One item at Macy’s (M)that might not deserve such a deep discount these days is its stock.
The department store chain, which has reported eight straight quarters of comparable sales declines, has seen its shares battered in the last two years on fears it is quickly losing market share to the likes of Amazon.com (AMZN) and TJX Cos’ (TAX) T.J. Maxx and stumbling in its efforts to fight back. Macy’s stock is down more than 50% since hitting an all-time high in May 2015.
And there is reason for skepticism: For all of its initiatives in the last two years of growth, Macy’s had a weaker than expected holiday season, prompting it last month to announce 10,000 job cuts, its latest moves to downsize itself to reflect declining business. This year, Amazon is set to surpass Macy’s as the largest online apparel store, according to Wall Street bank Cowen & Co.
But the influential financial newspaper Barron’s argued in a February 13 article that the selloff has been overdone and that Macy’s stock could rise to $45 (from $32 these days) because of its rapid online growth, attractive real estate, and the possibility of an acquisition by fellow department store operator HBC, parent of Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor, as reported in some media.
Macy’s is in the process of closing 100 stores (including 68 by the summer) as it looks to reduce its reliance on physical stores, many of which are in malls built in the 1960’s and no longer in sync with how consumers shop. Yet thanks to savvy moves a few years ago, Macy’s is an online leader: according to eMarketer, it is the sixth largest online U.S. retailer with annual sales of about $6 billion. And Macy’s recently enjoyed a record Black Friday weekend sales wise despite a wobbly website.
Another reason Macy’s is worth more than its critics argue: its physical stores. Amid sharp declines in its in-store sales, Macy’s has been under pressure from activist investor Starboard Value to hive off its prime real estate, which not only include stores in dying malls, but also jewels like its Manhattan flagship and quasi-luxury outpost in San Francisco’s Union Square, among 400 or so stores that it owns. By some estimates, the iconic 34th Street store alone could be worth $5 billion, or nearly half of Macy’s current stock market value. According to the Barron’s article, Macy’s real estate portfolio alone may be worth as much as $21 billion.
Macy’s has a new CEO taking the reins sometime in the first quarter. The company is already making strides to speed up production so it doesn’t miss fashion trends, and Macy’s has introduced shops for brands like Apple and Best Buy in its stores. As Barron’s points out, Macy’s has a lot of problems to fix, but it is a profitable, resilient company.