Categories Earnings Call Transcripts, Other Industries

PVH Corp (PVH) Q4 2021 Earnings Call Transcript

PVH Earnings Call - Final Transcript

PVH Corp  (NYSE: PVH) Q4 2021 earnings call dated Mar. 30, 2022

Corporate Participants:

Dana Perlman — Executive Vice President, Chief Strategy Officer and Treasurer

Stefan Larsson — Chief Executive Officer

Jim Holmes — Interim Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President, Controller

Analysts:

Bob Drbul — Guggenheim — Analyst

Michael Binetti — Credit Suisse — Analyst

Jay Sole — UBS — Analyst

Dana Telsey — Telsey Advisory Group — Analyst

Kimberly Greenberger — Morgan Stanley — Analyst

Chris Nardone — Bank of America — Analyst

Brooke Roach — Goldman Sachs — Analyst

Ike Boruchow — Wells Fargo — Analyst

Tracy Kogan — Citi — Analyst

Presentation:

Operator

Good day, and welcome to the PVH Q4 2021 Earnings Call. [Operator Instructions]

At this time, I would like to turn the conference over to Dana Perlman. Please go ahead.

Dana Perlman — Executive Vice President, Chief Strategy Officer and Treasurer

Thank you, operator. Good morning, everyone and welcome to the PVH Corp. fourth quarter and full year 2021 earnings conference call. Leading the call today will be Stefan Larsson, PVH’s Chief Executive Officer; and Jim Holmes, EVP, Interim Chief Financial Officer and Corporate Controller.

This webcast and conference call is being recorded on behalf of PVH and consists of copyrighted material. It may not be recorded, rebroadcast or otherwise transmitted without PVH’s written permission. Your participation in the question-and-answer session constitutes your consent to having anything you say appear on any transcript or replay of this call.

The information to be discussed includes forward-looking statements that reflect PVH’s view as of March 29, 2022 of future events and financial performance. These statements are subject to risks and uncertainties indicated in the Company’s SEC filings and the safe harbor statement included in the press release that is the subject of this call. These risks and uncertainties include PVH’s right to change its strategies, objectives, expectations and intentions and its need to use significant cash flow to service its debt obligation.

Significantly, at this time, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have, and global inflationary pressure and the war in Ukraine have begun to have impacts on the Company’s business, cash flow and results of operations. There is significant uncertainty about the duration and extent of the impact of these events. The dynamic nature of the circumstances means what is said on this call could change materially at any time. Therefore the operation of the Company’s business and future results of operations could differ materially from historical practices and results or current descriptions, estimates and suggestions.

PVH does not undertake any obligation to update publicly any forward-looking statements, including without limitation, any estimates or suggestions regarding revenue or earnings. Generally, the information and projections to be discussed will be on a non-GAAP basis, as defined under SEC rules. Reconciliation to GAAP amounts are included in PVH’s fourth quarter 2021 earnings release, which can be found on www.pvh.com, and in the Company’s current report on Form 8-K furnished to the SEC in connection with the release.

At this time, I’m pleased to turn the conference over to Stefan Larsson.

Stefan Larsson — Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Dana and good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining our call today. Looking back on my first year as CEO for PVH, I’m proud of the progress we have made and the strong performance of the business. In 2021, we intensified our focus on our two globally iconic brands, Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, and drove an accelerated recovery while successfully navigated continued COVID-19 disruption. These efforts resulted in very strong financial performance for the fourth quarter and full year.

For the year, we delivered double-digit consolidated revenue growth, led by international which exceeded pre-pandemic levels. We also generated record gross margins and earnings per share, and delivered a non-GAAP EBIT margin of 10.7% which is over 100 basis points above 2019 pre-pandemic levels, all while positioning PVH to win with the consumer in the new normal and deliver sustainable, profitable long-term growth.

This was the first full year driven by the execution of our accelerated recovery priorities, and across PVH, we see time and time again that when we lean into our two iconic brands, continue to move closer to the consumer, deliver the most relevant products in the market and supercharge digital to meet the consumer where they want to shop, we deliver top tier market performance, and we do it in a high quality and sustainable way.

You can see it in Europe through our strong product execution and own and operated e-commerce growth, and in brand-building partnerships with digital pure players. You can also see it increasingly in Asia where we lean into big consumer moments like Chinese New Year, and win with strength in product on the most important e-commerce and social platforms. And step by step, you’ll see more of that in North America as well where we are focused on driving higher-quality digital-led growth and improving product and channel execution.

Our Company-wide focus on key growth categories, hero products and cutting unproductive assortment tail is yielding strong results. We drove increased pricing power and margin expansion in both Calvin and Tommy across our largest markets and channels. We supercharged our digital business which increased over 30% in 2021 on top of over 40% growth in 2020, with digital now representing 25% penetration, double pre-pandemic levels. And we continue to invest in high-growth, high-return areas to support our future growth, while at the same time, starting to drive cost efficiencies.

In addition, underscoring our strong financial position and cash flow generation, we paid down over $1 billion of debt to reduce our leverage to below pre-pandemic levels. We reinstated our quarterly cash dividend and repurchased approximately $350 million of stock. Moving forward, we will continue investing in our business to fuel our growth, while at the same time, deploying our excess cash to maximize shareholder returns.

I’d like to thank all of our associates around the world for your hard work and critical contributions which helped us to deliver on what we set out to do this year and more. And as we continue to closely monitor the war in Ukraine, I also want to extend my gratitude to our associates for their continued support and compassion for each other in the face of this tragic humanitarian crisis.

As we look ahead to 2022, we are excited by the strong momentum in the business, but also mindful that the market is experiencing unprecedented volatility from the heightened impacts of a number of macroeconomic and geopolitical challenges. These include the war in Ukraine as well as inflationary pressures, which impact both our own business and the overall consumer spending.

We also continue to navigate the ongoing pandemic headwinds, particularly supply chain and logistics delays, especially in North America in addition to the recent virus resurgences in Asia. As such, we’re even more focused on what we can control. And just like we demonstrated through our strong performance in 2021, we are confident in the underlying strength across our business. Through the disciplined execution of our strategic priorities, we are driving underlying double-digit top and bottom-line growth for 2022, while maintaining our strong gross margins.

Our international business continue to perform very well and will drive our growth this year. In North America, we’re in the early phases of a multi-year positioning of the region to win more with the domestic consumer. As a reminder, the tourist consumer that was 30% to 40% of our total North America business, pre-pandemic has not yet returned, and we are taking proactive measures to set ourselves up for long-term sustainable and much more profitable growth in the region. As a result, we expect our business in the region to remain below pre-pandemic levels.

Let me now turn to our regional update. Starting with Europe, despite COVID resurgences which resulted in renewed restrictions, the region delivered another quarter of very strong execution which completed an outstanding year of performance. Revenues increased double digits against pre-pandemic levels for both the quarter and year, combined with gross margin expansion driven by strong full-price sell-through. When we connect our brands as close to the consumer as we do in Europe, we deliver market-leading performance and win with strength in product, increased pricing power and across the digitally-led marketplace.

We continue to gain market share across both Tommy and Calvin, driven by strong consumer demand, including Tommy is focused on elevated casual, seasonal categories and iconic must-haves, combined with accelerating elevated hero products at Calvin from the brand’s lifestyle expansion. We remain focused on driving the digital business across our owned and operated sites as well as with pure players, with the region generating significantly stronger overall digital penetration well in excess of the Company average.

Our connected retail capabilities enabled us to capture digital demand which mitigate the lower brick-and-mortar trends driven by COVID. While reported revenue in the region in 2022 will be impacted by the lack of business in Ukraine and Russia, overall consumer demand for our brands has remained on plan so far in the first quarter. Momentum in our future order book remains strong for both brands, with fall 2022 planned up double digits versus the prior year, which was on top of double-digit order books we experienced for spring.

Moving on to Asia, we drove revenues above pre-pandemic levels for both the fourth quarter and full year. While certain cities in China are currently facing COVID measures, we are pleased with the recovery in markets such as Australia and Korea, where recovery trends are strong. We’re seeing real strength from our efforts to accelerate the region’s growth and remain excited about the progress and underlying performance.

We saw considerable gains in brand awareness for both Tommy and Calvin, especially in China compared to pre-pandemic levels driven by our progress in creating strong hero product with locally relevant capsules and collaborations, supported by regional marketing. We continue to drive strong activations during key consumer moments in the region to generate engagement. For example, we experienced double-digit sales growth this past quarter for Chinese Lunar New Year. We are driving comp growth through optimized product allocations, and our spring hero products supported by digital campaigns is resonating with consumers in the region, as highlighted by strong comps over Valentine’s Day.

We continue to connect with consumers wherever and however they want to shop. Our digital business drove double-digit growth in 2021, and we are leveraging CRM collaborations with pure players like Tmall, investing to expand with new digital platforms such as Douyin [Phonetic] and growing our presence on WeChat with interactive gaming. Offline, we are engaging our consumers through in-store VIP events and unique pop-up store locations.

Looking ahead, COVID resurgences in China are certainly impacting our growth near term, but as markets reopen, we are seeing a strong bounce back in trends which is evidence of the underlying strength of our business in China. And we also see that in our other markets such as Australia, Korea, and increasingly in Japan. Overall, we remain optimistic in the region’s ability to drive long-term growth.

Turning to North America. As I mentioned, the lack of tourism has further highlighted the importance of our renewed efforts to win more with the domestic consumer in a more sustainable and more profitable way. We are currently navigating supply chain and logistics delays, which are more pronounced in North America, significantly negatively impacting our inventory flows across channels. Nevertheless, we are making sure that all decisions we take now are positioning our two iconic brands for the long term.

While for the fourth quarter, both Calvin and Tommy drove improved revenue trends sequentially compared to pre-pandemic levels, the significant COVID-related supply chain challenges resulted in inventory delays that we will be navigating through with the biggest impact in the first half of 2022. As I just shared, we are doubling down on our engagement with the domestic consumer, by driving increased product strength with pricing power and focusing on growth in the digitally-led marketplace in a balanced way across channels. We are sharpening our execution with more targeted assortments across key accounts and channels, and ensuring our brands are appropriately positioned in brand-enhancing channels.

Despite the challenges the region is facing, we are seeing green shoots of progress, including controlled inventory levels and lower promotions enabled us to drive higher gross margins and AURs in the fourth quarter. As we further expand our assortment of hero products, we are seeing positive reads on new updated product, although the inventory challenges are impacting trends. For Calvin, hero products in underwear continue to outperform, and we’ve seen sequential improving trends in key men’s apparel categories. And for Tommy, focus categories and seasonal key items are driving performance.

Looking ahead for the region we remain focused on positioning and strengthening our business in North America for more sustainable and more profitable growth over time, all while we are step by step making progress. 2022 will be a year of transition on a multi-year effort to unlock our full potential in the market.

Next, I’ll share a few brief global brand highlights, beginning with Calvin Klein. Brand awareness remains very high and we continue to see increases in relevance and consideration. We are deepening our engagement with consumers with culturally relevant talent. During the holiday season, we had a few surprise guests hacked our regular schedule content for Calvin Klein on Instagram, including Squid Games’ HoYeon Jung, who set the record for our Instagram post with over 6 million likes.

Last month, we launched our spring collection and all-together campaign, featuring an international cast including Jennie Kim, and Euphoria star Dominic Fike. The collection reinterprets the brand’s iconic past for the future, refreshing our tieable pieces. Looking ahead, the brand will continue to build out our collaboration strategy with the announcement of a second global collaboration partner already in April this year, further driving our connection to the consumer and driving cultural relevance.

Moving on to Tommy Hilfiger. Similar to Calvin, brand awareness remains strong and above pre-pandemic levels. Our product strategy drive relevance with aspirational in younger consumers. Through our collaborations, we continue to drive brand heat. Our global Tommy Jeans AAPE by A Bathing Ape collaboration generated strong performance across regions, as highlighted by a sell-through rate of over 90% in Europe and North America within the first week of tommy.com with high AURs. In addition, we saw very strong media coverage.

Tommy also stepped into the metaverse with online game platform Roblox through the capsule launch on must-have digital fashion items that people can use to dress their avatars within their Roblox virtual world. Lastly, for spring, the brand’s Make Your Move campaign recently launched, featuring our first hashtag challenge on TikTok #movewithtommy, and led by Anthony Ramos, bringing together the world of music and pop culture. With increased media investments, the campaign spans multiple consumer touchpoints in innovative ways.

In closing, we had a very strong 2021, where we showed that our increased focus on our two globally iconic brands, Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, and connecting them closer to where the consumer is going than any time before is paying off. When we do that really well, like we do today in our international markets, we’re able to deliver market-leading performance.

We are continuing to build on that strength in both Europe and Asia, and will over time unlock the same type of strength in North America. While there regional differences, the key value drivers are the same, brand and product relevance with pricing power, combined with strong consumer engagement and a focus on winning in the digitally-led marketplace. We are looking forward to sharing our multi-year growth plan with you at our Investor Day in just a couple of weeks on April 13. It will be our first Investor Day in over 10 years, so you can imagine how much we are looking forward to it.

I’m also pleased to welcome Zac Coughlin to PVH as our new CFO effective April 4. Zac comes most recently from DFS, part of the LVMH Group, and brings over 20 years of high-performance financial and operational leadership with best-in-class global brands. And he will be a key leader when we build out our next growth chapter.

Before I hand it over to Jim for the financial update, I would like to thank him for his critical leadership and strong support during the transition period as Interim CFO. You did a great job Jim. Thank you.

Jim Holmes — Interim Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President, Controller

Thanks, Stefan. The comments I’m about to make are based on non-GAAP results and are reconciled in our press release. 2021 was a year of very strong financial performance, driven by the disciplined execution of our accelerated recovery priorities. We successfully navigated the COVID-19 pandemic to drive double-digit revenue growth versus 2020, led by our international businesses, which significantly exceeded 2019 pre-pandemic levels.

We ended the year with revenue over $9 billion and drove record financial performance in gross margin and earnings per share, with very strong operating margins which significantly exceeded 2019 pre-pandemic levels. While we continue to navigate unprecedented macroeconomic volatility as we enter 2022, we remain confident in the power of our two global brands, Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger. And in the fundamental strength of our business and we believe that the disciplined execution of our strategic priorities will drive underlying double-digit top and bottom-line growth for 2022, while maintaining our strong gross margins.

I will begin by discussing our 2021 results in more detail and then we’ll move on to our outlook for 2022. Overall revenues for the fourth quarter were up 16% compared to the prior year as reported and 20% on a constant currency basis. And above the top end of our guidance, despite continued supply chain and logistics disruptions and the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly the Omicron variant.

While our underlying business performance was relatively flat compared to 2019 prepaid levels, our overall revenues for the fourth quarter were down 7% versus 2019 due to the Heritage Brands transaction, the exit from our Heritage retail business and the sale of Speedo. Our results reflected strong performance in our international businesses across both brands, primarily driven by Europe.

Our international businesses exceeded 2019 pre-pandemic levels in all regions. And while our North America businesses showed sequential improvement in the fourth quarter compared to pre-pandemic levels, the business remains challenged due to the lack of international tourism, which was the source of approximately 30% to 40% of pre-pandemic revenue for the region. In addition, North America has been and continues to be the region most challenged by supply chain disruptions, including higher air freight costs and suppressed inventory levels.

Gross margin continued to be very strong at 58.3% for the fourth quarter, which is an increase of over 400 basis points compared to the prior year in 2019 pre-pandemic levels. The improvement was primarily due to more full-price selling and the favorable shift in regional sales mix, which more than offset higher freight costs, including an increase in air freight to mitigate supply chain and logistics delays.

Inventory was down 5% at the end of the quarter compared to the prior year, due in part to the Heritage Brands sale and the exit from the Heritage Brands retail business. However, within our total inventory, our in-transit inventory levels increased over 30% primarily due to ongoing supply chain and logistics disruptions.

SG&A expense as a percentage of revenue for the fourth quarter was down almost 150 basis points versus 2020, as we leverage the increase in revenue but remained elevated compared to 2019. When comparing to 2019, we continue to drive cost efficiencies across the business. However, these benefits are more than offset by the mix shift in regional sales toward our international businesses, which although favorable to our overall results, carry higher expenses, as well as planned increases in marketing and other investments to fuel our growth in 2022.

Earnings before interest and taxes in the fourth quarter significantly exceeded 2020 and was up 16% compared to 2019 pre-pandemic levels, driven by the strength of our international businesses. Operating margin was 7.2% for the quarter, exceeding 2019 pre-pandemic levels by almost 150 basis points.

Earnings per share was $2.84 for the fourth quarter compared to a loss per share of $0.38 in the prior-year period, while also significantly exceeding the 2019 pre-pandemic amount and the top end of our previous guidance by $0.90. We ended the full year 2021 with revenue of $9.2 billion, an increase of 28% versus 2020, led by strength in our international businesses which exceeded 2019 pre-pandemic levels, particularly Europe.

Earnings before interest and taxes was $983 million in 2021 compared to a loss in 2020, and was up over $50 million or 6% compared to 2019 pre-pandemic levels. Operating margin was 10.7%, which significantly exceeded our expectations and was 130 basis points higher than 2019 pre-pandemic levels, driven by record gross margins of 58.2% and successful execution of our accelerated recovery priorities.

Our tax rate for the year was 17.1% and included the benefit of a favorable tax agreement in the Netherlands, as well as benefits from tax treatments related to the purchase of Calvin Klein, both of which expired at the end of 2021. Overall, we delivered record earnings per share of $10.15 compared to a loss in 2020 and $9.54 in 2019. Additionally, to further strengthen our balance sheet, we made over $1 billion of voluntary term loan payments for the full year of 2021.

Moving on to our outlook. We are providing our 2022 outlook despite the significant uncertainty due to the war in Ukraine and its broader macroeconomic implications, inflationary pressures, the pandemic and supply chain and logistics disruptions. Our outlook assumes no material worsening of current conditions.

Our international businesses continue to demonstrate strength and are expected to build on strong growth from 2021, underpinned by systematic execution of our strategic priorities. Momentum continues in our Europe business. And while COVID is currently most severely impacting our business in China, we are encouraged by the underlying performance of our overall business in Asia.

North America remains challenged due to the lack of international tourism and ongoing supply chain pressures. And we do not assume international tourism will return to any meaningful levels in 2022. Supply chain and logistics disruptions are expected to continue to impact our business, primarily in North America through most of the year, with the first half being most severely impacted.

For the full year, while we are projecting double-digit revenue growth in our underlying businesses, our overall revenue is projected to grow approximately 2% to 3% as reported, and approximately 6% to 7% on a constant currency basis compared to 2021. Our overall revenue projection reflects a 2% reduction resulting from the Heritage Brands transaction and the exit from the Heritage Brands retail business, and a 2% reduction from our decision to temporarily close our stores and pause commercial activity in Russia and Belarus, along with reduction in wholesale shipments to Ukraine as a result of the war.

While we are projecting underlying growth in both our international and North American business versus 2021, our international businesses are projected to significantly exceed 2019 pre-pandemic levels while our North American businesses remain challenged and are not expected to return to 2019 pre-pandemic levels in 2022. We expect our full year gross margin rate to remain at record levels and flat to 2021, despite rising inflationary costs in all regions, including higher cost of commodities and raw materials and increased freight, as we plan to mostly mitigate inflationary pressures with price increases and continued less promotional activity. Additionally, we expect a favorable shift in regional sales mix compared to 2021 with our higher-margin international businesses making up a larger portion of total revenue.

SG&A expense as a percentage of revenue for the full year is expected to increase approximately 70 basis points compared to 2021. We continue to drive cost efficiencies across the business. However, these benefits are being more than offset by the mix shift in regional sales toward our international businesses, which although favorable to our overall results, carry higher expenses, as well as benefits in 2021 from temporary store closures that are not expected to repeat in 2022.

We expect our full year operating margin will continue to exceed 2019 pre-pandemic levels and will be approximately 10%. While we are projecting double-digit growth in our underlying business earnings as we execute against our accelerated recovery priorities, we expect that our overall earnings before interest and taxes in 2022 will decrease low-single digits versus 2021.

Our overall EBIT expectation reflects negative impacts due to FX translation of 7% and a 6% reduction from our decision to temporary close our stores and pause commercial activity in Russia and Belarus, along with reduction in wholesale shipments to Ukraine as a result of the war. Our tax rate for the year is estimated at 29% to 30% compared to 17.1% in 2021. The increase is explained by the expiration of a favorable tax agreement in the Netherlands, the conclusion of tax treatments related to the purchase of Calvin Klein, and the shift in our geographic earnings mix. The result is a tax rate consistent with the statutory rates where we do business.

For the full year in 2022, we are projecting earnings per share to be approximately $9. While we are projecting underlying double-digit growth in revenue and business earnings, our overall earnings per share reflects a decrease compared to $10.15 in 2021, due to the negative impact of approximately $1.35 per share due to FX translation and our decision to temporarily close our stores and pause commercial activity in Russia and Belarus, along with the reduction in wholesale shipments to Ukraine, and also negatively impacting 2022 as $1.55 from taxes. Partially offsetting these negative impacts is a positive impact of approximately $0.70 due to lower interest in shares.

For the first quarter while we are projecting double-digit revenue growth in our underlying businesses, our overall revenue is projected to be relatively flat as reported and to increase approximately 4% on a constant currency basis compared to the prior year. Our overall revenue projection reflects a 5% reduction resulting from the Heritage Brands transaction and the exit from the Heritage Brands retail business. And a 1% reduction from our decision to temporarily close our stores and pause commercial activity in Russia and Belarus, along with the reduction in wholesale shipments to Ukraine.

First quarter earnings per share is expected to be between $1.55 to $1.60 which reflects negative impacts of approximately $0.35 due to FX translation and our decision to temporarily close our stores and pause commercial activity in Russia and Belarus, along with reduction in wholesale shipments to Ukraine.

As stated earlier, supply chain disruptions are expected to most significantly impact the North American business in the first half of the year. Our tax rate for the first quarter is estimated at 29% to 30% consistent with the full year.

And with that operator, we would like to open it up to questions.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Thank you, sir. [Operator Instructions] We will now take our first question from Bob Drbul from Guggenheim. Please go ahead.

Bob Drbul — Guggenheim — Analyst

Good morning. And just a couple of questions. Really could you expand upon the underlying strength of the business in Europe around Europe? And really just how you’re planning the business with so much uncertainty there this year? Thanks.

Stefan Larsson — Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Good morning, and thank you, Bob. As we alluded to in our prepared remarks, we see incredible strength in Europe. So we come out of 2021 where we had to navigate a lot of COVID disruption and executed truly market-leading performance. And we see that business trend continues. So what drives that will be the strength of Calvin and Tommy in Europe, and how close we connect those two brands to the European consumer and how we’re able to drive product strength, consumer engagement and winning digitally-led that’s what makes the difference. And that’s why we are taking market share and that’s why when we look a number of years back and looking forward, we see the strength of our ability to navigate even tougher macro times. And we also have — looking forward, we see the order books being very strong for the rest of the year as far out as we can see. So lots of reasons to be positive when it comes to Europe.

Bob Drbul — Guggenheim — Analyst

Thank you. Good luck.

Stefan Larsson — Chief Executive Officer

Thanks.

Operator

We will now take our next question from Michael Binetti from Credit Suisse. Please go ahead.

Michael Binetti — Credit Suisse — Analyst

Hey guys, good morning. Thanks for taking our questions here. Just — I have one question and then I have a follow-up. I just wanted to ask simple question, and I know we’ll talk about this in a few days at the Analyst Day. But as you look at the business, what are the key factors that result in the profitability in North America when we exclude the license businesses which are very high margin being well below industry averages?

Stefan Larsson — Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. So thanks, Michael. And what we see in North America right now to start with is we see still the effect of the delay of the return of the tourism and that is real. That is 30%, 40% pre-pandemic. In that, we saw that’s starting to come back in November and then we saw Omicron hit and now we see it being delayed. And then we see the biggest supply chain challenges as well in North America. When it comes to our focus is what we can and that ties directly to answering your question. What our focus is on the domestic consumer winning more with that consumer. And it comes back to product execution, it comes back to pricing power. It comes back to a balanced high-quality channel distribution.

Michael Binetti — Credit Suisse — Analyst

I guess one to follow that, do you — how much progress you think you can make on the margins in North America without knowing when tourism will come back?

Stefan Larsson — Chief Executive Officer

So we see green shoots already might in terms of our focus on the key growth categories, the categories that matter most to the consumer, and our development of hero products within those categories. We already see very strong sell-throughs. We see pricing power increasing. So we see significant improvement opportunities over time when it comes to operating margin in North America.

Michael Binetti — Credit Suisse — Analyst

Okay, thanks. Thanks a lot and congrats, guys.

Stefan Larsson — Chief Executive Officer

Thanks.

Operator

We will now take our next question from Jay Sole from UBS. Please go ahead.

Jay Sole — UBS — Analyst

Great. Thank you so much for taking the question. I wanted to know if it would be possible to elaborate a little bit on the gross margin guidance for this year. You mentioned some positive factors around mix, can you just talk about how inflation specifically around raw materials and supply chain might negatively impact the gross margin? And then if you could sort of quantify some of the puts and takes, that’ll be super helpful. Thank you so much.

Stefan Larsson — Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I’ll take that, Jay. So on average, we’re seeing costs increasing from raw materials, freight all included about 10%. And our gross margin plan is we are going to pass those costs onto the consumer. You know, particularly where we — in Europe, in Asia where we have great strength and demand for the brands, we’re not necessarily seeing any resistance at all with the consumers. We feel confident in that. When we turn to North America, the supply chain delays is clouding it a little bit. We are planning on passing the majority of those costs on to the consumer. We are not seeing resistance to date, but we’re not going to be able to pass all of it through, particularly for the air freight that we’re deploying due to the supply chain delays. So a little bit in North America, the gross margins will decrease.

Jay Sole — UBS — Analyst

Okay, got it. And then maybe Jim, if I can follow up. Can you give us an idea of what your free cash flow outlook for this year is based on your guidance, and sort of what the primary uses of the free cash will be sort of after capex?

Jim Holmes — Interim Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President, Controller

Yeah. So look, the guidance we gave is with our earnings we’re going to have an EBITDA well over $1 billion. capex will be about $400 million. We’re also planning on share buyback for the continued use of our remaining authorization for a little over $200 million. The one thing that’s going to happen as we work through 2021 is we are going to have a working capital build — sorry, 2022, we’re going to have a working capital build.

We ended 2021 with just two lower inventory levels. As we work through the year, we’re going to get — hopefully, get back into a better inventory position really to fuel the growth for 2023. So there’ll be a little bit of a reversal from ’21 in the working capital but all-in still generating lots of free cash flow. And just you know, I said in my notes, we paid down over $1 billion of debt in 2021, so the balance sheet is in a stronger position in recent memory.

Jay Sole — UBS — Analyst

Got it. Okay. Thank you so much.

Operator

We will now take our next question from Dana Telsey from Telsey Advisors. Please go ahead.

Dana Telsey — Telsey Advisory Group — Analyst

Hi. Good morning, everyone. As you think about the puts and takes of exiting Heritage and FX and the other headwinds, how do you — Jim, how do you foresee the underlying growth of the business, both on the topline and bottom line going forward? And then, Stefan, any update on how you’re thinking about given the digital-first mindset, where you want digital as a percent of sales to be, and what it could mean for each of the brands? Thank you.

Jim Holmes — Interim Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President, Controller

Thanks for the question, Dana. So ending 2021, we ended it with a lot of momentum and great strength. We see that continuing in the underlying businesses. It’s somewhat masked by the macro challenges we’re dealing with. So we’re guiding 2% to 3% on the revenue line. On a constant currency basis, that comes out to 6% to 7%. If you were to add back to the exit of Heritage plus our temporary closure in Russia, we get to a 10% to 11% topline underlying growth. And if you also look at in EBIT, in my notes, I kind of said, we expect the EBIT dollars to be down low-single digits year-over-year, but FX is worth about 7% of a decrease and the Russia is worth about 6% on the profitability, that also gets us to a double-digit growth in underlying EBIT.

Stefan Larsson — Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Jim. And Dana, coming back to your question about digital. So supercharging digital has been one of our key priorities over the past year and one of the key drivers of the success of last year being a record year. So digital today 25% penetration. Europe where we are the closest connected with our brands to where the consumer is going is well over that. Last year, we drove 30% growth on top of 40% growth. So digital penetrate — digital will continue to grow faster than the other channels and penetration over time will continue to grow.

Dana Telsey — Telsey Advisory Group — Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

We will now take our next question from Kimberly Greenberger from Morgan Stanley. Please go ahead.

Kimberly Greenberger — Morgan Stanley — Analyst

Great. Thank you so much. Stefan, I wanted to ask just about the supply chain impact here in the US. And obviously, we can’t go back and change history, but knowing what you know now, are there any different strategies that you wish you had deployed perhaps last year, just to get through the North American challenges? And then, if you’re talking about strategizing for supply chain here in 2020, what are the go-forward things that you’re doing to try to impact the challenges in supply chain, particularly in North America?

Stefan Larsson — Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Thank you, Kimberly. And so when it comes to how we navigated through the COVID last year, I’m really proud of how we drove to the record performance we did. So overall, when it comes to a crisis like COVID, it’s about pivoting and making us — making decisions that follows how the consumer reacts through our COVID pandemic. And I feel very good about how we did that.

When it comes to the COVID-related supply chain challenges in North America, they are COVID sourcing-related — COVID insourcing countries. So when we look at where we source from in our three regions, North America is more impacted than Europe and Asia, mostly because of different sourcing geographies. And when it comes to going forward, as Jim alluded to the supply chain delays in North America is something we’re going to navigate through over the year and the biggest effect is in the first half.

Kimberly Greenberger — Morgan Stanley — Analyst

Okay, great. That’s a helpful color. Thank you. And I just had a quick follow-up for Jim on the tax rate. Jim, can you just remind us what is happening in tax rate in 2022 that’s causing that to go into the high 20% or 30%? And is this the level we should think about for future years as well as this the new normal kind of tax rate? Thanks.

Jim Holmes — Interim Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President, Controller

Yeah. Thanks for the question, Kimberly. So two things, really. One is we had a favorable tax treatment on low rates in the Netherlands that expired in 2021. We also had favorable treatment going back through our acquisition of Calvin Klein, which also expired in 2021. So those two things rolled off. And now basically, if you think about where we do business, the US rate is close to 25% [Indecipherable] the states. Europe is around 25%. And then when you get into Asia countries like China and Australia and Japan are 30% plus.

So we’re basically 29% to 30% is somewhat in the zone of our statutory rates. We get a little bit hurt in that our income is a little more weighted — is much more weighted to international so some of the US tax reform rules hurt us a little bit. So you know at Investor Analyst Day, we’re going to get into it a little further on the forward-looking projections. But I will tell you, we are continuing to always look at optimizing our tax strategy, but those — with those two big things rolling off in 2021, the days of being in the teens may not happen again.

Kimberly Greenberger — Morgan Stanley — Analyst

Understood. We can’t wait for the Analyst Day. Thank you, both so much.

Stefan Larsson — Chief Executive Officer

We’re same. Thank you.

Operator

We will now take our next question from Chris Nardone from Bank of America. Please go ahead.

Chris Nardone — Bank of America — Analyst

Hi. Thanks for taking my question. So it sounds like your core business remains quite strong in Europe excluding the impact in Eastern Europe. Does your full year revenue outlook assume any slowdown in European demand trends given the inflationary pressures we’re seeing? And then can you talk to us about where you are in your pricing journey across both of your brands in Europe particularly? Thank you.

Jim Holmes — Interim Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President, Controller

Yeah, Chris. So first on Europe and now our estimates right now for what we are seeing in Europe as Stefan mentioned, we still see great strength in demand for our brands, and we do not see any slowdown and we have not estimated for any slowdown. As far as pricing, you know, on average, I mentioned, it’s going to be up — our costs are up 10%. We’re going to pass that predominantly back to the consumer. We aren’t seeing any resistance to date. It will be a little — it will escalate a little bit more in the fall than in the spring, but not much more.

Chris Nardone — Bank of America — Analyst

Thank you.

Stefan Larsson — Chief Executive Officer

And when comes to — and just to build on what Jim just said, in these inflationary times, what’s going to really make a difference is brand strength, brand relevance, product strength, channel execution, channel relevance. And that’s why in Europe, we see so much strength in all of that which positions us really well in order to navigate these inflationary challenges.

Operator

We will now take our next question from Brooke Roach from Goldman Sachs. Please go ahead.

Brooke Roach — Goldman Sachs — Analyst

Good morning, and thank you so much for taking our question. Stefan, in your prepared remarks, you called 2022 a year of transition for North America. Could you provide some additional context on your plans for the North America marketplace this year, to improve the brand momentum that you have across both brands, especially with that domestic consumer? Thank you.

Stefan Larsson — Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Thanks, Brooke. So I’ll be able to share the detailed approach in Investor Day that’s coming up just in two weeks. But high level, we are facing the pressures from the tourist consumer being delayed coming back. Then when it comes to the domestic consumer, the core strength for us is the brand love for the brands. The brands are super strong and super relevant with the North American consumer.

We have over-relied on the strength of the tourist consumers. So when that is being delayed coming back is getting really clear that we need to focus more on winning more with the domestic consumer. And so tapping into that brand strength and a brand loved by the American consumer, we — both Calvin and Tommy are top two out of the top four, five brands in the sector, so it’s all going to come back to product strength, pricing power, investing in where the consumer wants to shop our brands, which is we are under-penetrated in digital and execute a balanced channel strategy. But much more details when we get to Investor Day.

Brooke Roach — Goldman Sachs — Analyst

Great. Thank you. And just a quick follow-up on that. As you think about the full-price selling that you achieved in 2021, where do you see the biggest opportunities for improving that full-price selling and reduced discounting into 2022?

Stefan Larsson — Chief Executive Officer

Brooke, is that a question overall or North America related?

Brooke Roach — Goldman Sachs — Analyst

Overall for the business. Thank you.

Stefan Larsson — Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, overall for the business. So it’s definitely the strength of our brands when it comes to the key growth categories. The most important product categories in the consumers wardrobe that we have two lifestyle brands and we have the license to play to win within the most important categories. And our successful ability to develop hero products and involve hero products, the key products, the most essential products, and then we have the ability to connect them to a core replenishment system so that makes the lead times come down.

So when we look at that loyal consumer that shops both Calvin and Tommy, we see that we have an ability to drive pricing power. We already see it and we see that others in the market have been able to drive pricing power. So that’s something that and those are the key reasons why we see the trend continue as strong as we do and we also see the success in 2021. Based on these product strategies, we see the pricing power go up and we see it continue to go up. And then of course in really high inflation periods like this, there is also an efficiency component that we need to drive efficiencies as a company overall as well.

Brooke Roach — Goldman Sachs — Analyst

Thank you. I’ll pass it on.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] We will now take our next question from Ike Boruchow from Wells Fargo. Please go ahead.

Ike Boruchow — Wells Fargo — Analyst

Hey, thanks, good morning, everyone. Stefan, you guys have given some great detail on the near term and next year. I guess, in a bigger picture, you’ve been at the Company for several years. I wanted to ask just about your view of the structure of the business in your eyes. Is there any need for any more meaningful changes that I think that kind of comes to mind as you’ve got some pretty big licenses that expire with Calvin next year? Is there anything that you think the business could do more efficiently? Or any reason we should think that there might be some strategic changes that at least you’re considering now that you’ve been in the seat for several years?

Stefan Larsson — Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. No. So I’ve been in the seat for a year, so — but — and during that year, the biggest structural change we have made is the divestiture of Heritage since the focus — the intensified focus on Calvin and Tommy. We see again that the strength of having two of the most iconic brands — globally most beloved brands in our sector, gives us so much of an opportunity to drive systematic repeatable value creation over time. And that’s what we are going to go through more in detail at the Investor Day.

Ike Boruchow — Wells Fargo — Analyst

Great. Thanks.

Operator

We will now take our next question from Paul Lejuez from Citi Investments. Please go ahead.

Tracy Kogan — Citi — Analyst

Thanks. It’s Tracy Kogan filling it for Paul. I have two things. I was hoping you guys could quantify the impact of freight in 4Q, and then kind of quantify what you’re building in for the full year. And then looking at your inventories, I was wondering if you could give us a sense of inventories by brand. I assume also regionally that the US — I think you alluded to the US being leaner, but if you could just give us a sense of inventories by brand if you’re having more trouble at one brand than the other. Thanks.

Stefan Larsson — Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, Tracy. So just on the first piece, on your freight. So we have been projecting about a $20 million increase in 4Q in air freight. We realized about $10 million of that. $10 million of it actually shifted into the first quarter of 2022 that was on the cusp of the year. In 2022, year-over-year — on a full year basis, we’re estimating about $10 million to $20 million more in air freight, but in the first half, it will be a much, much more significant increase, just awaiting the first half of ’22, we’ll have a lot of air freight. The second half of 2021 had a lot of air freight.

And as far as the inventories, we’re not specifically going to talk by brand, but I mentioned in my notes that we were down 5% at the end of 2021, which is pretty much related to Heritage. If you went back to 2019 levels, we’re even not much further down double-digits. So as we get through the year, we should start to get back in, particularly once we start getting closer to the fall season. But it is a challenge across the board. We’re dealing with delays but certainly, North America is more impacted. And when you — we’ll see it by brand a little bit, as we report through 2022, North America will be a little more impacted in Tommy Hilfiger than Calvin Klein. If you think about that Calvin Klein business, it has a much higher penetration of replenishment due to the Calvin Klein underwear business. So that’s not as seasonally dependent as our Tommy Hilfiger businesses.

Tracy Kogan — Citi — Analyst

Great. Thanks very much.

Stefan Larsson — Chief Executive Officer

Thank you. And operator, we have time for one last question. Thank you.

Operator

There appear to be no further questions at this time, sir.

Stefan Larsson — Chief Executive Officer

All right. Thank you very much. Thank you, everyone, for joining. I’m looking forward to see you at our Investor Day on April 13. Thank you.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

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