Foot Locker, Inc. (NYSE:FL) wants to become the world’s leader in athletic shoes and apparel, and currently has about 3,400 stores in 23 countries. Since hitting a low of $3.65 per share in 2009, when everything in the retail sector was being treated like it was about to go bankrupt, the stock has rebounded tremendously to the $35 or so that it trades for currently. Although I think it would be prudent for investors to take at least some of their profits off of the table, I believe this company still has some good growth ahead of it.
Foot Locker operates stores under the brand names of Foot Locker, Lady Foot Locker, Kids Foot Locker, Champs Sports, Footaction, and CCS. Foot Locker also does a substantial direct-to-customer business through its websites with the same names, as well as Eastbay, which is a leading direct marketer of athletic merchandise to high school athletes.
Foot Locker’s major supplier is NIKE, Inc. (NYSE:NKE), which provides over 60% of the company’s products. This can be a positive and a negative for Foot Locker. It is a positive because this close relationship allows Foot Locker to showcase the latest Nike products that their customers want. On the negative side, because Foot Locker is so dependent on Nike for its product offerings, it is really at Nike’s mercy when negotiating contracts and pricing. This is good for Nike (which tends to have the upper hand with all of its distribution channels, making it a good investment itself), but negative for Foot Locker.
The company expects its forward growth to come from a further differentiation between its different stores, and development of their own apparel lines to complement the branded products they sell. The company also plans to improve their direct-to-customer sales via investing in mobile commerce sites and social media.
Foot Locker has also proven itself committed to returning capital to its shareholders, with both share buybacks and dividends. The company has begun reducing the amount of outstanding shares over the past couple of years, and since 2011 has reduced the total number of shares from 156.7 million to 150.7 million.
As far as the dividend goes, the company has a very nice trend of dividend increases, and did not reduce their dividend once, even when the shares were below $4. That means that in 2009, at the lows, Foot Locker was yielding over 16%. Wow!
One of the main reasons I like Foot Locker right now is its relatively cheap valuation and its projected forward growth. Even after the amazing run the stock has had, it still only trades for 13.6 times current year earnings, which are expected to be $2.56 per share when the company reports on Feb. 26. The company is expected to grow its earnings to $2.84 and $3.14 over the next two years, for an average forward growth rate of 10.7%, which is very high for such a low P/E multiple.
Finish Line is a significantly smaller company, with 637 stores in the United States and none internationally. Finish Line currently trades at just 12.2 times earnings; however the company’s earnings are expected to decline in 2013, before rising in 2014 and 2015, with an average earnings growth rate of 7.2%.