Retail

Home Depot shares rise after earnings top estimates, helped by strong holiday and appliance sales

Key Points
  • Home Depot topped Wall Street's expectations for the fourth quarter, but it had lower revenue than a year earlier.
  • The home improvement retailer's margins are under pressure as it spends about $11 billion to integrate its stores and online business.
  • Company executives said this year will be its peak year of investment.
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Retail analyst breaks down Home Depot's earnings beat

Home Depot on Tuesday beat Wall Street's earnings expectations for the fourth quarter, boosted by a strong holiday season and above average sales of appliances.

The Atlanta-based home improvement retailer has been focused on integrating its brick-and-mortar stores and its online business. It's in the middle of a three-year, $11 billion investment program. Home Depot CEO Craig Minear said results from the quarter show those investments are paying off.

He said Home Depot has stepped up its digital shopping experience, such as adding better search functionality to its website and in-store labels that allow customers to read an item's digital ratings. Home Depot had one of its biggest single days of mobile app downloads in December, after it launched a new marketing campaign.

"We're excited about our e-commerce business as part of a whole interconnected retail strategy," Craig Menear said in an earnings call. "We believe that the front door of our store is now in the customer's pocket, it's on the job site, that most of our customer's shopping experience actually starts in the digital world even if it finishes in the physical world."

He said over 50% of the time customers choose to pick up their online orders in store.

Here's what the company reported compared with what analysts expected for Home Depot's fiscal fourth quarter, based on Refinitiv data:

  • Earnings per share: $2.28 vs. $2.10, expected
  • Revenue: $25.78 billion vs. $25.76 billion, expected
  • Same-store sales: 5.2% vs. up 4.8%, expected

The company got a bounce in the fourth quarter from holiday-related sales, including its gift center, artificial Christmas trees and other decor.

Home Depot's investments will peak this year, executives said. The company plans to spend $3.9 billion, up from $3.6 billion in 2019 and $3.3 billion in 2018. In December, Home Depot warned fiscal 2020 sales would be below Wall Street expectations and its margins would be pressured by its investments. The news sparked a selloff.

But shares have come back. Home Depot's stock was up more than 1% in trading Tuesday, and it has gained nearly 25% over the past 12 months, bring its market value to about $261.5 billion.

On Tuesday, Home Depot reiterated its forecast, which calls for total sales growth of 3.5% to 4% and same-store sales growth of 3.5% to 4%. It plans to open six new stores in 2020. It also increased its dividend by 10%.

For the fourth quarter that ended Feb. 2, Home Depot reported that net income rose 5.8% to $2.48 billion, or $2.28 a share, from $2.34 billion, or $2.09, a year earlier. Analysts surveyed by Refinitiv expected the company to earn $2.10 a share.

Revenue for the quarter fell 2.7% to $25.78 billion from $26.49 billion a year earlier but outpaced analyst estimates of $25.76 billion. Fiscal 2019 was a week shorter than fiscal 2018. Excluding the extra week of 2018, total sales would have increased nearly 4% for the quarter, the company said.

Home Depot's sales per square foot were $425.70, up nearly 3% from $414.17 a year earlier. Its average ticket also increased to $68.29, up about 4% from $65.59 a year earlier.

Home Depot's sales often reflect the strength of the housing market and the overall economy. U.S. homebuilding fell less than expected in January and permits rose to a near 13-year high. Homebuilder confidence was at a two-year high, too, according to a February survey.

Weather can also be a factor for the company. On an earnings call Tuesday, Home Depot executive vice president of merchandising Edward Decker said the mild winter in most parts of the country had a neutral effect. He said many professional homebuilders could continue their work, but stores sold fewer snowblowers and winter weather-related merchandise.

Menear said Home Depot's annual guidance does not include any effect from the coronavirus outbreak. He said 70% of the company's products are sourced from the U.S.

"Based on what we know today, we couldn't say that there would be a hit," he told investors on the call. But he added that the company is "working this day-to-day" and "putting plans in place to mitigate any risk going forward."

Home Depot is gearing up for spring, its busiest sales season. It said it plans to hire 80,000 additional employees, with many part-time hires staffing its garden center, on par with seasonal hiring in recent years.

Home Depot is the largest home improvement chain in the country. It has about 2,290 retail stores and more than 400,000 employees across the U.S., Canada, Mexico.

Read the full earnings release here.

Correction: An earlier version misstated the expected earnings in one reference. Refinitiv's survey projected $2.10 per share. The CEO's name was also spelled wrong.