Home improvement chain Lowe's (LOW 3.70%) is a Dividend King, which means it has raised its dividend annually for the past 50 years. That's no small feat, and it indicates the dividend is stable, if not very high-yielding, at 1.5%.
But what can investors expect from the stock price? Lowe's shares gained about 85% over the past three years, versus the S&P 500's 39% rise. Where is it going, and can it make you a millionaire?
Getting on board with digital
As recently as the fiscal 2019 fourth quarter (which was a year ago), comps were a meager 2.5%. Sales came almost entirely from physical stores, even as most of the rest of the world, including rival Home Depot (HD 3.15%), were already heavily into digital. CEO Marvin Ellison, who came on board at the end of 2018 and quickly began to revamp operations, said at that time, "We are entering 2020 from a position of strength and remain confident that our focus on retail fundamentals combined with technology improvements will continue to pay dividends across the business."
And that's what happened, and in a big way.
Throughout the pandemic, Lowe's outdid Home Depot in comps and sales growth, gaining in on Home Depot's top spot.
Fourth-quarter comps stayed strong with a 29% increase, and earnings per share rose to $1.33. DIY did better than pro, as travel is still suffering, and people are still spending on home improvement projects.
Digital increased 121%, and this was the third quarter in a row with comps over 100%. Lowe's launched curbside pickup in the first quarter and now has pickup lockers in 1,200 stores. In the fourth quarter, the company upgraded e-commerce by improving the search function and simplifying the checkout process, and is continuing to invest in its technology.
Gaining market share
On Lowe's most recent earnings call, Ellison outlined the company's total home strategy to gain market share, which includes an improved product assortment, omnichannel investments, installation services, a focus on the pro segment, and more.
One of its biggest initiatives is a complete store redesign that's project-focused instead of product-focused. Ninety-five percent of stores have already been renovated, with three objectives: greater sales from pros, since the intuitive layout means finding the products they need faster; more space for a larger products assortment; and a rearrangement of key items to drive higher sales. For pro, Lowe's rolled out a customer relationship management tool for easy transactions as well as other upgraded features to its pro loyalty program.
The company is launching its perpetual productivity improvement program for 2021, that leverages technology to make in-store operational improvements across all stores. Some of those are in-store workforce management tools and an upgraded checkout process.
Will it make you millions?
Lowe's is still far from a tech start-up that's in high-growth mode. It went public in 1961 at $12.25 per share and has gained about 12.5% annualized since then without dividends. It was certainly possible to become a millionaire if you recognized the company's potential many decades ago. The stock has gained 660% over the past 10 years.
I think Lowe's is a great company that's going places, and it's undervalued, trading at only 21 times 12-month trailing earnings. It also pays a stable and growing dividend. But it's not a high-growth stock, and you'd have to invest a lot of money and wait a long time if there would be a chance to become a millionaire from investing in Lowe's.