This morning I bought 7 shares of Dollar General stock for $110.57 a piece or 773.99 total. I am left with $5,949 to work with. I have invested just over 40% of my original 10K into 5 different companies. I hope to diversify a little more, making smaller positions going forward. I intend to buy somewhere between 12 and 15 companies total.
As a dollar store, Dollar General sells cheap items providing great value to their customers. How can you make money selling things for a dollar? Well as it turns out DG is able to make a whole lot of money selling at discount prices. This past quarter they sold almost 6.5 billion dollars worth of goods and earned 407 million on those sales. By selling only a limited number of SKU’s and ordering in huge quantities the company can source products at bare bone prices. When they buy from a supplier, they are making an order for a company with over 14,000 stores. This leads to great economies of scale. Additionally, they only target small inexpensive items. Don’t expect to find a new car in a dollar general.
What separates Dollar General from their competition is their focus on location and on the customer experience. Instead of targeting large cities, they focus on small towns. Think of how Sam Walton built Wal Mart and his focus on rural america but at a micro level. These small towns aren’t large enough to support a Wal Mart or a Target and they are difficult to reach for Amazon. For Dollar General however they are moneymakers. DG builds out small stores, under 10,000 square feet and stocks them with brands consumers want. They also take great care in design. Every store is bright and welcoming, encouraging shoppers to come more often and spend more.
Financially, the company has performed superbly. While not the fastest grower, they have increased both sales and net income every year since going public in 2010. I particularly like the way Dollar General has been able to plow down their share count. At the start of 2014, DG had over 317 million shares outstanding. That number now stands at 266 million, a 16% reduction. This cutback is substantial. Each share now owns considerably more of the company, therefore a larger share of a growing stream of income.
The company is also becoming a free cash flow machine. This past year their cash flow from operations equaled 1.8 billion and had 640 million in capital expenditures, leaving them with almost 1.2 billion in free cash. They were able to use this free cash to pay a reasonable dividend, buyback a meaningful amount of shares and pay off a fair amount of debt. This free cash number should grow meaningfully over the years.
DG is now trading right around a 20 P/E. While not incredibly low, it is a fair price to pay for a strong and growing company. Remember as a GARP investor, I’m not looking for the cheapest possible company. I’m looking for a great company to hold for years into the future and if I can find such a company, I’m willing to pay a reasonable price. Dollar General has ticked my boxes and therefore I’ve decided to become an owner.
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