Year to date, shares of Burlington Stores (BURL) - Get Report are up 107%. The stock would have been higher, but it took a detour to $70 on its way to $89. Can this discounter get a higher price for its stock?
Burlington investors have been on quite a ride. The stock touched $50 last May, rose, then took a brief trip to $70 a share because of fears over the bankruptcy of cargo shipping company Hanjin. It just hit $89.
Back in October, I said the stock could touch $90 a share. I remain bullish on Burlington Stores and I think the stock can go higher.
But Burlington has gotten its act together and is poised to report more consistent results. Burlington has 592 stores in 45 states and Puerto Rico and features merchandise from over 5,000 vendors. Burlington's stores are larger than TJX's, which management says gives it an advantage. Because the stores are larger, Burlington is less dependent on packaway merchandise. By using its stores as its warehouses, Burlington believes it allows customers to buy merchandise in any season, including mid-season.
Two weeks ago, Burlington reported third-quarter fiscal 2016 results. Third-quarter earnings of 51 cents per share were 18 cents better than the consensus estimate. Revenue rose 9.1% to $1.34 billion, vs. the $1.32 billion estimate.
Same-store sales increased 3.7% vs. the 2.5% to 3.5% guidance. The comp was driven by higher store traffic. Store traffic is up in eight of the last nine quarters. If you exclude the cold-weather categories, the comp would have been up 6%. Cold-weather categories were 10% of sales in the third quarter. As the weather gets colder, cold-weather sales should pick up and drive same-store sales higher. Cold-weather sales are 22% to 25% of fourth-quarter sales.
Top-performing categories include home, beauty, athletic, shoes and Baby Depot.
During the quarter, the company opened 23 new stores, closed one and ended the quarter with 592 total stores. Management remains on track to reach its long-term goal of 1,000 stores. The company plans to open 30 new stores next year.
Third-quarter gross margin rose 140 basis points to 41.2% due to higher initial markups and lower markdown activity. Operating margin jumped 145 basis points to 5.1%.
The company spent $75 million in stock buybacks, and repurchased 920,000 shares.
Management sees fourth-quarter earnings of $1.63 to $1.67 and a sales increase in the range of 6.6% to 7.6%. Comparable-store sales are expected to increase between 2.5% and 3.5%.
For the year, management guided to earnings of $3.11 to $3.15 per share and a net sales increase between 8.4% and 8.7%. The company thinks same-store sales will end the year between 3.9% and 4.2%.
Since Burlington went public three years ago, the stock is up almost 400%. Comps are expected to average about 4% over the next year, which means the company can grow earnings at 18% to 19% and sales between 6% and 8%.
For fiscal 2018, analysts think the company can earn $3.74 per share, up 18%. Revenue is expected to grow 7.5% to $5.95 billion.
Currently, Burlington shares are trading at 24 times forward estimates, but that seems low to me. I think the shares can trade as high as $100 per share, or 26 to 27 times forward estimates.
It's hard to find a retailer with the kind of growth potential that Burlington has going forward.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.