Briscoe is a New Zealand based homewares and sportswear retailer with a long history of delivering solid revenue growth reinforced by strict operating and capital expenditure controls. They are a clear market share leader, benefitting from the most extensive store network out of its competitors which leads to a wider range of accessible stores/ products. Over a 20-year period, Rod Duke (CEO) has delivered positive jaws driven by solid revenue growth supplemented with strict cost control. It is this intense focus that has ensured BGP is the dominant retailer in both categories that it participates, leading to a favourable market structure in an otherwise highly competitive industry. These features form the basis of Briscoe’s sustainably high returns on capital (>20% over the past 5 years.)
3 key reasons why Briscoe is a Buy at $3.20…
1) Scale & cost advantages. Briscoe holds 16% and 23% share in the homewares and sportswear categories respectively, making it the most dominant player for both markets in New Zealand. BGP benefits from scale advantages that provide a platform for significant operating leverage as BGP can spread fixed costs over much higher volumes than competitors. This enables higher margins and more flexibility for management than competitors which have broadly struggled in the transition to a digital world.
Industry and Competitive Analysis
The New Zealand retail market is naturally highly competitive as bricks and mortar retailers are facing existential threats in the form of eCommerce. Briscoe’s is in the top quartile of retailers for revenue growth despite having a significantly larger store footprint and a lack of a store roll-out opportunity. Rod’s track record for growth despite rolling out new stores reflects:
a) the capital light approach to growth that underpins strong free cashflow generation and ultimately strong capital returns for shareholders.
b) the strength of the franchise’s ability to grow without entering new geographies.
It is worth noting that in aggregate, the market has grown consistently at a reasonably high rate for a retail skew since the GFC (~4%) and particularly in the last 5 years (~7%). Briscoe is actively adapting to the new environment, with >11% of sales now online (and likely now a higher percentage due to the impacts of covid in FY20.) BGP employs an Omni channel approach and as a result is more likely to participate in some of the market share gains for eCommerce than its competitors. Additionally, BGP has the largest store network across NZ and as a result, a wide distribution / fulfillment network as online continues to structurally grow.
The competitive landscape demonstrates how BGP have managed to maintain share relative to competitors as ‘other’ takes share. The other category is partially reflective of how online channels have thrived in recent years. This is reflected by the lower entry costs for new competitors with access to GOOGL/FB to develop an online sales channel. It is clear from the below chart that other incumbents have struggled more than BGP to retain share in light of these challenges.
Despite this, BGP is still the dominant retailer, extending its lead over competitors. Smith city (no. 2 share) for example has struggled to breakeven on an EBITDA basis for the best part of a decade while Carpet court (no. 3 share) only operates in specific skews. Very few incumbents have managed to retain share over the past decade while Briscoe’s has strengthened its market leadership.
It is a similar story in sportswear where BGP retains 24% market share as per Euromonitor’s 2019 market share data.
Financial Statement Analysis
Briscoe’s financials reveal an impressive track record, delivering organic growth to shareholders with strong cost controls that have translated to strong EBIT growth. This is best shown through a series of charts over the past 12 years. Briscoe’s had 90 stores in 2010 and now just 87 yet has generated strong sales growth over the period. Rod Duke’s focus on store efficiency is reflected by the increase in sales per store over the decade.
The management team has been able to generate consistent revenue growth with a focus on cost control, translating to positive jaws.
Rod Duke’s approach to capital efficiency is another factor sets him apart as a manager beyond simply managing operating expenditure. He has incentivized store managers to hit efficiency targets, educate themselves with further training paid for by the company and provided a desirable work culture that provides the bedrock for operational excellence. The below chart highlights that working capital as a percentage of sales has declined materially over the past decade.
Additionally, Rod Duke maintains a strong focus on efficient capital expenditure, prioritising store fit-outs rather than new store rollout. Total capex as a percentage of sales has averaged around 5% since 2013.
2) Founder led shareholder-aligned management team. Rod Duke owns nearly 77% of Briscoe which minimizes common agency problems and translates to superior outcomes for shareholders. The proof is in the pudding for BGP with an extensive track record of strong operating performance that says more than words could. A few examples of his leadership:
- Shareholder alignment – Rod Duke has been CEO since 1992 owns 76% of the business and just recently, announced he would not be taking any salary during Covid. Members of Rod’s family are employed by the business and analysis of related party transactions reveals reasonable remuneration for family members/assets used when compared to comparable arm’s length transactions.
- STIs / LTIs – not high levels of disclosure but the CEO pay & bonuses are reasonable relative to peers. This is another strong insight into Rod’s approach to costs and management of the company. As the owner of >75% of the business, he could in theory pay himself or his family members in the business much more however, Rod continues to put the business first and foremost.
- Capital allocation track record – very disciplined, no M&A outside of an attempted takeover of KMD. Rod’s behaviour during the process highlights his strong focus on value where he was unwilling to drift higher in his valuation of the business despite a stalemate, ultimately leading to the transaction falling through. BGP initially bought KMD at 70c so have made a reasonable return despite recent volatility in the share price.
- Approach to people & culture – “We continue to invest in education to grow management and leadership capability and to enhance product knowledge and service skills. We have established educational pathways for staff to study at a range of levels, from certificates and diplomas through to degrees. We are particularly excited that a number of our managers have enrolled in MBA degrees. Both store and support teams are being trained on product knowledge, job skills, cybersecurity and health & safety. Recruitment is co-ordinated and managed by a centralised platform enabling visibility of talent and ensuring robust selection and appointment processes. The opportunities these provide for collective and individual development are wide ranging and we’re pleased with the way our teams have embraced these systems.”
This kind of support for staff ultimately rewards the business, ensuring it is a desirable destination for talent and maximizing the effectiveness of his staff.
3) Valuation – Despite these attractive investment features, the business trades on a 6% FCF yield or 12x next year’s earnings. This compares favourably to its homewares retailers peer set which tend to trade on 14x while sportswear peers trade on ~12x. The quality of BGP’s operating performance should underpin a higher multiple that its peers. For instance, see below for a range of Aus/NZ peers:
The 1 year PE looks rich vs. history however, this does not include a 6 week period where all NZ stores were closed (or the current Auckland lockdown.) The ‘normalized’ P/E multiple is actually closer to 12x currently which presents a compelling entry price.
Briscoe offers a rare opportunity to buy a stock with an excellent track record of organic earnings growth led by a capable, shareholder aligned manager on a multiple of 12x earnings. It trades broadly in line with history but below peers despite much stronger operating performance.
- Online continues to take share. This is an inevitability however, Rod’s track record of execution and extensive store network provides the opportunity to compete with online competitors from a cost and distribution standpoint.
- Lack of a reinvestment opportunity. There may ultimately come a point where efficiency and sales per store are maximized. There does not seem to be an opportunity to redeploy capital into new growth ventures which would lead to compounding returns or a ‘reinvestment moat.’