Consistent. Boring. Stodgy. While most of the investment chatter concerns smartphones and clouds, sometimes the best growth stories look dull by comparison -- which brings me to Sally Beauty Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:SBH).
The company operates a chain of cosmetics retailers catering to women, stylists, and salons. Sally Beauty has been in business for over 50 years with 4,500 locations in over 11 different countries. In my opinion, the stock is a great buy because of the company’s growth story, expanding margins and reasonable valuation.
Over the past five years, management has delivered excellent top- and bottom-line growth. Last year, Sally Beauty grew its sales and EPS by 8% and 33% respectively.
Going forward, analysts expect EPS to grow at a 15% clip over the next five years, driven by three key factors:
Sally Beauty Holdings aims to improve profitability through a variety of initiatives. The company is changing its sales mix to emphasize higher-margin products. Management is also focusing on higher-margin retail customers and professional stylists, rather than bulk sales to salon operators.
These efforts have proved effective: Gross margins increased from 47.1% in 2009 to 49.5% in 2012.
Sally Beauty Holdings trades at 13.5 times forward earnings, making it the cheapest stock in the mid-cap cosmetics space.
Ulta Salon, Cosmetics & Fragrance, Inc. (NASDAQ:ULTA) takes most of the limelight in the industry, thanks to its spectacular 20% growth rate. However, investors are paying a big premium for growth. The stock is priced for perfection at 28.5 times forward earnings.
Sally Beauty is also attractive compared to salon operator Regis Corporation (NYSE:RGS). Regis has struggled in recent years with declining revenues and profitability. Yet despite poor operating performance, the stock commands a premium 18 times forward earnings multiple.
Sally Beauty Holdings looks even better when measured against its peers on a PEG basis. The stock trades a significant discount to comparables, with a 0.9 PEG ratio.