Impressive but Not Enough to Beat the S&P500

The North West Company is a leading retailer catering to the needs of underserved rural communities and neighborhoods in Northern Canada, Western Canada, rural Alaska, the South Pacific islands and the Caribbean.

The North West Company has operations around shipping, air cargo, wholesaling, retailing and supermarket format stores. The company offers a wide range of products and services including food, apparel, housewares, appliances, outdoor products and income tax return preparation, quick-service prepared food, prepaid card products, ATMs, cheque cashing and proprietary credit programs.

The North West Company derives 60% of its sales from Canada and the remaining 40% from international markets. As a leading retailer to rural and remote communities and urban neighbourhoods, the company operates through more than 100 Northern stores, 44 Giant Tiger discount stores, 22 Quickstop stores, NorthMart stores, pharmacy and convenience stores in Canada, and over 20 Alaska Commercial company, Cost-U-Less stores, Quickstop convenience stores etc. in the international markets.

Investment Data

Revenue Growth & Market Exposure

The North West Company has a long experience in the retailing industry with a history dating back to 1668. Given its extensive history, the company offers the best shopping experience for everyday household and lifestyle needs. The company has been expanding its market share at existing as well as new locations. Its strong operational focus helps to release critical store hours as well as tackle low-value activities.

North West Company’s logistical expertise and infrastructure enable it to cater to the new markets and complementary businesses. Its well established outbound supply chain helps it to reach its remote stores. The company’s ability to serve difficult-to-reach locations and lower-income customers are its key competitive advantages. North West Company enters into store lease arrangements with community based development organizations and recruits local people into management positions in order to successfully operate in these environments.

North West has compounded its revenue at more than 6% CAGR annually since the last ten years. The company is focusing on store development and management, supply chain strength, and community relations for future growth. It has been expanding organically as well as through accretive acquisitions. North West’s significant exposure to leading categories like convenience, accounting for 28% of sales, should also drive future growth. Sustaining investments across leading markets, categories and projects have resulted in balanced growth.


The North West Company is a Canadian Dividend Aristocrat. The company has a sound history of delivering shareholder returns through an equal emphasis on growth and dividend yield. It has an impressive dividend yield of 4.38% and a dividend payout ratio of 74%. North Wests’ last dividend hike was over 3% and its five-year dividend growth was 4.2% CAGR annually.

The company serves geographically diverse markets and sells a large variety of products and services. Its top product category has significant growth potential and had registered 5%-6% growth in the last year.

With a century’s old experience, North West Company has developed a strong presence in the retail industry. It continually invests to improve the overall customer satisfaction that results in sticky relationships. The North West Company is also investing in growing its online presence. Investment in digital platforms integrates the company’s network of stores to offer a more convenient shopping experience for its customers and reduce operational redundancies.

Growing demand for food should act as a tailwind for this Dividend Aristocrat. A proven business model, an extensive store and distribution network infrastructure, and a reputed brand name form a deep moat around North West Company’s business. There are plenty of opportunities for the company to diversify and cross-sell its products.


North West Company faces intense competition from new players both local and outside the community. Significant growth of e-commerce businesses such as also poses a big threat to the company. However, it will be difficult for newcomers to compete with the company’s operational scale. The company’s ability to adapt to unique local lifestyles, and serve communities that are restricted for usage by local businesses distinguish it from peers.

It enjoys a leading market position in a majority of the markets it serves. Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. TSE:ATD.B, George Weston Limited TSE:WN, Loblaw TSE:L, and Metro TSE:MRU are North West Company’s top competitors. George Weston is a leading food processing and distribution company in Canada while Loblaw Companies ranks amongst Canada’s largest retail companies.

TickerKeyTickerCompanySectorIndustryScoreQuoteMarket CapP/EFPEEPSYield RawYieldPayoutRatioPaymentsDividendChowderGrowthRatingIncomeRatingTollboothAmbassadorAchieverAristocratKingCountryGraph
TSE:ATD.BATD.BAlimentation Couche-Tard Inc.Consumer DefensiveGrocery Stores0.7342.6037.2813.5613.563.140.00820.820.111540.350.164495Consumable - NecessitiesYESYESYESNOCanada1
TSE:LLLoblawConsumer DefensiveGrocery Stores0.5165.1122.9723.3623.362.790.02062.060.480341.340.060346Consumable - NecessitiesNONOYESNOCanada1
TSE:DOLDOLDollarama IncConsumer DefensiveDiscount Stores0.5053.4716.6429.4229.421.820.00330.330.096740.180.101974Consumable - DiscretionaryNONOYESNOCanada1
TSE:WNWNGeorge Weston LimitedConsumer DefensiveGrocery Stores0.5898.2015.0914.2714.276.880.02242.240.319842.200.059947Consumable - NecessitiesNONOYESNOCanada1
TSE:MRUMRUMetroConsumer DefensiveGrocery Stores0.6857.9714.4718.4718.473.140.01551.550.286640.900.157885Consumable - NecessitiesYESYESYESNOCanada1
TSE:EMP.AEMP.AEmpire Co Ltd A NvtgConsumer DefensiveGrocery Stores0.5535.689.5914.7814.782.410.01461.460.215840.520.046947Consumable - NecessitiesNOYESYESNOCanada1
TSE:NWCNWCThe North West Company Inc.Consumer DefensiveGrocery Stores0.5232.891.6013.0813.082.510.04384.380.573741.440.043846Consumable - NecessitiesNONOYESNOCanada1

Bottom Line

The North West Company is in a good position to benefit from the growth in high potential markets and products. Its ability to deliver goods and services within hard-to-access and less developed markets is its key USP. Continuous efforts to minimize operational costs, strengthen the supply chain and stores and strategic acquisitions fortify the company’s position as the leading Canadian retailer. A regular stream of cash flow from a consumer defensive business and ongoing investments should support the company’s dividend growth streak in the future.

Regardless of the numbers, the company is too small and the segment of population it serves is a little too unique and limited for my portfolio. This decision comes down to knowing what you invest in and in my case, I am not sure I can understand it and expect growth. 

NWC vs Indexes

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DISCLOSURE: Please note that I may have a position in one or many of the holdings listed. For a complete list of my holdings, please see my Dividend Portfolio.

DISCLAIMER: Please note that this blog post represents my opinion and not an advice/recommendation. I am not a financial adviser, I am not qualified to give financial advice. Before you buy any stocks/funds consult with a qualified financial planner. Make your investment decisions at your own risk – see my full disclaimer for more details.