Home Depot is one of our portfolio companies that illustrates the importance of a company’s management focus and strategic vision. In an environment buoyed by an improving housing market and rising consumer confidence, Home Depot has gained share from its primary competitor, Lowes, while also benefitting from the ongoing struggles at Sears. In addition, it has benefited from continued industry consolidation as smaller regional players have retrenched or folded following the housing market crash in 2008 – 09. Management has not simply taken these share gains and sat back. The company has invested in building what it describes as an interconnected retail operation between suppliers, stores and customers which will link the customers’ in-store and on-line shopping experiences. Operational improvements, including a “lights out” warehousing and distribution capability and enhancements to its in-store customer experience, are designed to drive cost efficiencies while tightening customer relationships.
While Home Depot (NYSE:HD) is an example of a stock we expect to hold for the long-term, over the past year we have eliminated nine smaller positions where we did not see similar evidence of a stable or improving durable competitive advantage. It is fair to say we are concentrating the portfolio in stocks where we have greater confidence over the long-term.
From Mairs & Power's 4th quarter Balanced Fund commentary.