Should You Buy the Dip at Dick's?

Leo is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.

Dick’s Sporting Goods (NYSE: DKS), the American sports superstore that also operates Golf Galaxy, recently stunned investors with bleak fourth quarter earnings and a soft outlook for the coming year. As a result, shares plunged more than 10% after its fourth quarter earnings announcement on March 11.

In my opinion, this panicked sell-off has created a possible investment opportunity for patient investors. In this article I’ll examine the strengths and weaknesses of Dick's, which survived the recession and emerged far stronger than many of its industry peers.

Fourth Quarter and Full Year

For its fourth quarter, Dick’s Sporting Goods earned $1.03 per share, or $129.7 million, a 17% increase from the $0.88 per share, or $111.1 million, it reported a year earlier. Yet that missed the Thomson Financial estimate of $1.06 per share.

Revenue came in at $1.81 billion, a 12% gain from the prior year’s $1.61 billion, but it also came up short of the consensus estimate of $1.87 billion.

Looking ahead, things don't look much better.

For its first quarter, Dick’s expects to earn $0.47 to $0.49 per share in the first quarter, below the average forecast of $0.50.

For next year, the company forecasts earnings of $2.84 to $2.86 per share, lower than the consensus estimate of $2.92 per share.

Granted, these numbers weren't great - but were they really bad enough to justify such a slide? Let’s delve into the company’s strengths and weaknesses.

That crazy weather

During the winter, Dick’s reported strong sales of athletic footwear, clothing and hunting products. The strength in these categories was in line with growth across the overall industry. Athletic footwear and apparel retailer Foot Locker recently posted robust same-store sales growth, while gun makers Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger & Co. both reported strong demand for hunting rifles.

However, those gains were offset by lower sales of fitness products, outerwear and cold weather accessories. The company attributed this decline to an unusually warm December followed by a colder January and February in many parts of the country.

CEO Edward Stack stated that the warm December caused the company to reduce inventory levels of cold weather merchandise in anticipation of a warmer January and February, to “align with lower consumer demand and avoid carrying over excess inventory.”

Although that was a shrewd move to manage inventory and protect margins, it limited the retailer’s ability to capitalize on the unexpected surge in demand for cold weather merchandise in January and February. As a result, inventory per square foot rose 0.7% from the prior year quarter.

Margins and expenses

The company’s margins have remained relatively stable over the past three years since the recession.

DKS Operating Margin TTM data by YCharts

However, a divergence of operating and profit margins in early 2012, coupled with a sudden surge in SG&A (sales, general and administrative) expenses sticks out like a sore thumb - but investors shouldn't be too concerned, since the company still has $294.49 million in cash and only $22.74 million in outstanding long-term debt.

Same-store sales & expansion

During the quarter, Dick’s reported weak consolidated same-store sales growth of 1.2%. Both segments posted fairly weak growth, but online sales surged.

Same-store Sales Growth by Segment (Brick & Mortar and E-Commerce Separated):

  • Dick's Sporting Goods: -2.2%
  • Golf Galaxy: +1.3%
  • E-commerce: +54.2%

However, since its e-commerce segment includes online sales from Dick’s and Golf Galaxy, we should also look at same-stores sales by chain, with e-commerce included.

Same-store Sales Growth by Chain (Brick & Mortar and E-Commerce Combined):

  • Dick's Sporting Goods: +1.2%
  • Golf Galaxy: +1.3%

As we can see, Dick’s namesake stores were the primary beneficiary of its e-commerce business. For the full year, same-store sales across all segments rose an average of 4.3%.

During the quarter, the company opened seven new Dick’s Sporting Goods stores. The company finished the fourth quarter with 518 Dick’s Sporting Goods stores in 44 states, and 81 Golf Galaxy stores in 30 states.

The company also plans to spend the remainder of 2013 investing in areas of higher growth. These include:

  • Remodeling existing stores
  • Testing "pick-up in store," meaning online purchases can be instantly picked up at retail locations
  • Strengthening mobile capabilities via improved mobile sites and apps
  • Implementing "new systems" and "new concepts" in stores to spur growth

In addition, the company recently approved a stock repurchase plan of $1 billion to be implemented over the next five years. Although I’m not a big fan of stock repurchases - since that money could be better spent elsewhere on new innovations and store expansions - buying back stock after its recent plunge should be beneficial to existing shareholders.

Versus Competitors

Dick’s directly competes against Cabelas (NYSE: CAB) and Hibbett Sports (NASDAQ: HIBB), and is an indirect competitor to superstore Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT), which also offers a wide selection of sporting goods. How does Dick’s fare against these companies on a fundamental basis?

  Market Cap Forward P/E 5-year PEG Price to Sales (ttm) Debt to Equity Return on Equity (ttm) Profit Margin
Dick’s Sporting Goods $5.53 billion 15.45 1.38 1.10 1.33 16.65% 4.82%
Cabelas Incorporated $3.78 billion 15.10 1.07 1.24 180.89 13.57% 5.57%
Hibbett Sports $1.33 billion 17.01 1.18 1.73 1.05 32.54% 8.72%
Wal-Mart $243.75 billion 12.43 1.62 0.52 65.81 22.42% 3.62%
Advantage   Wal-Mart Cabelas Wal-Mart Hibbett Hibbett Hibbett

Source: Yahoo Finance, March 12.

Hibbett, which is the smallest of Dick’s rivals, has the advantage of growth, enhanced by stronger margins, lower debt and better past performance. Meanwhile, based on 5-year PEG ratios - which can be inaccurate due to unforeseen macro factors - Cabelas has a slight edge in growth. Yet Dick’s is still a healthy company, with very low debt levels and cheap forward valuations.

A look at top and bottom line growth over the past three years also confirms this view.

DKS EBITDA TTM data by YCharts

All three sporting goods companies have posted strong top and bottom line growth over the past three years. The fact that Dick’s bottom line growth is outpacing its top line growth is also encouraging, since this usually indicates that margins are healthy and its operating model is efficient.

The Foolish Bottom Line

Although it appears that Dick’s will have a rough year ahead, its fundamentals indicate that its long-term growth is still intact. Investors in Dick’s and its industry peers should remember that its industry is cyclical and can be swayed by weather conditions and macroeconomic problems. While the stock is down roughly 5% over the past 12 months, it has actually risen 70% over the past five years, and 700% over the past decade - which makes it a viable stock to buy and hold for the long run.


Leo Sun has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. 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. Is this post wrong? Click here. Think you can do better? Join us and write your own!

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