After its shares rose an impressive 8% on strong earnings Wednesday, auto superstore CarMax
Wielding Occam's razor, my hunch is that the simplest answer is the correct one here: The stock price simply got ahead of the value of the company. With a trailing P/E ratio of 26, but long-term earnings growth projected at less than 18%, CarMax was simply looking too pricey by close of trading yesterday. But price aside, it's hard to argue that the company had anything but a fantastic quarter.
Sales grew 18% versus fiscal Q2 2006 on the back of a 7% rise in the number of used cars sold at "mature" stores, with new store openings contributing most of the balance of the increase. This led to a 44% rise in profits per diluted share, which at $0.50 surpassed Wall Street's best guess by a whopping 22%.
Now, there are a lot of things a Fool can say about CarMax's quarter, but I'm going to go down a road less traveled today and leave the parsing of the details to a Fool better versed in the nitty-gritty of this business. Philip Durell, lead analyst at Motley Fool Inside Value, will certainly review the company's performance in his next monthly roundup of developments at the Inside Value companies, leaving me free to focus on a couple of lines in the CEO's "business performance review" that might otherwise go unnoticed.
I quote: "We were particularly pleased with our robust sales performance given the difficult comparison with last year's second quarter when we reported 10% comps. Last year's quarter benefited from the domestic manufacturers' new car employee pricing programs, which drove traffic into the market and created greater pricing transparency."
Read that second sentence again, because I think it contains the key to CarMax's business model, its popularity with consumers, and its future success. Think back to the summer of 2005, when Ford
What CarMax CEO Tom Folliard is saying, what CarMax has known for 13 years, and what Detroit learned last year, is this: Customers hate tricks. They love simple pricing. Simply put, when a good product is offered for a reasonable price, people will buy it. More importantly to CarMax investors, when automakers sell new cars for fixed prices without all the tricks, competing head-to-head with CarMax's quality used cars on price, customers tend to prefer CarMax's value proposition. That truth bodes well for CarMax's future chances of posting many more quarters like this last one.
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