You’ve probably noticed that retailers are doing all they can to clear out winter-related items as they prepare for the spring season. It means sales, sales, sales, and in some cases compressed margins. Walk through almost any mall, and you’ll see signs for buy one get one free, buy one get the next one 50% off, and so on.
When we think of spring, most of us tend to think of spring break and the start of spring sports, particularly for school age kids. Why that age? Because they tend to grow, and that means each year new items ranging from athletic shoes, cleats, pants, shirts, jerseys, helmets, and other pieces of athletic wear tend to be bought.
Notice I said usually. In 2017, according to Census Bureau data found in the December Retail Sales Report, sales at sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores were unchanged in the December quarter and fell 3.4% for the year in full. One of those reasons is actually good news for our Amazon (AMZN) shares as non-store retail sales rose 12.7% year over year in December and was up 10% for all of 2017 compared to 2016. The sporting goods category wasn’t the only one to be hit by the shift to digital commerce – for perspective, compared to retail sales (excluding food and auto sales) that rose 4.4% in 2017, digital sales rose nearly 2.3x faster. As we like to say at Tematica, it’s all about connecting the data dots and ahead of Amazon’s December quarter results those retail data points were rather revealing.
The question we have to ponder is whether people are not buying athletic equipment for their kids or, if they are shifting where they buy it — from sporting goods stores like Dick’s Sporting Goods (DKS) to big box retailers like Target (TGT), Walmart (WMT), Costco Wholesale (COST) and discount retailers, as well as online at Amazon (AMZN).
We’re also seeing another factor on the competitive landscape: Foot Locker (FL) and Finish Line (FINL) move to expand from athletic footwear into athletic wear. Those factors led to several sporting good chains, such as Sports Authority, Sports Chalet, MC Sports and others, to file for bankruptcy.
And that brings us to Big 5 Sporting Goods (BGFV)
For those unfamiliar with the company, at the end of 2017 it operated 435 stores in 11 states and offered athletic shoes, apparel and accessories, as well as a broad selection of athletic equipment for team sports, fitness, camping, hunting, fishing, tennis, golf, winter and summer recreation and roller sports. Pretty much a full- service sporting goods store complete with a digital platform as well.
Has Big Five been spared the pain that has been felt in the sporting goods industry?
In a word, no, and we can say this because earlier this month it reported disappointing fourth-quarter 2017 sales that included same-store sales falling 9.4%. Those top line results led the company to revise its bottom line results for the quarter into the red. While some of this can be attributed to mild December temperatures that led to weak demand for cold weather products, the reality is Big Five’s same store sales excluding winter-related and firearm-related products were down low-single digits for the quarter. This tells us that something else is afoot, and odds are it’s the increasingly competitive landscape.
In response to that disappointing fourth-quarter 2017 pre-announcement, Big Five Sporting Goods shares have slumped some 27% since the start of 2018. And this leads us to the obvious question â€“ should we be interested in BGFV shares at current levels?
At the current share price, based on historic multiples and current earnings expectations of $0.55-$0.56 per share last year and this year vs. $0.82 per share in 2016, there’s upside to $6.00-$6.25 per share. Not exactly upside enough to get excited for a business that is being challenged and expected to deliver contracting revenue in the first half of 2018.
Odds are BGFV shares will get cheaper before they get expensive, and while that could make them tempting to some, we’ll take a pass at least until the company’s e-commerce efforts become material to its overall revenue and profit. Based on what I heard on the company’s last earnings call, it’s going to be some time until that happens…if it does… that means the company is poised to be trapped in the headwind of our Connected Society investing theme. In other words, more pain as Amazon and even Walmart continue to rise the tailwind of that theme to revenue and profits.