairs

As we established in part 1 of this post, iOS is overwhelmingly likely to be the strongest driver of overall revenues. This is where the key worldwide numbers for DoT shake out two weeks in:

While engagement is still holding up at around 30%, downloads seemingly peaked at a total of 1.86m and DAU’s peaked out at 567k. This was likely not helped by the (well telegraphed) Dec 15 launch of Super Mario Run which is now firmly at the top spot in iOS rankings.

Heads Up

To the extent that Dawn of Titans was never meant to be a mass-appeal casual game, the lack of extended growth is fine as long as monetization of the hardcore gamers holds up, but we are also seeing revenue and ARPU peak out (although it is very early days still). Using Sentieo’s advanced visualization technology, we are able to put games heads up to each other to answer important questions: did Dawn of Titans meaningfully threaten Clash of Clans?

znga3

 

The data does not look good.

As always, we welcome all feedback on these thoughts. As always, Sentieo Mosaic subscribers can request access to Apptopia data in their charts.

 

Dawn of Dawn of Titans: Three Things $ZNGA Investors Should Know from Apptopia

Zynga’s 3D Clash of Clans killer Dawn of Titans finally dropped worldwide after years spent in beta (Press Release here). To say that this was highly anticipated is an understatement:

And reflected in Wall Street expectations (direct link for Sentieo subscribers only):

  • Wedbush (bull): “Our bookings estimate calls for q-o-q growth of $24 million, $15 million higher than consensus; we think that Dawn of Titans may add $25 million or more of bookings (in 1Q17)”
  • Cowen (bull): “We view the launch and performance of Dawn as a key catalyst for shares.”
  • Credit Suisse (bear): “It remains to be seen whether Dawn of Titans will add to the win streak.”

Because the app has already been in the wild for years AND is a material part of the investment case for ZNGA, this is a textbook example to analyze with Sentieo’s Mosaic tool and our newest data partner, Apptopia. Apptopia provides the most accurate app store downloads, revenue, and SDK data for every mobile app & every publisher in the world, and we are excited to partner with them to show how the best-informed investors are using their data to drive investment decisions. Our goal with Part 1 of this post is to provide “Three Things You Should Know” leading into the Dawn of Titans global launch. Read More

Greed is (Veblen) Good: How $COH used Instagram to elevate its brand and added +120bps margins

Coach is on a warpath toward reinventing itself as a modern American House of Luxury (just don’t say the letters LVMH to their face), slashing promotional levels though the summer and yet seeing “the strongest comp that we’ve seen in over three years” while every other retailer (see: L Brands) is tanking in brick and mortar. This pattern of higher prices and higher (adjusted for wholesale) sales is the classical definition of a Veblen Good and demonstrates that there is a true luxury brand message. In the modern investing paradigm, analysts need to watch the same datasets that operators and executives use to stay on top of how “soft” objectives like brand and strategy translate into “hard” numbers like comp and margin. Mosaic subscribers were able to catch the direction of this trend in our proprietary Sentieo Index.

coh2

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Mosaic Quick Take: the 35% Downside in $GRUB in one chart

With Amazon Restaurants expanding in NYC (with free delivery) and Facebook getting into food ordering, it is a wonder that the likes of Fortune continue to write pieces applauding headline growth. It is easier to report on the past than to weigh the future but that is all that actual investors do. Investment into delivery infrastructure is far outside GrubHub’s core competency and the long-term margin impact is weighing on the stock today. We present their real operator metrics as viewed on Mosaic without further commentary.
grub1

Improved User Experience Driving Organic Growth at $EBAY, with Plenty of Upside

$EBAY has long been one of the most optically undervalued names in the internet space, due in part to disappointing fx-neutral GMV growth over the last few years. Now its position in the e-commerce space is under attack — Amazon is ahead of the pack and likely to stay that way, and the rest of the space is crowded with challengers. Walmart and others are making significant investments in their marketplace businesses and see EBAY as market share opportunity in the space.

Saving Ebay

Ebay’s main defense against this is a move to a product-based catalog from a listings-based catalog, otherwise known as their structured data initiative. This is meant to improve performance in organic search and product discovery. The latter still needs a lot of work in both of the key elements of discovery: Inventory and Personalization.

Problems with Inventory

I tried looking for a Fitbit and the first result is the very original Charge from two years ago. None of the top 5 models are a new product. Just compare that to Amazon’s search results on the right:

eBay vs Amazon Products
eBay vs Amazon Inventory Listings

Problems with Personalization

Ebay still has work left to do on personalization as well — just look at the main page screenshots below. When entering my login credentials (right) and without login (left). Most items are either the same product or in a similar category to the rest. There is no personalization here, which is quite sad considering I have made dozens of purchases over the last couple of years.

eBay Personalization
eBay Personalization

But Are Things Turning?

Ebay does seem to be making improvements, however. In its Q2 results, EBAY posted an fxn (fx neutral) GMV beat and guided up full year revenues with management pointing to early benefits from the structured data rollout. This coupled with improved profitability pushed the stock up massively.

For Q3, the structured data rollout will continue to be a focus. Our Mosaic data shows some competing trends here. Analysts expect fxn GMV to decelerate (blue line w/ markers), but website traffic (orange) continues to remain at very elevated levels, although the relationship has admittedly broken down a bit. Channeladvisor SSS data (purple) and Google Trends (green) are also ticking up on the quarter but are not indicating a material dislocation vs. expectations.

 

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-10-37-56-am
Ebay’s data on Mosaic

 

We also see engagement significantly improving in the charts below, supporting the thesis of an improved user experience. Monthly average pages displayed (left) and monthly average stay per visitor (right) both seem to be accelerating.

Solid Improvement Through Summer
Solid Improvement Through Summer
People really are spending more time on the site!
People really are spending more time on the site!

EBAY seems to be making some improvements to the user experience and has seen early positive results. While EBAY stands to benefit from the e-commerce wave, it must still navigate a changing landscape riddled with immense competition.