2011's 20% pullback from May through the first week of October hit nearly every sector in the market. However, a few retail stocks were able to hold up well despite the consumer pinching pennies. In fact, that penny pinching may have been the reason a handful of retailers posted gains as the overall market swooned.
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The SPDR Retail ETF (ARCA:XRT) lost 16% of its value during last summer's sell-off as some of the higher-end retailers saw traffic dry up around the country. At the same time, some of the discount retailers continued to attract cost conscious customers.
SEE: An Inside Look At ETF Construction
One of the best performing retailers during the market pullback was Pricesmart (Nasdaq:PSMT), the owner of warehouse shopping clubs in the U.S., Caribbean and Latin America. The 39% increase as stocks fell was more than impressive. The big rally continued into the end of 2011, but in 2012, the stock has been consolidating near the October 2011 high of $78.71.
A breakout above the old high would be a very bullish technical signal. Fundamentally, the stock is not a value play with a PEG ratio of 2.1. That said, during market uncertainty and pullbacks, PSMT should continue to be a stock that investors view as a safe haven.
Two deal-offering dollar stores that always seem to do well during market sell-offs continued that trend last year. Dollar Tree (Nasdaq:DLTR) and Dollar General (NYSE:DG) gained 28 and 13% during the sell-off, respectively. DLTR has over 4,200 stores in the U.S. and another 99 in Canada that sell merchandise prices at $1. They sell everything from food to health products to toys. Even though the stock has been on a tear for a few years and is near an all-time high, the PEG ratio is still attractive at 1.06. Pullbacks in DLTR can be bought, based on the strong chart and acceptable fundamentals.
DG has a very similar business model to DLTR, is also trading near an all-time high and has a PEG ratio of 1.03. These are almost identical stocks and both look attractive based on my research. The major difference is that DG operates nearly 10,000 stores, about double of that of DLTR.
Shoes and Accessories
Genesco (NYSE:GCO) operates retail stores that concentrate on footwear, apparel and accessories. Its stores include Journeys, Underground Station, Lids and Johnston & Murphy. The stock was up 24% during the 2011 sell-off, and is sitting near an all-time high. Even with the recent rally, the PEG ratio remains at 94 cents, signaling an undervalued stock. GCO needs to pull back from the recent high of $75, and it should find some support at the $70 area. It appears that investors are willing to buy into a company that offers lower-priced footwear and accessories during tough economic times, and GCO has been a beneficiary.
The Bottom Line
The stocks mentioned above will likely continue to outperform their peers if the risk-off trade is taking place. If the opposite occurs, the focus will turn to riskier assets and retailers that are not as focused on cost-cutting consumers. Consider the stocks as ways to stay in the market and at the same time, hedge against further market weakness.
SEE: 5 Must-Have Metrics For Value Investors
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At the time of writing, Matthew McCall did not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article.