Management doesn't conquer all, but boy it can conquer a lot. This morning we saw terrific numbers from two retailers, Home Depot (HD) and Dick's Sporting Goods (DKS), and I have to tell you that much of what was good this quarter can be placed right at the feet of the people who run the companies. Home Depot's Frank Blake and Dick's' Ed Stack are two remarkable CEOs who are worthy of exuberant praise.
Home Depot's quarter shows a remarkable 2.9% increase in average ticket price, to $54.55, an important metric because it says that people are spending more on their houses than they did before. The average number of customers shopping at Home Depot showed a hefty increase, too.
Of course, similar to all great managements, the humility here is astounding. Blake took no credit whatsoever for the amazing numbers. Instead he said the strength was because of the "the start of the path of healing of the housing market." What Blake didn't point out, but I will, is that Home Depot performed incredibly well when the housing market was awful, so these numbers should be put in the context of the consistency that Home Depot has given you during the entire Blake reign.
Even better, and an added reason why the stock has run so much, Home Depot will be the destination to repair the devastation caused by Sandy. My big worry for Home Depot was the possible gap between lost store dollars from weather closings and the ultimate spend to repair.
Blake told you not to worry, and sure enough, one of the best performing stocks in the DJIA, up 50% year-to-date, just got better.
Dick's is a terrific story, too. When things are slowing down in the economy, you don't go and buy yourself expensive sneakers or exorbitantly priced outdoor goods.
But Dick's triumphed over the suddenly beleaguered consumer and delivered a terrific 5% comparable store gain and forecast more good things ahead. Again, I have to put that at the feet of Stack's management, because a somewhat related company, Cabela's (CAB), failed to deliver during this period, citing the wrong weather for its outerwear selections. I don't want to slam Cabela's too much -- a spate of colder weather might be just what that sporting goods' chain needs -- but that does make me feel even better about what Dick's is up to.
The extrapolations for the success of Home Depot and Dick's have to be considered.
It's correct that Sherwin-Williams (SHW, the paint company), Masco (MAS, the kitchen and bath company) and Stanley Black & Decker (SWK, the toolmaker) have seen their stocks go higher today. That's a justifiable consequence of Home Depot's terrific gains.
You would expect Nike (NKE) to rally off of Dick's success, but Nike is too international in nature. We have to be satisfied with a run in Under Armour (UA), a big supplier to Dick's and one that's doing very well with the company.
We've seen a ton of companies disappoint this earnings season. The common theme of the ones that haven't? Awesome management. I salute Home Depot's Blake and Dick's Stack for their fabulous execution and the bountiful returns they have given shareholders of their companies.