I am bearish on Bed Bath & Beyond
We'll start with my own shopping experiences. Living in a small town in New England, my family travels about thirty minutes to the nearest regional shopping center in Keene, N.H. Several years ago, Keene began developing a new shopping complex to house several national retail and restaurant chains. Among the first wave of retailers built was a Bed Bath & Beyond and a Pier 1
While I found Pier 1 to be a pleasant enough place to shop, we found little there for our needs. On the other hand, we often frequented Bed Bath & Beyond for its wide selection of more traditional home goods. However, that all changed as the next wave of stores was built, including a Target
Once Target was built, we shopped less at Bed Bath & Beyond. First, it was always quite the challenge to navigate the store's cramped aisles, especially with a shopping cart. Secondly, we haven't needed anything that could only be bought at Bed Bath & Beyond. Third, Target's diversity of inventory -- from clothing to toys to entertainment products -- offered a compelling one-stop shopping experience that covered much of what we previously purchased at Bed Bath & Beyond.
Although this is only one shopper's experience, I believe it highlights the company's lack of real competitive advantages. While the focus of product mix helps ward off some competition, Bed Bath & Beyond's success has been achieved through superior operations. Its terrific operating model and ability to expand rapidly have made for many years of storied success, regardless of its lack of competitive advantages.
However, looking forward, the company's success looks more tenuous. First, the company's growth opportunities are slowing at its core Bed Bath & Beyond stores. At a 10% compounded growth rate, it will take the company roughly five years to reach 1,300 namesake stores from its current store base. Management, realizing that saturation is approaching, invested in two newer store chains, Christmas Tree Shops and Harmon Stores. But these alternative growth strategies have yet to prove themselves, and both remain small contributors to the company's gross revenues.
While most investors agree the top line is slowing, I believe that the comparable same-store sales growth might also slip. The strength in same store-sales has been generated by taking market share from its competitors like Linens 'n Things and Pier 1. However, to continue to take market share, it must increasingly compete with much stronger competitors like Target, Wal-Mart
However, even slowing top-line growth and margin pressures aren't enough to make me bearish on a company. But add a rich valuation, and the scale has been tipped. You have to be an optimist to value Bed Bath & Beyond over $45. At $42, the company is still priced for several years of optimistic growth, assuming that the retailer doesn't suffer margin compression because of competition or increased costs associated with expanding its store base.
I modeled Bed Bath & Beyond's invested capital (roughly $4.5 billion) to grow at 10% for 5 years, tapered down to 3% at 10 years, and maintaining a 6% spread over its cost of capital. What I got was a value around $39, using a 9.8% weighted average cost of capital. Using a slightly higher cost of equity of 12% versus 11% for a weighted average capital cost of 10.7%, I would be more interested at an even lower value, $34.
Fool's final word
Bed Bath & Beyond has a solid balance sheet and a proven track record. I would be tempted to purchase the company at the right price, like when it was trading in the low $30s last July. However, I think misplaced optimism is the vote for the day. So until we see those lows again, this Fool remains a bear.
- Bed Bath & Beyond Comprehension (another bearish point)
- Fool on Call: Bed Bath & Beyond's Tub Not Full Yet
- Slower Bathing at Bed Bath & Beyond
Value investors know that price determines return. That's why they estimate the price of every business they research, just like lead analyst Philip Durell does at Inside Value. A free trial to the market-beating newsletter is but a click away.
Fool Contributor Matthew Crews welcomes your feedback -- really! He has no financial position in any of the companies mentioned. Bed Bath & Beyond and Wal-Mart are Inside Value recommendations. Bed Bath & Beyond is also a Stock Advisor selection. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.