We've seen a fair amount of shops reporting over the past couple of weeks, with a number of trading statements coming out, so I'm going to run the slide rule over a few of the more interesting stocks in the sector.
This is still a place to tread very carefully; there may be signs that the UK economy is picking up, but wages remain flat, unemployment is still high, austerity is still biting.
Of course, Burberry is one retailer that doesn't need to fret too much about the British economy. In my last column I looked at the "long-term hold" recommendation I've been using to highlight stocks you should squirrel away and keep, paying less attention to immediate valuation because over time they will see you right.
Burberry is a company that is solidly in that category. It is also a fairly volatile performer, so it's one that traders might like to chance their arm with. But should they be going in now? That's debatable.
Burberry's recent gains were fuelled by its latest trading statement, which drew some very good reviews. China might be slowing down (a bit), but that hardly cramped the style of a company that has become something of a luxury goods bellwether.
It's also shown a little entrepreneurial flair, not always seen in big companies. One forthcoming initiative is a click-and-collect service. This is a development worth watching from a retailer that has proved alive to the benefits of transacting in the ways its customers like to transact, giving it a leg up, perhaps, over other luxury brands that might try to preserve some sort of bogus exclusivity.
However, the multiple on which Burberry's shares trade is as fancy as some of the goods it sells. For the year ending 31 March, 2014 it trades on 19.5 times earnings, falling to 17.3 times next year, while offering a prospective yield of 2 per cent.
The shares are volatile, and they probably represent more or less fair value at the moment. The hold I suggested at £13.66 in January looks solid. While I would have these shares in my back pocket for the long haul, I wouldn't buy any more at this price.
SuperGroup is a very different beast. The clothing seller, and brand, has also proved volatile, but has good international prospects (the SuperDry label can be found in more than 40 countries).
The business was floated in 2010 at £5 a share. Within a year it had leapt to £18, only to be derailed by a string of profit warnings.
Now, however, it seems to have righted itself, and this was made clear by preliminary results. Full-year revenues grew 15 per cent, with profit up 22 per cent, the latter a shade better than forecasts. Over the year, like-for-like sales were up 5.7 per cent, and with a shake-up at the top, and looking at expanding into new markets, SuperGroup would seem to be set fair.
Another long-term hold then? Well, I might just be inclined to take some profits here. SuperGroup has a growth rating for this sort of company at about 18 times forecast earnings, and that is probably fair enough, for the year to the end of April 2014, yielding 0.4 per cent, although that rises to 1.5 per cent for the 2015 reporting year.
Here's the thing: co-founder James Holder last week offloaded 2 million shares at 1011p. Reportedly it is related to divorce proceedings, but £20m is a pricey divorce to anyone outside the strata of movie stars. He has still got just over 12 per cent of the equity. But the shares have enjoyed a very good run. And it doesn't look like the worst time to sell up. In January 2012, with the shares just below £7, I advised caution. There's a lot of water under the bridge since then, but right now I expect the shares to face some pressure in the short term, so follow his lead and take some profit.
Finally to Halfords, a stock I like. The high street retailer does bikes and cars, not the most obvious combo you might think. But new boss Matt Davies is on a drive to expand the former, and the numbers suggest this isn't a bad call. Cycling sales were up 15.5 per cent for the 13 weeks to 28 June, and they were (ahem) the drivers for a 7.5 per cent overall rise in "like-for-like" sales.
The idea of cycling driving the business makes sense, with clothing and accessories capable of providing healthy revenues alongside bike and car parts. I fancy Halfords as a buy because the next set of numbers should be boosted by the warm weather and Chris Froome winning the Tour de France. The shares trade on 16 times forecast earnings for the year ending 31 March, falling to 14.5, which isn't cheap. But that is backed by a very respectable yield, at a prospective 4 per cent. Halfords has had its challenges over the years, but at the moment I think it's a stock you can ride to a profit.Reuse content