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Retail’s Sole Survivor?

“It is tough out there,” VF Corp. CEO Eric Wiseman told Mad Money on Wednesday. Consumer confidence is way down as the American economy continues to weaken, so shoppers aren’t spending like they used to. Not that Cramer needed convincing. The only retailer he’s been recommending is Wal-Mart , and even that company’s laying off workers.

But while traffic may be down, its conversion that’s keeping VF Corp. above water during this recession. Wiseman said the company’s “compelling brands” – North Face, Vans, Nautica, Wrangler, JanSport, Lee and Eastpak – have enticed even the most timid consumers to open their wallets. And that’s without sales or discounts. Wiseman has refused to cut prices in order to maintain the value of those brands.

That’s why, despite a slowdown in its own stores, VFC is still registering positive comp sales. Even the fourth quarter was in the black, and Wiseman expects to deliver the same for 2009.

International sales also are growing, with revenues generated outside the U.S. accounting for 31% of business in 2008. That’s up from 27% in 2007. China, in particular, has been booming, and VFC expects to see 25% growth there this year.

“That has been a success story for us,” Wiseman said of his overseas business. “We’re going to continue to invest in it.”

VF Corp. is a well-known player in the M&A market, and with stocks beaten so low this looks like a good time to buy. Wiseman admitted his firm is “clearly active in that area, and there’s never been more interesting opportunities.”

“There’s lots of great brands to look at,” he said, “and we are looking.”

Oh, and don’t worry about that dividend. “We are committed to paying” it, the CEO said. VFC offers a 4.1% yield.

“I like the stock,” Cramer said. He’s bullish on VFC.






Cramer's charitable trust owns Wal-Mart Stores.

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