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Given the economic "new normal," more and more people might become crafty "makers" instead of the voracious "consumers" they were before the economic crisis. Jo-Ann Stores (NYSE: JAS ) could be a beneficiary of such a change of heart.
Jo-Ann Stores, which was founded in 1943, provides fabrics and crafts supplies. It's a huge segment. According to the Craft & Hobby Association, 56% of American households participated in such activities in 2009, and the market opportunity represents $30 billion in annual sales. Jo-Ann attempts to drive additional sales and lure loyal repeat customers through initiatives like craft classes, as well as having a workforce that is strong on crafting enthusiasts.
Jo-Ann Stores competes with several specialized retail names, like A.C. Moore (Nasdaq: ACMR ) , Michaels, Hobby Lobby, and Hancock Fabrics, as well as large mass-merchant retailers. One event that's been helpful to Jo-Ann Stores and its ilk is that discount retail giant Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) has sheared fabric departments from some of its stores.
Jo-Ann Stores has been solidly profitable and increasing sales for several years. In the fiscal year ended January 2010, its sales increased 4.7% to $1.99 billion and earnings hit $2.51 per share. It also has a stellar balance sheet, with $126.1 million in cash, and no debt. So, its market cap of $1.2 billion is more than 10% cash.
Conversely, publicly traded rival A.C. Moore has struggled with dwindling sales and profitability over recent years. In the fiscal year ended January 2010, its sales dropped 12.3%, to $468.9 million and it posted a loss of $1.15 per share. Its market cap is currently just $60 million.
Granted, A.C. Moore is a smaller company overall, with around 135 stores focusing on the East Coast, compared to Jo-Ann Stores' national presence with 746 stores in 48 states. Still, the comparison shows Jo-Ann Stores is a stronger stock, and with a PEG ratio of 0.8, it looks like a bargain, too.
With so many Americans worried about the economy and their own livelihoods, a backlash against rampant bubble-driven consumerism could make life tough for many retailers like Bed Bath & Beyond (Nasdaq: BBBY ) , bebe (Nasdaq: BEBE ) , and Coldwater Creek (Nasdaq: CWTR ) , all of which face tons of competition on a good day. On the other hand, Jo-Ann Stores looks likely to benefit from a recession-resistant drive for fun one makes for oneself, as Americans adjust to the "new normal."