When I think of the Jos. A. Bank (JOSB), I think of Yogi Berra's saying "Nobody goes there because it is too crowded."
Only in the case of JOSB, it sounds like this: "EVERYBODY goes there because it is NOT crowded." As most men who shop there will attest, you are lucky to see and handful of customers shop at there at once at any given time. Nevertheless, it seems that JOSB operates in a very different economy and there is an incredible disconnect between its performance this year and the rest of the economy as well as other retailers.
JOSB reported 3rd quarter numbers couple of days ago and they were stellar even by a healthy economy's standards.
They were truly incredible considering that negative double-digit same-store sales for retailers have become the norm. JOSB reported same store sales of 7% for the quarter (the company doesn't report monthly numbers anymore). Total sales were up 13.7%. Operating profits before taxes were up 20.3%. Cash was up year-over-year, and inventory growth lagged sales. Every single metric was simply beautiful.
A great number of the company's stores were opened over the last three years which puts them in the category of “immature.” New stores, almost by definition, generate lower sales than mature stores. As stores mature, same store sales rise and profit margins expand. In addition, the company is able to spread advertising dollars against a large store base, which is another reason why the margins increased.
By the year-end JOSB should have over $100 mln of cash, which is about a quarter of its market cap. The margin expansion may actually continue into next year. JOSB said that it will slow down store openings next year but it will increase offerings of big and tall merchandise. I believe this will help JOSB generate more free cash flow as well as drive (a much higher margin) same store sales. At some point the economy will catch up with this retailer, but a lot of internal positives I just mentioned should mitigate the external negatives.
I presented JOSB at Value Investing Congress in Pasadena this year (see slide 31 and on).
We DON’T have a position in the stock, we sold out in September.
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About the author:
Vitaliy N. Katsenelson, CFA, is Chief Investment Officer at Investment Management Associates in Denver, Colo. He is the author of The Little Book of Sideways Markets (Wiley, December 2010). To receive Vitaliy’s future articles by email or read his articles click here.
Investment Management Associates Inc. is a value investing firm based in Denver, Colorado. Its main focus is on growing and preserving wealth for private investors and institutions while adhering to a disciplined value investment process, as detailed in Vitaliy’s book Active Value Investing (Wiley, 2007).