Macy's, Inc. vs. L Brands Inc: 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 fashion retailers will square off in a head-to-head battle to determine which offers a better dividend for your portfolio.
Tale of the tape
Founded in 1858, Macy's is a leading North American retailer, operating department stores and e-commerce sites under the Macy's and Bloomingdale's websites. Headquartered in Cincinnati, the company has more than 172,500 employees in roughly 840 stores across 45 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico. Macy's also has eSpot ZoomShops kiosks at more than 300 store locations to sell consumer electronics items. Macy's is the largest department store operator in the United States, boasting a market share of roughly 6.4% in the sector, according to figures compiled by retail analytics firm Verdict.
Founded in 1963, L Brands Inc , formerly known as Limited Brands, has evolved from an apparel-focused specialty retailer to a female-centric niche retailer in the United States. The company primarily operates stores under its flagship brands, Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, but also has storefronts under the Pink, Henri Bendel, and La Senza banners. Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, the company operates more than 2,600 specialty stores -- including company-owned and franchised outlets -- with over 100,000 employees in the United States, Canada, and other international locations. L Brands has also been a major developer or acquirer of a number of notable fashion brands over the years, including The Limited, for which it was named and which it divested in 2010, as well as Lane Bryant, Abercrombie & Fitch (acquired in 1988 and spun off in 1996), New York & Company, and Express.
Trailing 12-month profit margin
TTM free cash flow margin*
5-year total return
Round one: Endurance (dividend-paying streak)
According to Dividata, Macy's has paid uninterrupted dividends for 11 years in a row since it began distributions in 2003. However, L Brands has made quarterly shareholder distributions since 1985, and that three-decade dividend streak gives the specialty retailer an easy edge over the department store superstar in the first round.
Winner: L Brands, 1-0.
Round two: Stability (dividend-raising streak)
Macy's has been rapidly raising its dividend since 2011, but this was made possible in part by a drastic reduction in payouts during the financial crisis. L Brands has also been raising its quarterly payouts since 2011, but it also boasts an annual special dividend payout that has not consistently grown in the same time frame. Since neither company has a clear edge, this contest is a...
Round three: Power (dividend yield)
Some dividends are enticing, while 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: L Brands, 2-0.
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. A single-chart comparison isn't accurate due to L Brands' special dividend payouts, but we can get a clearer picture with separate charts:
Winner: Macy's, 1-2.
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: Macy's, 2-2.
Bonus round: Opportunities and threats
Macy's and L Brands have claimed a rare tie today in the best-of-five battle, 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.
- Macy's recently raised its dividend by 25% and added $1.5 billion to its share repurchase program.
- Macy's plans to implement an "order online and pick up in-store" initiative throughout the U.S.
- Macy's has built up an industry-leading omnichannel strategy called M-o-M.
- Macy's benefits from department-store industry turmoil -- it's an island of stability in an uncertain retail environment.
L Brands opportunities
- Aeropostale must purchase $240 million worth of products from an L Brands minority-owned supply chain company.
- L Brands plans to open 140 stores around the world this year.
- L Brands continues to shift Victoria's Secret back toward the intimates that made it successful.
- Amazon.com has opened a 40,000-square-foot fashion studio in Brooklyn.
- Kohl's has beefed up its beauty section in over 200 stores throughout the United States.
- Nordstrom plans to spend $3.9 billion in capital expenditures to expand during the next five years.
L Brands threats
- L Brands plans to stop selling apparel online and in catalogs due to declining sales.
- J.C. Penney plans to bolster its intimates lineup by partnering with supermodel Elle McPherson.
One dividend to rule them all
In this writer's humble opinion, it seems that Macy's and L Brands are both solid selections for long-term outperformance, thanks to their ubiquitous presence in thousands of brick-and-mortar stores across the U.S. and Canada. While Macy's seems poised to benefit from a strong omnichannel presence, L Brands has been aggressively expanding internationally to capitalize on the rising popularity of Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works brands worldwide. Both companies face ongoing competitive threats, but that's always the case in the hotly competitive world of fashion retail, and both Macy's and L Brands have proven more than capable of fending off these threats in the past. You might feel that one company is more deserving than the other of winning this contest, and if so, you're encouraged to share your viewpoint in the comments box 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 Macy's, Inc. vs. L Brands Inc: Which Stock's Dividend Dominates? originally appeared on Fool.com.Alex Planes has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Amazon.com. 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.
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