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Walgreens, CVS Still Strong Buys for Dividends

Brick-and-mortar retailers of all kinds are facing a threat like never before, and pharmacies are no different.

Image via Mike Mozart/Flickr CC

Amazon (AMZN) is said to be considering a mail-order pharmacy business, targeted initially at consumers with no insurance or those with high deductibles, says Bob Ciura, editor of Wyatt Research’s Daily Profit.

Presumably, Amazon’s goal would be to utilize the same tactics it has used against retailers—specifically, undercutting on price and providing the convenience of at-home delivery—against pharmacies like Walgreens (WBA) and CVS (CVS).

Indeed, brick-and-mortar retailers of all kinds are facing a threat like never before. Walgreens and CVS operate thousands of physical stores around the U.S., meaning they would be a great risk should Amazon be successful in its efforts to enter the health-care industry.

And yet, both Walgreens and CVS continue to grow. Through the first three quarters of fiscal 2017, total revenue is up 2%, while earnings per share are up 10%. CVS’s revenue is up 4% so far this year. Both companies have outlooks for growth going forward, even with the Amazon threat.

Walgreens and CVS have a lot to offer investors, particularly those who like dividends. CVS has increased its dividend for 14 years in a row, while Walgreens has raised its dividend for over 40 years.

Walgreens and CVS have current dividend yields of 2% and 2.5%, respectively. This means they offer solid income today, with the potential for higher income down the road, as well as dividend increases each year.

In my view, they are likely to remain strong dividend growth stocks simply because Amazon lacks the infrastructure to push them out of the pharmacy industry.

Brick-and-mortar retail is under pressure from a broad perspective, but pharmacy retail is a different entity. It is likely physical pharmacy retail stores will always be in demand, as consumers still see value in asking pharmacists for help and advice.

Walgreens and CVS each have around 10,000 stores, along with hundreds of distribution centers in the U.S. This provides them with a wider economic “moat,” or competitive advantage, than most other retailers currently enjoy. Walgreens and CVS dominate the industry, thanks to tremendous distribution and scale.

And, Walgreens and CVS have prepared for the shift to the digital age. CVS already offers online ordering and delivery, so it will not be caught off-guard by Amazon. Both Walgreens and CVS have strong balance sheets, which allow them to invest in growth initiatives such as acquisitions.

Amazon terrifies brick-and-mortar retailers, and for good reason. But when it comes to pharmacy benefits management, Amazon might be biting off more than it can chew. Walgreens and CVS are still strong buys for dividend growth investors.

Bob Ciura is contributing editor of Wyatt Investment Research.

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