4 Consumer Leaders to Buy on a Dip

07/13/2011 9:30 am EST

Focus: STOCKS

Kate Stalter

CMO & Senior Financial Advisor, Better Money Decisions

Despite the barrage of negative news about spending, consumers are opening their wallets for these companies’ products…and the stocks have been high fliers, but watch for opportunities that may present themselves at the next pullback, writes MoneyShow.com contributor Kate Stalter.

Institutional investors have long been aware that there’s frequently a contradiction between what consumers say, and what they actually do. It’s not unusual for consumer sentiment surveys to show a decline, yet retail-sales figures reveal booming business.

Among the current crop of top-performing growth names, you’ll find a heavy dose of companies whose exposure is predominantly—if not exclusively—toward the consumer.

The latest University of Michigan consumer sentiment index showed a decline in June. But if you look at sales growth of companies such as Fossil (FOSL), Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR), Lululemon Athletica (LULU), and Ulta Salons (ULTA), it’s pretty clear that consumers aren’t exactly keeping their wallets closed.

Far from Extinct
Shares of Fossil, the Texas-based watch and accessories retailer, came roaring out of the bear market in early 2009. Other than a few pauses to catch its breath along the way, it’s just kept running. Shares are up 77.72% so far in 2011.

The price growth has been supported by an outstanding recent track record of sales and earnings. Earnings increased between 42% and 142% over the past six quarters, while sales trended mostly higher during that time.

In the most recent quarter, revenue was up 37% from the year-earlier period. Also, Fossil’s operating margin of nearly 20% is better than most of its industry rivals.

At a time when some analysts declared the watch category dead, because more people are using their smartphones as mobile timepieces, Fossil defied the predictions. Its moderately priced fashion-watch business has been a growth driver.

As Fossil shares continue traveling higher, they are currently extended from their most recent buy point, which followed a rebound off the ten-week average. However, as consumers remain happy about the product and investors are pouring money into the stock, it’s worth tracking for the next pullback and possible entry point.

This Stock Continues to Have Buzz
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters has also perked up, despite questions about some of its accounting practices that hurt the stock late last year. The company’s business model of partnering with coffee retailers, such as Starbucks (SBUX) and Dunkin’ Donuts, as well as mass merchandisers like Wal-Mart (WMT), has proven to be a winner.

The best growth winners historically have a product or service that stands apart from competitors’ offerings. Its Keurig K-Cup system is rapidly gaining traction among consumers who enjoy the convenience of brewing a single serving of coffee.

Green Mountain’s earnings per share came in at 48 cents in the most recent quarter, up 129%. Revenue grew 101% to $647.7 million.

Analysts see Green Mountain earning $1.48 per share this year, more than double last year’s profit of 70 cents a share. However, the stock pulled back from last week’s all-time high of $96.91.

If it does go on to consolidate its gains for a few weeks, it could offer another buy opportunity above $96.91. If it continues its upward trajectory, it’s one to keep watching.

NEXT: An Athletic Push Forward

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An Athletic Push Forward
Lululemon is another consumer-discretionary name that has differentiated itself from other clothing retailers.

The company’s yoga wear has caught on, but Lululemon’s commitment to its communities is what sets it apart. Its stores and showrooms offer yoga classes and running clubs. Rather than just sitting at desks crunching numbers, corporate managers spend time visiting stores and participating in community events.

Earnings growth, though slowing, is still exceptionally strong. The company beat analysts’ views in its most recent quarter, earning 22 cents a share on sales of $186.8 million. Those marked increases of 57% and 35%, respectively.

Like other leading growth stocks, Lululemon’s chart may be showing some signs of topping, at least for now. Pullbacks in the general market tend to take most stocks down, giving stronger names an opportunity to take a breather and digest some gains.

A Thing of Beauty
Like Lululemon, Ulta Salon, Cosmetics & Fragrances went public in 2007. The youth of these companies works in their favor, since they still have plenty of room to grow, and energetic management teams with fresh ideas.

Ulta, which operates salons and cosmetics supermarkets in 40 states, has had an even stronger run-up than Lululemon. It’s advanced 91% so far this year, compared to Lululemon’s 76% gain.

Ulta is a smaller company, so it gets somewhat less attention from the mainstream media. However, it’s attracted a growing number of mutual funds and hedge funds as owners. Ulta’s market cap is nearly $4 billion, and it trades about 822,000 shares a day.

Here, too, we find a distinct business model that resonates with customers. Because it carries a wider range of products than department stores, drug stores, or beauty-supply shops, customers have come to view Ulta as a place for one-stop shopping.

Revenue growth has trended higher in the past three quarters, coming in at $386 million most recently—a gain of 21% from the year-ago quarter.

Like many other equities, Ulta has been retreating this week along with the market. The same observation that applies to other consumer-discretionary names is true here: If the stock does surrender some of its gains, either in the form of a ten-week pullback or a longer basing action, it bears watching.

Ulta is expected to continue delivering strong fundamental growth, and institutional investors have proven they are willing to support the stock.

***

The strength in these stocks is an excellent reminder to check the market facts, rather than rely on the drumbeat of negative news about the economy. It might be easy to think consumer spending has ground to a halt, in the midst of rising unemployment and falling home values.

However, a glance at the fundamentals of some of today’s best US consumer-facing companies shows that Americans are still spending…when a retailer makes the right moves to lure them.

At the time of publication, Kate Stalter did not own any of the stocks mentioned in this column.

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