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Small Cap Low-Risk Pick No. 1: Carter's Inc.

By Motley Fool Staff - Apr 8, 2016 at 12:19PM

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David Gardner explains why the children's clothing company makes a great investment.

Sometimes a company that has been around forever -- one that isn't breaking any technological ground or wowing anyone with newness -- stands out for how well it executes. Carter's (CRI 0.07%) is a baby and toddler clothing retailer that's been around for a century and a half, and it meets that criteria.

In this clip from the Rule Breaker Investing podcast, David Gardner explains why this less-than-buzzy pick is so appealing to him as an investor, and how the global economy is affecting its business now that the U.S. dollar is as strong as it is.

Check out David Gardner's other favorite companies:

A transcript follows the video.

This podcast was recorded on Feb. 10, 2016. 

David Gardner: What I was specifically looking for are very low-risk companies, that's attribute No. 1. These are typically -- for those who don't know our risk rating system, the lower the number, the lower the risk -- these are around 5 or 6, most of the stocks that I'll be mentioning. 

But then, the other thing I was looking for are companies that are smaller. Not great big companies like AppleAmazonDisney. By the way, all three of those companies are down 20% in the last three months, in excess of 20%. So, if you're wondering how bad things have been, that's pretty bad for the market.

If you're thinking this is just going to continue, I doubt it.

So, these are not the Apples, Amazons, and Disneys, because those are companies with very large market capitalizations, usually 12 figures, $100 billion plus. I'm looking at companies that are more in the $1 billion to $5 billion range. And why do I like these companies right now? These are the stocks that tend to bounce back stronger, usually.

They snap back higher because they've taken a bigger hit than the big companies, usually. They're more volatile, they're smaller, but since I'm really not even thinking about bounce-backs, I'm thinking about three-plus years, I like these stocks anyway. So, I think they have -- as lighter-weight companies -- an opportunity to go higher than some of those other companies I just mentioned.

So, those are the two attributes. Again: lower-risk companies that are smaller. And here come my five, in no particular order. For each of these, I'll be mentioning a general investing principle that underlies this pick as well. I'm going to talk about a few things I like about the company, and then I'll add one note of caution for each of these as well, just to round things out.

First up this week is Carter's. Now, you may know Carter's. You may know their OshKosh B'Gosh brand. I certainly see it in the stores. This is a company that's been around for decades, and is really a leader in something that's never going to change: cute clothes for babies, for little kids, for toddlers. This is a branded, long-term leader in the space, but also a company that is experiencing rapid growth in e-commerce, because you can go and buy clothes directly from them online.

So they're participating there. They're not threatened by e-commerce; they're part of the revolution. They're also expanding internationally. So, decades after their founding, they're just starting to make real incursions into China. And you probably know, China has babies. That happens in China, there are a lot of babies. In fact, it's nice to know that if you're a Chinese citizen today, you can actually have more than one child for the first time in quite a while, which is very promising. 

Anyway, Carter's, this is the business. Perhaps you're a customer. But a company with share buybacks, dividends, and just an impressive company overall. Let me mention: This company has a risk rating of 5. And the stock was recently -- when I did this podcast -- at about $86 per share. This is a company worth about $4.5 billion today. 

I want to mention, for each of these, how I've done with the picks so far. You might be interested. We first picked this in Motley Fool's Stock Advisor in April of 2014. So here we are, just about two years later, the stock's up 18%. Not bad. Hasn't lit the world on fire, but the S&P 500, by comparison, is up 3%. So this company is beating the market by about 15 percentage points so far. And I like it a lot for the long term.

One note for caution for each of these. For this one: The strong dollar, which is true today -- the American dollar has appreciated dramatically against many worldwide currencies. The U.S. economy is kind of a safe haven. And that hurts companies like, in this case, Carter's, when they're trying to sell their products abroad. So, their manufactured goods, in this case, their apparel, their threads, just have a higher price tag if you're looking at them in China today than they would have a few years ago. So that dampens some of their international growth possibilities in the near term. But this is a cautionary note that is not a long-term cautionary note, it's just something about the here and now.

And then, my closing general investing principle that Carter's, I think, highlights for us as investors: I love businesses that deliver over decades. That please consumers, particularly. Companies that can create consumer brands over multiple generations. That's not easy to do.

And further, this is a lesser-known company. You probably were expecting me to lead off Rule Breaker Investing with my favorite tech stock, whatever that phrase means. But, my favorite tech stock? No. Actually, I'm leading off with Carter's. And one thing I like about Carter's is, it is lesser-known. It's not something you'd expect, maybe, from Rule Breaker Investing or for your friend at the water cooler to be talking about. But these are the kinds of companies that really do return well for us as investors over long periods of time.

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