About a year ago I wrote an article featuring a smallish company that has a long history of paying dividends to subscribers. That alone wasn't the most compelling thing about V.F. Corporation (NYSE:VFC), however.
Really, what I love about this company is the tremendous value that its numerous brands represent to loyal customers.
Now is the time of year when most of us in the northeast have packed up our spring and summer clothes and are instead tuning our downhill and x-country skis, or at least moving our warm jackets to the front-hall closet.
I can almost guarantee that most houses across America have products made by V.F. Corporation and that the owners love these items - whether they know that the manufacturer is a publicly traded company or not.
Most people are familiar with many of the brands we associate with outdoor apparel and gear, including K2, Patagonia and REI. But none of those companies is publicly traded. Some remain privately held companies, while others have been bought up by holding companies that own multiple brands focused on selling to outdoor markets.
For investors, this makes it a little more difficult to find potential opportunities for investment since there are limited stand-alone sporting companies that are publicly listed on a stock exchange.
Until a few years ago I had never heard of V.F. Corporation. The North Carolina apparel company is largely unknown among consumers and investors alike. It's no longer a small cap, but its 2.2 percent annual dividend, still relatively small size (around $14 billion market cap), and growth prospects make it very attractive.
And if you're someone who enjoys the outdoors I would be willing to bet that you own something made by this company.
V.F. makes active apparel, denim, and daypack products for 30 well-recognized brands including Lee, JanSport, Nautica, The North Face, Vans, and Wrangler. The company designs and manufactures products under these and other lifestyle brands both in the U.S. and overseas.
Since being founded in 1899, V.F. has expanded and matured over the years. A primary driver of the company's historic growth has been acquisitions of leading brands, including Lee Jeans and many other brands the company owns today.
Over the next five years, the company expects to grow its sales by 13% annually. In just the last quarter, revenue rose by 23% and earnings by 29 percent.
It's difficult to find that kind of performance anywhere in the retail sector these days. But V.F. Corp's success is anything but an anomaly - it has even raised its quarterly dividend (by 14%) for the 39th consecutive year.
The company is increasingly generating international sales in emerging markets such as Brazil, China, India, and Mexico. For investors, expansion of middle and upper classes in the developing world is likely to help fuel growth. In addition to growth overseas, V.F. Corp. plans to sell more products directly to consumers, largely through its 780-plus existing and new storefronts, and online.
The future appears bright for V.F. Corp., and past performance indicates that management is likely to deliver on its promises to shareholders. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this company on any significant weakness, and to dollar cost average into a position.
With shares currently trading around $128, the stock is valued at 13-times forward earnings estimates. It appears that shares are undervalued relative to the stock market as a whole. There is likely around 20% upside to the stock as the management team continues to execute on its growth plans - not to mention that healthy dividend.
Oh, and V.F. Corp. has been one of the best performers in the S&P 500 (NYSEARCA:SPY) this year. That kind of performance, especially from a dividend growing retail stock, puts V.F. Corp. in a league of its own.