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Is Williams-Sonoma A Better Bargain Than Ever?


Published by Nicholas McCullum on March 19, 2017

The retail sector has been under pressure for some time now.

Consumer tastes are fickle as ever, and the move towards eCommerce has hurt the more traditional brick-and-mortar business model.

Williams-Sonoma (WSM) investors have felt this trend. The stock is down from a high of $85 to a current price of $49.60.

WSM Williams-Sonoma 5-Year Stock Price Chart

Source: Yahoo! Finance

This article will investigate whether Williams-Sonoma is a better bargain than ever, or whether investors should be warned by the stock’s significant decline.

Business Overview

Williams-Sonoma is a consumer retail company that specializes in kitchenware and home furnishing.

Founded in 1956, Williams-Sonoma has grown to be one of the country’s largest multi-channel specialty retailers with more than 600 physical locations and a market capitalization of $4.5 billion.

The company is divided into six segments for reporting purposes:

The company’s brands are visualized below as a proportion of 2015 (not 2016) net revenues.

WSM Portfolio of Recognized Brands

Source: Williams-Sonoma September 2016 Investor Presentation, slide 7

Each Williams-Sonoma brand specializes in a different area of luxury home furnishing.

Pottery Barn provides casual home accessories; Pottery Barn Kids provides baby furniture; PBteen provides teen bedding and accessories; and West Elm (the company’s fastest growing brand) provides hip/modern furniture for young families.

Williams-Sonoma is also expanding into international markets.

While the majority of the company’s revenues still come from the United States, Williams-Sonoma is entering new geographies via a combination of company-owned stores and franchised businesses.

WSM Global Expansion Provides Long-Term Growth Opportunities

Source: Williams-Sonoma September 2016 Investor Presentation, slide 10

Growth Prospects

Unlike many retail companies, the growth prospects for Williams-Sonoma appear bright.

This is partially because of the rapid growth of West Elm. This brand, though only accounting for 20% and 17% of 2016 and 2015 revenues, respectively, has had 20%+ annual revenue growth every year since 2010.

Williams-Sonoma is taking advantage by rapidly increasing this brand’s store count.

WSM West Elm - Accelerated Growth

Source: Williams-Sonoma September 2016 Investor Presentation, slide 9

The company’s management has guided for similar double-digit growth from West Elm moving forward.

William-Sonoma’s future growth will also be driven by the company’s impressive presence in the eCommerce space.

While ~90% of total sales across the broader home furnishings industry occur in physical stores, Williams-Sonoma has a much healthier revenue mix with approximately half of sales coming from eCommerce.

WSM Leading Multi-Channel Retail

Source: Williams-Sonoma September 2016 Investor Presentation, slide 11

In addition to the cost savings that are generated in the eCommerce segment, Williams-Sonoma has found that multi-channel customers (those that shop both online and in-store) spent 4x-5x more than their single-channel equivalents.

The company’s robust eCommerce presence did not happen overnight. Williams-Sonoma introduced their website in 2000 and has grown eCommerce sales at a 27% CAGR ever since.

WSM Leading Multi-Channel Retail 2

Source: Williams-Sonoma September 2016 Investor Presentation, slide 12

The company’s strong West Elm brand and their leading eCommerce platform will drive the growth of Williams-Sonoma moving forward.

Competitive Advantage & Recession Performance

Williams-Sonoma’s competitive advantage comes from the strength of their brands and their dominant eCommerce platform. These are the company’s key differentiators from other competitors in the retail space.

Unfortunately, the company has not proven itself to be recession-resistant.

This is partially due to the nature of the Williams-Sonoma business model. Consumers are simply not looking to replace their home furniture during periods of economic recession.

Further, the products offered by Williams-Sonoma tend to be at the high end of the quality scale. Consumers who need to buy new furniture during a recession may lower their expenses by shopping at a more affordable alternative.

Case in point: consider the adjusted earnings-per-share of Williams-Sonoma during the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

The adjusted earnings-per-share of Williams-Sonoma were nearly pushed into negative territory during the depths of the financial crisis, decreasing by 84%. It took the company until 2010 to achieve pre-crisis levels of profitability.

Based on this performance, the company should not be expected to outperform during periods of economic downturn.

Valuation & Expected Returns

The total expected returns achieved by Williams-Sonoma shareholders will be composed of changes to the company’s valuation multiple, growth in earnings-per-share, and forward dividend yield.

Excluding various one-time charges, the company’s adjusted earnings-per-share for fiscal 2016 was $3.43. This equates to an adjusted price-to-earnings ratio of 14.5 based on the company’s current per-share market value of $49.60.

This is a very attractive value relative to the rest of the stock market.

The S&P 500 price-to-earnings ratio currently sits at ~27, which means that an investor can purchase nearly twice as much underlying earnings power by investing in Williams-Sonoma compared to buying an index fund.

Williams-Sonoma price-to-earnings ratio of 14.5 is also attractive relative to the company’s historic levels.

Williams-Sonoma Valuation Analysis - Price-to-Earnings Ratio

Source: Value Line

Williams-Sonoma also appears undervalued based on dividend yield.

The company currently pays a $0.39 quarterly dividend, which is $1.56 annually for a forward dividend yield of 3.1% based on the prevailing market price of $49.60.

Williams-Sonoma Valuation Analysis - Dividend Yield

Source: Value Line

The last time that Williams-Sonoma shareholders generated a dividend yield of 3.1% from this company was in 2009 – the middle of the great recession. Clearly, the company is a bargain today.

Turning to earnings-per-share growth, the company’s management has guided for an earnings-per-share growth target of ‘Low double-digit to mid-teens’.

WSM Three-Year Outlook Growth & Profitability Goals

Source: Williams-Sonoma September 2016 Investor Presentation, slide 27

While this is a wide range of possible outcomes, I believe that investors can conservatively expect earnings-per-share growth of 5%-8% for this company. This will be aided in part by Williams-Sonoma’s shareholder-friendly capital allocation strategy.

WSM Balanced Capital Allocation Strategy Source: Williams-Sonoma September 2016 Investor Presentation, slide 26

Over the past 6 years, Williams-Sonoma has returned more than $1.7 billion to its shareholders via a combination of dividend payments and share repurchases.

Keep in mind that this is not a very large company, with a market capitalization of $4.5 billion. $1.7 billion is a substantial amount of capital for a company of this size.

Williams-Sonoma investors can expect total returns to be driven by:

For total returns in the range of 8.1%-11.1% before the effect of valuation changes.

Final Thoughts

Williams-Sonoma is an interesting company: a brick-and-mortar retailer that gains ~50% of its sales from the online channel.

With the current state of the retail industry, it is not surprising that many high-profile investors have recently initiated stakes in this undervalued stocks. Some of the more well-known names include:

Other than the company’s appealing eCommerce presence, these investments are likely due to the company’s above-average dividend yield, low price-to-earnings ratio, and strong growth prospects – which all mean that the company would likely rank very favorably using The 8 Rules of Dividend Investing.

Thanks for reading this article. Please send any feedback, corrections, or questions to [email protected]


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