What we are looking for?
With Black Friday still fresh in our minds we decided to look at North American retailers that may look tempting based on yield but that face deteriorating economics. More precisely we selected dividend-paying stocks and we screened them based profitability trends and other fundamental quality criteria.
We screened for consumer discretionary stocks based in North America, specifically, those stocks listed in the subsectors of retailing or consumer durables and apparel. We then added the following criteria:
- A market capitalization greater than US$1-billion;
- Stocks must pay a dividend;
- Return on capital (ROC) of less than 10 per cent in the past 12 months;
- Declining ROC over the past 24 months;
- Negative stock price change over the last 12 months;
- Declining economic value-added (EVA) per share over the past 12 months.
- Declining sales in the last 12 months.
What we found
There are four retailer stocks that meet our criteria in the North American markets. All are U.S.-based brick and mortar retailers: Children’s Place Inc., Bed Bath & Beyond Inc., Gap Inc. and Macy’s Inc. The Children’s Place operates as a children’s specialty apparel retailer with its network of speciality stores. Bed Bath & Beyond operates retail stores that sells domestics merchandise, including bed linens, bath items, kitchen textiles; and home furnishings products. The Gap operates outlets under the Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic, and other brands. Macys operates department stores under the Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s names as well as a network specialty stores. The reality is that these four retailers are under pressure as online retailers continue gaining market shares.
Topping our list, ranked by dividend yield, is Macy’s. The stock is currently yielding 9.9 per cent. While providing an eye-popping payout, Macy’s is facing profitability challenges as measured by ROC and EVA measures. It is also experiencing declining sales. It will be hard for its board to keep paying this dividend to shareholders unless management succeed in turning around the economics of the business. Given how badly a stock price can react when shareholders are faced with a dividend cut, it’s better to avoid such stocks even if, at first sight, the yield looks attractive.
Investors are advised to do further research before investing in any of the companies shown here.
||R/C Ch. 24M
||Price Var. 12M
||EVA Ch. 12M
||Sales Ch. 12M
||Bed Bath & Beyond
Christian Godin is a portfolio manager at Inovestor Asset Management.