Home Depot vs. Target: Which Stock's Dividend Dominates?
Dividend stocks outperform non-dividend-paying stocks over the long run. It happens in good markets and bad, and the benefit of dividends can be quite striking -- dividend payments have made up about 40% of the market's average annual return from 1936 to the present day.
But few of us can invest in every single dividend-paying stock on the market, and even if we could, we're likely to find better gains by being selective. Today, two of America's largest retailers, Home Depot and Target will square off in a head-to-head battle to determine which offers a better dividend for your portfolio.
Tale of the tape
Established in 1978, Home Depot is the largest home-improvement specialty retailer in the world. The company is also one of only two retailers on the Dow Jones industrial Average, reflecting its importance to the American economy. Home Depot operates more than 2,200 retail stores in the United States, Canada and Mexico catering to both do-it-yourself (DIY) and do-it-for-me (DIFM) styles. Home Depot has been one of the fastest-growing retailers, and also one of the best stocks, since its first store opened in 1979.
Founded in 1902, Target (formerly Dayton Hudson) is the second-largest retailer in the United States, behind only Wal-Mart. The company is ranked among the top 40 Fortune 500 companies by sales. From its headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the company has been expanding into Canada since 2011, and now operates about 270 Zellers stores through its subsidiary, Target Canada. It also has plans to open 100 to 150 new stores between 2013 and 2014, to add to its nearly 2,000 locations already open in North America today.
Trailing 12-month profit margin
TTM free cash flow margin*
Five-year total return
Round one: endurance (dividend-paying streak)
According to Dividata, Home Depot's paid regular quarterly dividends for more than 20 years since initiating payment in 1992. However, Home Depot's 22-year dividend streak can't hold a candle to Target, whose dividend history dates all the way back to 1967. Target's uninterrupted quarterly dividend-streak of 46 years allows it to win the endurance crown without breaking a sweat.
Winner: Target, 1-0.
Round two: stability (dividend-raising streak)
Home Depot's dividend payouts held firm between 2006 and 2009, which means that it's only been raising its dividend since 2010. By contrast, Target has been raising its dividend payouts since 1968, which equates to a 45-year long dividend-raising streak, according to dividend.com. This one was even more lopsided than the first contest.
Winner: Target, 2-0.
Round three: power (dividend yield)
Some dividends are enticing, but others are merely tokens that barely affect an investor's decision. Have our two companies sustained strong yields over time? Let's take a look:
Winner: Target, 3-0.
Round four: strength (recent dividend growth)
A stock's yield can stay high without much effort if its share price doesn't budge, so let's take a look at the growth in payouts over the past five years.
Winner: Target, 4-0.
Round five: flexibility (free cash flow payout ratio)
A company that pays out too much of its free cash flow in dividends could be at risk of a cutback, particularly if business weakens. We want to see sustainable payouts, so lower is better:
Winner : Target, 5-0.
Bonus round: opportunities and threats
Target may have dominated the best-of-five on the basis of its dividend history, but investors should never base their decisions on past performance alone. Tomorrow might bring a far different business environment, so it's important to also examine each company's potential, whether it happens to be nearly boundless or constrained too tightly for growth.
Home Depot opportunities
- U.S. housing starts are expected to range from 1.6 and 1.9 million new units by 2015.
- The Federal Reserve will likely keep interest rates low through 2017.
- Home Depot's streamlined its online platform to offer consumers better shipping options.
- According to Fitch, consumers will spend more on home improvement through 2014.
- Target has been expanding its geographical presence across the U.S. and Canada.
- It plans to acquire skin-care companyDermStore Beauty to break into cosmetics.
- The launch of Target's PFresh grocery brand offers another channel for customer retention.
- It plans to launch a new online-video service for buying or renting digital media.
Home Depot threats
- Lumber Liquidators' direct sourcing model can undercut Home Depot's prices.
- Lowe's recently purchased bankrupt Orchard Supply Hardware, a major player in California.
- Lowe's also recently closed the acquisition of ATG Stores to strengthen its e-commerce.
- Target faces short-term growth problems, and expansion into Canada has suppressed profits.
- Retailers are facing challenges due to high unemployment and increased payroll taxes.
- Amazon continues to encroach on traditional brick-and-mortar retail.
One dividend to rule them all
In this writer's humble opinion, it seems that Home Depot has a better shot at long-term outperformance, as the U.S. housing market has barely begun to recover from a once-in-a-lifetime crash. Increasing consumer home-improvement spending and strong housing starts have already fueled a double in Home Depot's shares over the past two years. On the other hand, Target has been expanding its geographical presence as well as product offerings, but it's been crimped by an ongoing retail malaise, and a long-running shift toward online retail has barely begun to impact larger brick-and-mortar retailers. You might disagree, and if so, you're encouraged to share your viewpoint in the comments below. No dividend is completely perfect, but some are bound to produce better results than others. Keep your eyes open -- you never know where you might find the next great dividend stock!
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The article Home Depot vs. Target: Which Stock's Dividend Dominates? originally appeared on Fool.com.Fool contributor Alex Planes has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com, Home Depot, and Lumber Liquidators. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com and Lumber Liquidators. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.