Big portions of the country endured an unusually cold spring season, and that inclement weather kept a lid on customer traffic at many of America's biggest retailers. Yet several companies managed to post impressive sales and profit gains despite the temperature challenges.
Below, three Fool.com contributors highlight a few of these market-beating stocks, with an eye toward their long-term growth potential. Read on to see why now might be the right time to invest in Home Depot (NYSE:HD), Costco (NASDAQ:COST), and RH (NYSE:RH).
Demitri Kalogeropoulos (Home Depot): The big fear around owning brick-and-mortar retailers right now is that they'll eventually either yield their market share to e-commerce specialists or suffer plunging profitability as they transition into multichannel businesses.
Home Depot isn't showing signs of experiencing either of those depressing fates. Instead, the home improvement giant's sales and profitability numbers are strengthening even though e-commerce recently crossed 6% of its broader business. These positive trends aren't simply a consequence of a healthy housing market, either. Home Depot routinely beats rival Lowe's on operating metrics like comparable-store sales and profitability and on efficiency metrics like return on invested capital.
The retailer announced a rare decline in customer traffic last month, but executives said shoppers came streaming back into its aisles as soon as the winter thaw hit. In fact, Home Depot noticed a double-digit sales spike in early May, which suggests all the seasonal sales that didn't happen in the first quarter will likely occur in Q2.
That should keep the company in good shape to grow sales at a 5% pace in 2018 on the way to passing $120 billion in annual sales by 2020. Sure, investors have to pay up for that outperformance. But Home Depot shares deserve a healthy premium that reflects its dominant market position and rock-solid finances.
An Amazon-proof giant
Jeremy Bowman (Costco Wholesale): Arguably no brick-and-mortar retailer has performed better in recent years than Costco Wholesale. At a time when many retailers are closing stores and losing sales, Costco manages to deliver strong comparable-sales growth every quarter, like clockwork.
In the third quarter, comps adjusted for fuel and foreign exchange were up 7%, and that figure is up 6.7% through the first three quarters of the fiscal year. In comparison, Costco's closest rivals are growing much more slowly. Walmart has been putting up comparable-sales growth of around 2% for the past few years, and at Sam's Club, Walmart's membership-based warehouse chain, comparable sales increased 3.8% in the most recent quarter. Target, meanwhile, was rejoicing as traffic increased 3.7% in its most recent quarter, its fastest growth in more than a decade.
Costco's membership model and rock-bottom prices continue to draw customers, and the company is making smart moves to adapt to changing shopping habits. It's partnered with Instacart to offer same-day delivery on perishables and now offers two-day delivery on non-perishables with a $75 order minimum. As a result, e-commerce sales are up 35% so far in fiscal 2018, and the online channel should continue to offer a growth opportunity for the company.
Costco continues to open new stores as well, as its unique combination of bulk products at unbeatable prices, the "treasure hunt" effect, and valuable add-on services like optical, fuel, and travel has made Costco one of the few retailers that appear to be Amazon-proof.
Coming off another strong earnings report, I'd expect more gains ahead for the warehouse giant.
This retailer is back in style
Steve Symington (RH): RH may have popped more than 30% earlier this week after it posted strong quarterly results -- including slightly lower revenue but exceptional earnings relative to expectations -- but I think the home-furnishings retailer could have more room to run.
After all, investors ferociously bid up RH stock after its report when the company made it clear it's succeeding as it pertains to maximizing earnings rather than chasing revenue growth for the sake of growth.
"We will restrain ourselves from chasing low-quality sales at the expense of profitability like many in our industry," explained RH CEO Gary Friedman, "and instead focus on building an operating platform that will enable us to compete and win over the long term."
Furthermore, RH predicts that while this fiscal year will be spent continuing to execute its new business model, streamlining its operations, and boosting cash flow, it also believes that next fiscal year will bring a "pivot to high quality, sustainable growth."
Of course, you may want to let the dust settle a bit after this week's big pop before you dive right in. But if all goes as planned, I think RH's recent gains will prove to be only the beginning of a longer-term trend.