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Harley-Davidson earnings rides or dies by its alternative data

5 months ago by Jared Russo in Earnings

Harley-Davidson ($NYSE:HOG) had its third-quarter earnings call this week, and there are lots of reasons to be suspicious of its long term prospects. Retail sales are in decline, there are steel tariffs to consider, and ridership might not be growing. We blame millennials. Harley-Davidson is getting more into advertising as a result and is spending more money, which is likely the main reason for the stock price going down. You can read more about here, especially the bits about foreign markets and manufacturing, but as always, we will focus on the alternative data.

Which is...fantastic? 

Harley-Davidson, since summer 2016, has essentially added a thousand new employees every year or so, and despite the stock price going down, they keep hiring. Will there be a reckoning between these two trends? 

From the start of the year, the job listings count has been higher than any other time for the company. It's an aggressive move, to keep so many employees and continue adding more, shelling out a lot of money to employ so many to make a lot of inventory, all to not sell as many motorcycles. 

It took two years, from 2015 to 2017, to add 100K more Twitter followers for Harley-Davidson. It'll take even longer to add another 100K from 2017 to 2021 since there's a slight plateau happening. The numbers are going up, but it's slowing ever so slightly.

Facebook likes have also reached a plateau, which starts to beg the question: is Harley-Davidson a brand people still care about like they did decades ago? Easy Rider and Peter Fonda was like, the high watermark for hogs. Those days are no longer here. That's reflected in the 'Talking About' count as well, which hit an unusual high in February 2017. The reason for that spike? This story.

About the Data: 

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

Further Reading: 

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Jared Russo

Jared is an editor for Thinknum, and has been writing for more than a decade. He previously worked at AOL, Vice, Google, Dotdash, and Sirius XM.

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