Summer usually brings sunshine to sales, and United Retail Group (URGI), which caters to the "large woman" market that produced sales of $18.5 billion last year, expects to beat the Street's forecasts this time around. It missed first-quarter estimates, driving the stock down from 16 to 11.75. But it has since posted strong same-store sales—up 4% in May, and results in the next few months should be favorable, says Erin Moloney of Merriman Curhan Ford (MEM), who rates United a buy. Its apparel, including the Avenue label, is for women wearing size 14 or over. Researcher NPD Group says the average size of American women is 14. United's long-term growth is intact, says Moloney, who sees it earning 72 cents a share in 2007 on sales of $478 million, and $1.06 in 2008 on $512 million. "We expect United to post stronger same-store sales this summer as warmer weather releases pent-up demand for apparel assortments," says Shaun Smolarz of Sidoti, who values the stock at 22. Analysts credit United's staying power to its management team, having perfected fashion for the large-woman market.
Note: Unless otherwise noted, neither the sources cited in Inside Wall Street nor their firms hold positions in the stocks under discussion. Similarly, they have no investment banking or other financial relationships with them.
By Gene G. Marcial