Yes, these three stocks make strange bedfellows, but their common link is that each is a rebuy for the real-money portfolio I run for the Motley Fool.
The portfolio is banking-centric, so it's no surprise that Fifth Third Bancorp (NASDAQ:FITB) is on the list. As for the two retailers, I see promise in their futures despite some recent drops in their stock prices.
Let's start with Fifth Third.
I've been a long-term bull on banking for years now as the sector continues its recovery -- both financially and reputationally -- from the financial crisis. Even now, six or seven years from the events of 2007 and 2008, banking is a sector many won't touch.
And for good reason. It's a complex industry with many lingering risks.
Personally, though, I love analyzing banks and trying to sort out the ones worth the risk. My first purchase of Fifth Third for my portfolio was back in August 2008. It's more than doubled in price since then in a rising market, but I still like what I see.
It's basically solid across the board. Its lending metrics, its balance sheet, its leverage, its returns on assets and equity, and its efficiency are all doing well while its price continues to be reasonable -- a price-to-tangible-book multiple of 1.5 and a price to earnings ratio of 12.
Meanwhile, Whole Foods (NASDAQ: WFM) and The Container Store (NYSE:TCS) both go after affluent customers who are willing to pay up for quality (however that's defined). They've both also seen some cheaper prices on their stocks due to growth concerns.
In Whole Foods' case, the worry is that more and more retailers are jumping on the organics bandwagon, offering cheaper or more convenient options to Whole Foods. In its latest quarter, its comparable store sales increased 3.9%, which would be fine for most other retailers. But Whole Foods watchers are used to even more success (it's comp growth the previous year's quarter was 7.5%). Its 25 times earnings price tag would seem to imply that as well.
However, as I laid out a few months ago, I think Whole Foods is unique in the organics space and has a good deal of growth in front of it no matter how many imitators come out of the woodwork.
Meanwhile, the Container Store would kill for Whole Foods' comps. Its most recent quarter actually saw a decline. Here's a snippet of how its Chairman and CEO Kip Tindell explained it:
Net sales were $173.4 million in first quarter, an increase of 8.6% over first quarter of fiscal 2013. We thought our sluggish sales were all because of weather and calendar shifts that began last November and continued into the spring, but now we've come to realize it's more than weather and calendar. Consistent with so many of our fellow retailers, we are experiencing a retail "funk". Our comparable store sales declined 0.8%, in the first quarter.
For the full year, The Container Store expects low, positive comp growth of 1.5%-2.5%. That's not inspiring growth for a company that wasn't profitable over the last 12 months.
Still, like with Whole Foods, I'm looking long term. I believe in the passion The Container Store's core customers have for its products and store experience. And I believe in the management team's ability to continue to focus on its organization niche and creatively grow the business. You can read more of my thoughts here.
John Mackey, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Anand Chokkavelu, CFA owns shares of Fifth Third Bancorp, The Container Store Group, and Whole Foods Market. The Motley Fool recommends The Container Store Group and Whole Foods Market. The Motley Fool owns shares of Fifth Third Bancorp, The Container Store Group, and Whole Foods Market. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.