Is Oroton Australia’s best retailer?
Oroton, JB Hi-Fi, The Reject Shop, Woolworths, Nick Scali, Cash Converters. If you have seen me on Sky Business or visited my YouTube channel recently, these names will be familiar. David Jones, Country Road, Harvey Norman, Myer, Super Retail Group (think Super Cheap Auto), Strathfield Group (Strathfield Car Radios), Noni B and Kathmandu also spring to mind, albeit for different reasons.
As a business, retailers are relatively easy to understand. The best managers are easy to spot (think Oroton’s Sally MacDonald) and it is also easy to separate the businesses with earnings power from those without (compare JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman).
But generally speaking even the best retailers may not be companies you want to hold forever. Why? Because they quickly reach saturation and so must constantly reinvent themselves.
Barriers to entry are low. There are always new concepts with young, intelligent and energetic entrepreneurs eager to develop a new brand and offering. Big red SALE signs are replacing mannequins as permanent window fixtures in Australian shop fronts, driving down revenue and margins. And for those who choose to defend brand value, sales revenue is also often sacrificed.
Then there’s the twin-speed economy, a string of natural disasters, soaring oil prices, growing personal savings, higher interest rates, Australia’s small population and one that is increasingly adept at shopping online for a getter price. Hands up who wants to be a retailer?
Retailers are attractive businesses – at the right price and the right stage in their life cycle. So, in retailing, who is Australia’s good, bad and just plain ugly?
Remember, these comments are not recommendations. Conduct your own independent research and seek and take professional personal advice.
ASX:HVN, MQR: A3, MOS: -19%
A decade ago Gerry’s retail giant earned $105 million profit on $484 of equity that we put in and left in the business. That’s a return of around 19 per cent. Fast-forward to 2010 and we’ve put in another $117 million and retained an additional $1.5 billion. Despite this tripling of our commitment, however, profits have little more than doubled to $236 million. Return on equity has fallen by a third and is now about 12%. One decade of operating and the intrinsic value of Harvey Norman has barely changed. HVN is a mature business, but be warned… Harvey Norman is what JB Hi-Fi and The Reject Shop would see if they used a telescope to look forward through time.
ASX:ORL, MQR: A1, MOS: -21%
Sally MacDonald is a brilliant retailer. I highly recommend watching this interview – click here. Sally took over Oroton in 2006. In just five years she has cut loss making stores and brands, sliced overheads, improved both the quality and diversity of the range. The result? Surging revenues and return on equity in 2010 of circa 85 per cent. Try getting that in a bank account or even a term deposit! Asia offers even brighter prospects for Oroton while their product offering is sufficiently attractive and appealing that the company has the ability to weather the retail storm and protect its brand.
ASX: WOW, MQR: B1, MOS: -17%
You don’t get any bigger than Woolworths (its one of the 20 largest retailers on the planet!). It has a utility-like grip on consumers only, with earnings power that would put any utility to shame. The latter can be seen in the near 30% annualised increase in intrinsic value. Competitive position and size means suppliers and customers fund the company’s inventory. Challenges included professed legislative changes to poker machine usage (WOW is the largest owner of poker machines and any drag in revenue will have an exponential impact on profits), and the rollout of a competitor to Bunnings.
David Jones Limited
ASX: DJS, MQR: A2, MOS: -35%
A beautiful shop makes not a beautiful business. I remember when David Jones floated. Shoppers who enjoyed the ‘David Jones’ experience and were loyal to the brand bought shares with the same enthusiasm as scouring the shoe department at the Boxing Day sales. Since 2007 DJS has reduced its Net Debt/Equity ratio from 108 per cent to just under 12 per cent. We are yet to see if Paul Zahra can lead DJs with the same stewardship as former CEO Mark McInnes but as far as department stores can possibly be attractive long-term investments, DJs isn’t it.
ASX: MYR, MQR: B1, MOS: -27%
In 2009, following the release of that gleaming My Prospectus, I wrote:
“With all the relevant data to value the business now available and using the pro-forma accounts supplied in the prospectus, I value the company at between $2.67 and $2.78, substantially below the $3.90 to $4.90 being requested [by the vendors]. It appears to me that the float favours existing shareholders rather than new investors.”
My 2011 forecast value for Myer is just over $2. According to My Value.able Calculations, Myer will be worth less in 2013 than the price at which it listed in September 2010. If competitors like David Jones, Just Jeans, Kmart, Target, Big W, JB Hi-Fi, Fantastic Furniture, Captain Snooze, Sleep City, Harvey Norman, Nick Scali and Coco Republic were removed, Myer may just do alright.
ASX: NBL, MQR: A2, MOS: -51%
Noni B’s intrinsic value is the same as when Alan Kindl floated the company in 2000 (the family retained a 40% shareholding). Return on Equity hasn’t changed either. Shares on issue however have increased 50 per cent yet profits have remained relatively unchanged.
Kathmandu Holdings Limited
ASX: KMD, MQR: A3, MOS: -56%
Sixty per cent of Kathmandu’s revenues are generated in the second half of the year. Will weather patterns continue to feed this trend? I sense premature excitement following the implementation of KMD’s newly installed intranet. The system may streamline store-to-store communications, reducing costs and creating inventory-related efficiencies for the 90-store chain, however what’s stopping a competitor replicating the same out-of-the-box system?
ASX: FAN, MQR: A3, MOS: -24%
Al-ways Fan-tas-tic! Once upon a time it was. Low barriers to entry are seeing online retro furniture suppliers like Milan Direct and Matt Blatt are forcing Fantastic and other traditional players to reinvent the way they display, price and stock inventory.
ASX: BBG, MQR: A3, MOS: -49%
Billabong’s customers are highly fickle, trend conscious and anti-establishment. Like Mambo, as one of my team told me, Billabong is “so 1999 Rog”. Apparently Noosa Longboards t-shirts fall into the “cool” category, now. Groovy!
Eighty per cent of Billabong’s revenues are derived from offshore. Every one-cent rise in the Australian dollar has a half percent negative impact on net profits. Fans of the trader Jim Rogers believe the AUD could rise to USD$1.40! Then there’s the 44 stores affected by Japan’s earthquake (18 remain closed) and another three in the Christchurch earthquake.
ASX: CTY, MQR: A3, MOS: -63%).
Like the quality of their clothing, Country Road’s MQR has been erratic. So too has its value. Debt is low however cash flow is not attractive. Very expensive.
ASX: CCV, MQR: A2, MOS: +26%.
Value.able Graduates Manny and Ray H nominated CCV as their A1 stock to watch in 2011. Whilst its not yet an A1, Cash Convertors is a niche business with bight prospects for intrinsic value growth.
Other retailers to watch
I have spoken about JB Hi-Fi, Nick Scali and The Reject Shop many times on Peter Switzer’s Switzer TV and Your Money Your Call on the Sky Business Channel. Go to youtube.com/rogerjmontgomery and type “retail”, “JBH”, “TRS” or “reject” into the Search box to watch the latest videos.
In October 2009 the RBA released the following statistics:
16 million. The number of credit cards in circulation in Australia;
$3,141. The average monthly Australian credit card account balance;
US$56,000. The average mortgage, credit card and personal loan debt of every man, woman and child in Australia;
$1.2 trillion. The total Australian mortgage, credit card and personal loan debt;
$19.189 billion. The amount spent on credit and charge cards in October 2009.
Clearly we are all shoppers… what are your experiences? Who do you see as the next king of Australia’s retail landscape?
Posted by Roger Montgomery, author and fund manager, 12 April 2011.