In just three more years, assuming things continue as they have for the past 47, Walmart (NYSE:WMT) will be crowned a Dividend King. That's a term that's not used often, simply because it applies to so few companies.
The better-known Dividend Aristocrats list consists of 57 companies that have raised their payouts annually for 25 years or more -- no easy feat. To join the Dividend Kings, an Aristocrat must double that streak to at least 50 consecutive annual payout raises. As of September 2018, there were only 13 Dividend Kings.
Walmart isn't there yet, but it just got one step closer.
Another year, another dividend hike
Walmart has announced plans to increase its annual dividend in its fiscal 2021 to $2.16 per share. That's a boost of roughly 2% from its fiscal 2020 payout of $2.12 per share. The company gave itself a well-deserved pat on the back in a press release.
"We're proud of our track record of returning meaningful cash to shareholders and are pleased to be increasing our annual dividend for the 47th consecutive year," said CFO Brett Biggs.
While dividends benefit a retirement portfolio, so does stability. Walmart's ability to continuously increase payouts to shareholders for nearly five decades shows that the retail giant has followed a remarkably consistent path. Though the marketplace in which it operates has changed repeatedly, it has dealt with those shifts without experiencing major hiccups.
Steady as she goes
Perhaps the most impressive transition Walmart has made was its adaptation to the latest evolution of retail. A more rigid company, already in possession of massive market share, might have tried to stick to the tried and true and wound up behind the curve in adopting an omnichannel model and growing its digital presence.
Instead, Walmart has been a market leader. It has invested heavily in customer-facing innovation, in revamping its supply chain to support shipping online orders from its stores, and in facilitating its "buy online, pick up in-store" option. The chain has also invested heavily in its curbside grocery pickup option, and in testing other new technologies and strategies.
All of this suggests that Walmart's leadership is focused on the future. That's a good sign for investors hoping for growth in both its stock price and its dividend payout.
A lot can happen in three years, but Walmart has a good chance of being crowned a Dividend King. The company has shown that while it's a legacy brick-and-mortar chain, it also be a digital pioneer.
Investors can be confident that while the retail market will continue to change, Walmart -- with its remarkable willingness to experiment and adapt -- should be able to adjust to whatever comes. That's something few companies have historically been able to do over the long term. Its track record thus far is a testament to the retail giant's management, and it bodes extremely well for its continued success.