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A Cold Wind Blew Through Home Depot's Latest Earnings Report

By Motley Fool Staff – May 21, 2018 at 6:35AM

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The home-improvement retailer may be Amazon-proof, but it’s not entirely chill-resistant.

In this segment of the MarketFoolery podcast, host Chris Hill is joined by Foolish investor-at-large Tim Hanson to discuss the most recent earnings report from Home Depot (HD 0.67%), which was a bit of a disappointment.

The reason that management pointed to -- rough weather in April -- is one that is sometimes overused by companies looking to explain away bad quarters, but in this case, it's reasonable. The Fools consider what the home-improvement giant has been doing well, where its growth story is headed, and the degree to which the sales it lost this spring were only deferred, not denied.

A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on May 15, 2018.

Chris Hill: Let's start with Home Depot, their first quarter report that came out this morning. Their profits were better than expected. Overall sales were down a little bit. Their same-store sales were down a little bit. The stock fell, I don't know, it was down 1.5%, something like that. This really did seem like one of those situations where, not that Home Depot was ducking any responsibility, but they were just saying on the conference call, very matter-of-factly, "Yeah, the weather in April was pretty bad, and we got affected by that."

Tim Hanson: Yeah. Sometimes we laugh at companies that blame the weather, because there are some companies that shouldn't be affected by weather that use the weather as a convenient excuse. But in the case of Home Depot, it's a very reasonable explanation, and one that we've seen in other companies in this space. It stayed colder longer, and obviously that prevents a lot of things from happening in the springtime. You don't get out in the garden as soon, so you're not buying seasonal items, maybe you're not doing some repairs around the house in preparation for the warmer weather, restaining the deck, things of that nature.

But, overall, they maintained guidance for the year, so they expect those sales to show back up again. Home Depot has been a multi-year tremendous retail story. At a time when Amazon is really causing weakness in a lot of parts of the retail sector, Home Depot has done a wonderful job of leveraging not only the proximity of all their stores to Americans to sell to DIY people, but their professional business is growing really nicely. Also, they're quietly building a pretty good e-commerce business, as well.

So, a lot of tailwinds for Home Depot. Particularly, the housing starts continue to go up. That's a huge tailwind for Home Depot, especially as millennials and people start moving out of their parents' basements, that should benefit Home Depot for years to come. I think it's a pretty interesting stock to take a look at.

Hill: When you look at the same-store sales and they break it out by month, you really see the effect of the bad weather in April, which was much colder and snowier than we typically see. In February, same-store sales were about 5.5%. March, almost 6%. And that falls off a shelf to about 2%.

Hanson: Yeah, it was a legit excuse. Like I said, Scotts Miracle-Gro reported earnings not too long ago, and their results were much poorer, because obviously, from a seasonal perspective, they're almost pure-play gardening. And they reported the same problem. So, it's a credible explanation. They maintained guidance for the year. And Home Depot has been doing a lot of things right with regards to being a retailer.

Hill: We'll come back to Scotts in just a second. One more thing in terms of the rest of the fiscal year for Home Depot. We've talked before about, look, when there are weather events, particularly in the winter, like significant events, blizzards, that sort of thing -- if you're a restaurant, if you're a coffee shop, if you're Starbucks or Chipotle or whoever, and you're losing sales due to weather, you're not getting those back.

Hanson: Yeah. You don't buy two cups of coffee on Tuesday because it was closed on Monday.

Hill: I mean, I do. But I'm making a couple of trips every day. But, with auto companies, when they're dealing with adverse weather, look, if you need to buy a new car and you can't get out because there's bad snow or whatever, there's bad weather, well, you're going to go back the next week or a couple weeks later. Is Home Depot in that second category? Because it kind of seems like, look, if you need gardening supplies, if you need to do repairs around the house, maybe you don't get out there in April when it's snowing. But, those are sales that just get pushed off by a few weeks.

Hanson: Yeah, I would say that's the right way to think about it. It's deferred business, rather than business that disappeared. If people aren't buying a home, if they didn't get a chance go out to open houses over the weekend because of poor weather, that's not going to cause them to go like, "You know what? Forget that whole home buying thing. We didn't get around to it last weekend, let's just wait." So, yeah, I think this business will show back up in the next quarter. Obviously, they already have some visibility the next quarter since it is the next quarter, and they maintained their guidance for the year, so that probably tells you all you need to know about that particular secular trend.

Hill: And probably safe to assume that whenever Lowe's reports their report --

Hanson: It'll rhyme, yeah.

Hill: -- their April is probably going to look a lot like Home Depot's.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Chris Hill owns shares of Amazon and Starbucks. Tim Hanson owns shares of Amazon and Starbucks. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon, Chipotle Mexican Grill, and Starbucks. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $110 calls on Home Depot. The Motley Fool recommends Home Depot and Lowe's. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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