Dick’s Sporting Goods just posted an epic quarter—but these 3 factors may limit the stock’s upside

The stock’s up 200% since March. Online sales in the most recent quarter were up 194%. A hot cloud computing company? No, we’re actually talking about that strip-mall staple for soccer cleats and golf clubs: Dick’s Sporting Goods.

The sports retailer, like many of its peers, was hit hard by the pandemic amid shutdowns and store closures, and even announced it would suspend its dividend when things were looking especially bleak in March.

But now, Dick’s stock has not only clawed its way back for its trough at around $16 per share in March, but has soared to just under $54 as of the market close on Wednesday, nearing its all-time high of $62 in 2016.

“I don’t think people would have seen it as a pandemic winner,” Morningstar’s David Swartz tells Fortune.

On Wednesday, Dick’s reported 2nd quarter earnings up 148% from the quarter a year prior. But the standout figure? The retailer’s online sales skyrocketed 194% in the quarter—what Swartz remarks “looks like some sort of fake number.” But while the company has notched stellar earnings, the quarter’s surge wasn’t entirely unexpected given the surge in retail spending (and people working out at home) in recent months, says Swartz.

Back in June, the company reinstated its dividend—a sign of optimism about the recovery, LPL’s Ryan Detrick told Fortune at the time. “The fact that they are [upping dividends] is a resounding strength for the consumer to really bounce back here.”

While analysts like Swartz believed the stock was way undervalued when it hit its troughs in March, now, he thinks its massive rally has perhaps overpriced it. “After this big run now it doesn’t look cheap to me,” he says. “People forget that the sales were down 30% in the first quarter.” On a trailing P/E basis, Dick’s trades at around 18 times earnings, per S&P Global data.

Indeed, while the stock closed up nearly 16% on Wednesday on news of its record quarter, Swartz still thinks the retailer will only grow at a roughly 1.5% annual pace for same-store sales. And with the stock trading over $50 per share now, “that’s a pretty substantial P/E for a company that is probably in the long term a low single-digit growth business,” he argues. “It’s kind of hard to recommend a stock that’s been going straight up for the last four or five months during a recession.” Swartz now thinks Dick’s would be valued fairly at around $44 per share.

Beyond valuation, analysts point to a few headwinds Dick’s may face going forward.

For one, Swartz notes the online business itself isn’t huge. “This is not Amazon, this is still a company based on physical stores.” And while same-store sales rose over 20% in the 2nd quarter, Dick’s overall reliance on physical stores versus its competitors’ over the last few years “looks like a mistake,” he says. “The trend is going in the opposite direction.”

Then there’s the competition.

“Dick’s still has issues because of the competition from both online and discount stores like Walmart and Target. I don’t think that’s going to change just because Dick’s reports one or two strong quarters,” Swartz argues.

And in coming quarters, “The second half of the year is looking pretty good,” says Swartz, but “Dick’s reports stronger sales in areas where sports have resumed, so its sales in the third and fourth quarters will be partially dependent on the course of the virus and the resumption of normal school and sports activities,” Swartz wrote in a note Wednesday.

All told, Swartz isn’t convinced now is the time to get in as an investor. Instead, he likes some of the more battered retailers like Ralph Lauren, Gap, and department store stocks like Nordstrom, Kohls, and Macy’s—what he calls “cheap” at their current price tags.

Adds Swartz: “To me, it’s not the time to pay up to buy some expensive retail stock. It’s too late for that.”

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