Some prospective buyers of stocks might think that they need a considerable amount of money to deliver impactful returns. Consequently, a $1,000 starting point might not sound significant.
BJ's had long suffered from stagnant growth and heavy debts. Though it has existed for about as long as rival Costco Wholesale, it has remained a regional player. In contrast, Costco has opened warehouses in nearly every U.S. state and on four continents.
However, BJ's benefited from an event that deeply harmed most businesses: the pandemic. It has emphasized groceries and aimed for package sizes that more closely approximate popular grocery store items. This approach helped to bring it double-digit revenue growth that sent profits surging by triple digits in 2020.
BJ's used this money to reduce its debt dramatically. That gave it funding to open more warehouses, allowing it to add stores in current markets and expand its footprint. It currently serves 17 states on or close to the East Coast. Now, multiple sources indicate its 18th state will be Tennessee, continuing its slow march westward.
Such expansions helped boost sales growth as revenue for fiscal 2021 (which ended Jan. 29) came in at $16.7 billion, 8% higher than in 2020. While that did not exceed the 17% revenue growth in fiscal 2020, it significantly outpaces the 1% revenue increase during fiscal 2019.
But adjusted net income of $449 million came in only 5% higher in 2021 as supply chain challenges led to a 9% increase in the cost of sales. Increased selling, general, and administrative expenses also weighed on earnings amid rising labor costs.
Admittedly, such struggles continue. The company forecasts mid-single-digit revenue increases and flat earnings per share amid the challenges.
Nonetheless, those concerns did not stop BJ's stock from rising 56% over the last year, and at just under $70 per share, it is affordable for small investors. Also, at 22 times earnings, it remains cheaper than rival Costco, which sells for 47 times earnings. As it frees itself from debt and adds stores at a faster pace, BJ's looks like a top value stock to buy right now.
Another niche retailer freeing itself from the threat of large competitors is Wayfair. It emerged as an "Amazon for furniture," building a fulfillment network designed to ship bulk goods. It also applied technology to draw buyers, using machine learning and 3D imaging to better market its products.
Still, like many e-commerce companies, its performance suffered as consumers emerged from lockdowns and returned to previous offline shopping options. In 2021, overall revenue of $13.7 billion decreased by 3% from 2020 levels. This led to a net loss of $131 million, down from the $185 million profit Wayfair earned in 2020. Despite lower revenue, selling, operations, technology, general, and administrative expenses increased amid higher labor and information-technology costs.
Nonetheless, Wayfair reported some promising news. In the fourth quarter, repeat customers made up more than 76% of the orders, up from 73% in the year-ago quarter. Also, international sales, which accounted for 18% of revenue in 2021, rose 10%. This shows that it might have only just begun to cover its potential addressable market.
Wayfair predicts the struggles will continue in the first quarter since that period is typically a time of lower activity. It also expects activity in the first quarter of 2022 to decline since government spending bolstered revenue in the year-ago quarter through short-term stimulus.
Fear of this continuing slowdown partly led to the consumer discretionary stock falling by more than 65% over the last year. It has also dropped 21% over the previous three years as Wayfair gave back most of its gains following the downturn in early 2020.
But the good news is that at just over $110 per share, $1,000 will buy almost three times as many shares as it did one year ago. Also, it now registers a price-to-sales ratio of 0.9. This is the lowest sales multiple in its history except for the sharp sell-off in early 2020. Moreover, revenue grew 50% compared with 2019 levels, meaning it far exceeds pre-pandemic levels. That longer-term pattern could eventually point to a recovery for Wayfair and its stock.