With the ongoing proliferation of e-commerce, it might seem like folly to be considering retail stocks, but consider this: While e-commerce accounts for an ever-growing percentage of total retail sales -- lately about 10% -- that means that the remaining 90% is still handled by brick-and-mortar retailers. A growing number of traditional sellers are navigating the changes and incorporating online sales into their strategy, or adding omni-channel options to draw customers back to their physical stores. Still others continue to thrive by sticking to a proven business model.
Deciding which companies are positioning themselves to succeed can be a difficult process. With that in mind, we asked three Fool.com contributors to choose retailers that will stand the test of time. Read on to find out why they chose Walgreens Boots Alliance (NASDAQ:WBA), Skechers (NYSE:SKX), and Costco Wholesale Corporation (NASDAQ:COST).
A retail stalwart
Danny Vena (Costco): Many traditional stores have had difficultly with the onslaught of digital competition, but that hasn't been the case for Costco. While other retailers have struggled with comparable sales, the warehouse club has thrived, growing its same-store sales by 9.7% year over year through the first 36 weeks of 2018. Not only have the company's physical stores continued to hold their own, but Costco has succeeded in growing its online sales by 36% compared to the same period last year.
Further buttressing the company's success, Costco has continued to add to its growing customer base, and its pricing power has allowed the company to increase the annual membership fees it charges customers without a significant number of defections, boasting an impressive threshold of renewal rates that consistently hovers around 90%.
Those factors have contributed to the company's steadily improving financial metrics. Net sales so far this year have increased by a whopping 12% compared to the year-ago period, an impressive statistic for any retailer. That growth on the top line formed the foundation for Costco's growing profitability, as its net income jumped 19% year over year.
Investors have benefited from the company's impressive performance, as the stock has gained 16% so far in 2018, more than tripling the broader market's 5% return. Costco also pays a dividend that yields just over 1%, and it occasionally pays a special dividend that can significantly boost shareholder returns. The company only pays out about 33% of its profits to fund the dividend, so there's plenty of flexibility for future increases.
Costco has shown an ability to survive -- and thrive -- in a challenging retail environment, making it a retail stock to buy in July.
Walgreens stock really shouldn't be this cheap
Anders Bylund (Walgreens Boots Alliance): I'm not sure what might inspire investors to give this convenience store giant the respect it deserves. Share prices have fallen 3.5% lower over the last quarter, and 21% lower in 52 weeks, despite a string of positive earnings surprises across these periods.
Today, Walgreens shares are trading at 9.7 times forward earnings and 0.5 times trailing sales. These are deep-discount prices, normally reserved for struggling businesses with dim growth prospects. And that's not a fair picture of Walgreens at all.
Sure, the company's sales and EBITDA profit growth were stuck in neutral for a while as Walgreens digested the 2014 buyout of European peer Alliance Boots. But the stalled growth came back to life again last year, and all systems are go:
This is a multinational retail chain with healthy financial results and a generous 2.8% dividend yield. The stock is on fire sale, giving Walgreens lots of leverage to execute a brand-new $10 billion buyback program at attractive prices. Following Walgreens into this buy-in window makes all kinds of sense.
Skechers gets controversial
Nicholas Rossolillo (Skechers): The first quarter of 2018 was a good one for Skechers. Revenues and earnings increased 16.5% and 25% from a year ago, respectively. You'd never guess the report was so good if you were only looking at the subsequent 30%-plus drop the stock took, though.
The controversy wasn't over the past, but rather a seemingly more uncertain future. Skechers management said it believes expansion overseas -- especially in emerging economies -- will help sales continue to grow double-digits over the next few years. However, in the short term, some turbulence is expected. Sales for the second quarter were forecast to only increase 9% to 12%, while earnings could come in flat compared to a year ago.
Growth costs money, especially in new markets where Skechers' presence is still very small. Take China, for example, the shoe maker's fastest-growing geography. New infrastructure needs to be built, and the company's partners in China needed to delay a big shipment of shoes to the back half of 2018. Some of that is causing the forecast slowdown in quarter two, and with no mid-term guidance provided, investors got nervous that this was a sign that something was amiss.
Management tried its best on the last earnings call to shift focus toward the longer-term goal of profits later for sales growth now, and that seems to have worked to some extent. 12-month forward price to earnings for Skechers stock is a mere 12.3 compared to 27.1 on a reported trailing-12-month basis. That means analysts think the bottom line will more than double in the year ahead. If that happens, the stock is a steal right now, but even if it doesn't, Skechers is still likely a good bargain considering the double-digit momentum the shoe maker is riding with overseas consumers.