Five Below: Discount Retailer's Shares Are Pricey

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The most exciting IPO this year has been that of retailer Five Below ( FIVE), which went public about five weeks ago.

Shares rose 53% on the first day of trading and are up nearly 90% over the $17 offering price, ranking Five Below as the second best performing IPO in the past three months.

It was also somewhat of a breath of fresh air for an IPO market that has been stung by the Facebook ( FB) debacle.

Five Below stores have become a phenomenon in our house and a frequent stop for our teenage children. I have not seen such a buzz about another retailer with the possible exception of Costco ( COST) (but that's mainly due to the abundance of free samples that are handed out at Costco stores).

Truth be told, I like going into Five Below stores as well and often wonder what it would have been like if the chain had been around when I was a teenager. I'm sure I would have spent a lot more of my hard earned lawn-mowing and paper route money.

Interestingly, Five Below was founded the same team behind Zany Brainy, once a publicly traded chain of educational toy stores that filed for bankruptcy in 2001. It happens. Zany Brainy was a great concept and another chain that we frequented. But the retail business is difficult at best, and the competition is intense.

Now, I don't believe that Five Below is destined to go the way of Zany Brainy or that it is a fad like Green Mountain Coffee ( GMCR), SodaStream ( SODA) and Facebook. I believe the company is here to stay and has solid growth prospects ahead.

But I am not a fan of Five Below's shares at these levels. That may sound strange given my positive sentiment about the stores and belief in the brand, but it looks to me as though a great deal of growth is already priced in at this point, leaving little room for error.

I just can't justify paying more than 5 times trailing revenue and 50 times 2014 consensus earnings estimates (The company's fiscal year ends in January) for these shares. Sometimes there is a disconnect between price and valuation, and I believe that's the case with Five Below.

I'll no doubt get some arguments on this one. After all, Five Below is in growth mode, and the company says it can grow to more than 2,000 over 20 years, vs. the current 200.

The company opened 50 new stores in 2011, and plans to open a total of this year and 60 in 2013. That's some pretty rapid growth and very ambitious. Those high expectations are reflected in the current stock price.

Here's the analogy: You walk into a store and see a great piece of merchandise. It's just what you want. The only problem is that it's priced much higher than its value. You pass on that item, not because it wasn't exactly what you wanted, but simply because the price was too high.

I believe that the price of Five Below is simply too high at this point. But you must also consider the source. I'm a value investor and like to buy on the cheap.

I hope to get that opportunity with Five Below.

We'll get our first opportunity to see the company's progress as a publicly traded company when it reports second-quarter results on Monday, Sept. 10.

At the time of publication, Heller had no positions in stocks mentioned.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
Jonathan Heller, CFA, is president of KEJ Financial Advisors, his fee-only financial planning company. Jon spent 17 years at Bloomberg Financial Markets in various roles, from 1989 until 2005. He ran Bloomberg's Equity Fundamental Research Department from 1994 until 1998, when he assumed responsibility for Bloomberg's Equity Data Research Department. In 2001, he joined Bloomberg's Publishing group as senior markets editor and writer for Bloomberg Personal Finance Magazine, and an associate editor and contributor for Bloomberg Markets Magazine. In 2005, he joined SEI Investments as director of investment communications within SEI's Investment Management Unit.

Jon is also the founder of the Cheap Stocks Web site, a site dedicated to deep-value investing. He has an undergraduate degree from Grove City College and an MBA from Rider University, where he has also served on the adjunct faculty; he is also a CFA charter holder.

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