Cramer's 10 point growth stock checklist

Buy Lumber Liquidators or Tractor Supply?

(Click for video linked to a searchable transcript of this Mad Money segment)

Cramer always tells you to hold at least one growth stock in your portfolio. However, he also says you should hold dividend payers, multinationals, a spec stock and a little gold, too.

Therefore, if you're an individual investor with a limited amount of money and you follow Cramer's philosophy of diversification, chances are you find yourself in a bit of a pickle.

You might only have enough money to hold one or two growth stocks total.

And that poses a challenge. How do you choose? How can you tell if one growth stock is compelling versus another?

Cramer know that's something many smaller investors grapple with all the time.

Fortunately, he's developed a quick and easy solution. All you need to do is tick off each item on the ten point checklist below, then make your decision based upon the score.

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1. Does the company have the potential for multi-year growth that we can actually put a value on?

"In its most recent quarter, Tractor Supply's same store sales were up by an extremely robust 7%. However, Lumber Liquidators did even better, with an astonishing 17% increase. Even more important, Lumber Liquidators clearly has more room to expand across the country," Cramer said.

Cramer's Score: Tractor Supply 7 points; Lumber Liquidators 10 points.

2. Is the total addressable market big enough for the companies to sustain their growth?

"Again, yes and yes," said Cramer. "Tractor Supply serves the niche farming market without much in the way of competition. As for Lumber Liquidators, as of the end of last year, they controlled 14% of the $3.5 billion hardwood flooring retail market, and even if they double the store base that would only take them to 20%--totally reasonable."

Cramer's Score Tractor Supply 8 points; Lumber Liquidators 9 points.

3. Does the company have the ability to stay competitive?

"Each of these companies have carved out a fairly specific niche in a highly fragmented market. Tractor Supply caters to farmers, and its stores are located in more rural areas, so there's not much overlap with Lowe's or Home Depot. Lumber Liquidators has a solid position in the ultra-fragmented hardwood flooring space, as they're able to offer lower prices and faster delivery times than the competition."

Cramer's Score: Tractor Supply 9 points; Lumber Liquidators 9 points

4. Can the company return capital to shareholders over time, either through dividends or buybacks?

"Tractor Supply has a paltry dividend that yields one percent, but they're also buying back about 2 to 3 percent of the share-count every year—not too shabby," Cramer said. " Lumber Liquidators doesn't pay a dividend and its buyback is tiny, but that's because they're reinvesting that money in future expansion."

Cramer's Score: Tractor Supply 3 points; Lumber Liquidators 0 points

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5. Can they expand internationally?

"Both Tractor Supply and Lumber Liquidators still have plenty of room to grow within the United States, so neither company has any immediate plans to go global, but if they wanted to, I think they both have the potential to make a splash overseas."

Cramer's Score: Tractor Supply 5 points, Lumber Liquidators 5 points

6. Are the balance sheets strong enough to support the kind of growth we're looking for?

"In both cases, Cramer said, "Absolutely. Tractor Supply has $46 million in cash and just $40 million in debt—very clean. Lumber Liquidators, meanwhile, has no debt whatsoever, along with $84 million in cash, or $3 of cash per share."

Cramer's Score: Tractor Supply 9 points; Lumber Liquidators 10 points.

7. Are the stocks expensive on the out years?

"Tractor Supply is up 66% for the year, but it sells for only 23 times 2015 earnings estimates, with a 17% long-term growth rate, which means the stock trades at 1.4 times growth—not too pricey at all," Cramer said. "Lumber Liquidators has run up 116% for the year, yet it's selling for 27 times 2015 earnings estimates, which is less than the company's 30% growth rate, meaning it trades at just 0.9 times growth—darned cheap."

Cramer's Score: Tractor Supply 8 points; Lumber Liquidators 10 points.

8. How is management?

Although Cramer said both companies were well run, "Lumber Liquidators has an edge because the Tractor Supply CEO is still fairly new."

Cramer's Score: Tractor Supply 8 points; Lumber Liquidators 9 points.

9. Does the company need broad macro-level economic growth to meet the numbers?

"Lumber Liquidators is very much tied to housing, so it's definitely more cyclical than Tractor Supply," Cramer said.

Cramer's Score: Tractor Supply 8 points; Lumber Liquidators 6 points.

10. Can the companies maintain or grow their gross margins?

"Both names have seen their gross margins on the rise, but they're expanding more rapidly at Lumber Liquidators, up 370 basis points . By comparison, Tractor Supply saw just a 90 basis point increase."

Cramer's Score: Tractor Supply 8 points; Lumber Liquidators 10 points.

Cramer's Conclusion

"When you go through the whole checklist and add up all the points, you get 73 for Tractor Supply, and 78 for Lumber Liquidators," Cramer said.

Therefore if you're looking for only one growth stock, "Lumber Liquidators is the one to own, and despite its run, I think it's worth buying. But, just so we're clear, though, Tractor Supply is a terrific outfit, too. It's simply not as compelling as Lumber Liquidators at this very moment."

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