Even after the recent pullback, the stock market's rally the past few months has made it harder for income investors to find obvious deals. That challenge is compounded by the fact that stable dividend stocks are in higher demand right now given a potentially stubborn recession.
But there are some deals in these niches if you know where to look. With that search in mind, let's review at a few relative bargains in the dividend stock arena.
Like most of its retailing rivals, Kroger (KR -0.32%), the world's largest supermarket chain, is enjoining a sustained sales boost and surging profitability amid the pandemic. Revenue jumped 15% in the fiscal second quarter (which ended Aug. 15) to mark just a slight slowdown from the pandemic-fueled 19% spike in its first quarter (which ended May 23).
But Kroger looks cheap compared to its peers. The stock recently traded at roughly 0.2 times annual sales, compared to over 0.7 times for big-box grocery rivals Walmart, Target, and Costco Wholesale. It also pays a meatier dividend yield than these retailers at just over 2%, with a payout ratio under 20% in the two most recent quarters (payout ratio shows what percentage of a company's earnings are going to pay the dividend, so lower is usually better).
Sure, Kroger's growth rate was unimpressive before the pandemic struck -- about 2% on an annualized basis over the past three fiscal years -- and there's a chance it might return to that disappointing pace once the COVID-19 threat abates. But the supermarket giant also has a good shot at converting many of its new shoppers into loyal customers, which would support market-beating investor returns from here.
Deals are especially hard to find in the home improvement industry, where sales are being pushed higher by unprecedented demand for products and materials that can upgrade and beautify the home. But investors might want to consider Lowe's (LOW 2.45%) as an attractive option.
The big-box retailer is valued at a discount when compared to Home Depot. That contrast has persisted in recent months, too, even as Lowe's closed the performance gap with its chief competitor. That shift implies that the industry's second-biggest player might be raising its game in a sustainable way under CEO Marvin Ellison, who used to work at Home Depot.
But income investors might be just as happy collecting Lowe's dividend, which currently yields 1.5%. At less than 35% of annual earnings, that payout has room to rise and is covered by ample cash flow. These assets help explain why Lowe's maintained its Dividend Aristocrat status -- even through the last housing crash -- and could easily survive another recession.
GPS tech device giant Garmin (GRMN 3.54%) has a lot going for it as an investment. The business achieved surprisingly strong sales growth and rising profitability in each of the last three fiscal years, as parts of its product portfolio -- including fitness trackers, smartwatches, and aircraft navigation devices -- more than offset its shrinking automotive segment.
Those positive trends have stalled due to COVID-19 impacts this year, but Garmin is still showing off its financial strength. Sales were flat over the six months that ended in late June, while operating margin only dropped to 21% of sales, from 24% a year earlier. A strong holiday season could be enough to lift both Garmin's sales growth and its profitability through the second half of the year. That might help shares return to positive territory after trailing the market through late September.
Investors can think longer-term with this stock, though. Garmin is likely to capitalize on its innovation-fueled market share gains in niches like boating, aviation, and wearable tech over the next several years. That process should provide strong earnings growth to value-conscious investors, and impressive returns supported by a dividend yielding 2.6% (with a manageable 59% payout ratio).