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Is Nordstrom Inc’s (NYSE:JWN) 43.08% ROE Strong Compared To Its Industry?

Daisy Mock

The content of this article will benefit those of you who are starting to educate yourself about investing in the stock market and want to better understand how you can grow your money by investing in Nordstrom Inc (NYSE:JWN).

Nordstrom Inc (NYSE:JWN) outperformed the Department Stores industry on the basis of its ROE – producing a higher 43.08% relative to the peer average of 16.21% over the past 12 months. While the impressive ratio tells us that JWN has made significant profits from little equity capital, ROE doesn’t tell us if JWN has borrowed debt to make this happen. We’ll take a closer look today at factors like financial leverage to determine whether JWN’s ROE is actually sustainable. Check out our latest analysis for Nordstrom

What you must know about ROE

Firstly, Return on Equity, or ROE, is simply the percentage of last years’ earning against the book value of shareholders’ equity. For example, if the company invests $1 in the form of equity, it will generate $0.43 in earnings from this. Generally speaking, a higher ROE is preferred; however, there are other factors we must also consider before making any conclusions.

Return on Equity = Net Profit ÷ Shareholders Equity

Returns are usually compared to costs to measure the efficiency of capital. Nordstrom’s cost of equity is 8.59%. Since Nordstrom’s return covers its cost in excess of 34.49%, its use of equity capital is efficient and likely to be sustainable. Simply put, Nordstrom pays less for its capital than what it generates in return. ROE can be broken down into three different ratios: net profit margin, asset turnover, and financial leverage. This is called the Dupont Formula:

Dupont Formula

ROE = profit margin × asset turnover × financial leverage

ROE = (annual net profit ÷ sales) × (sales ÷ assets) × (assets ÷ shareholders’ equity)

ROE = annual net profit ÷ shareholders’ equity

NYSE:JWN Last Perf June 22nd 18

The first component is profit margin, which measures how much of sales is retained after the company pays for all its expenses. Asset turnover shows how much revenue Nordstrom can generate with its current asset base. Finally, financial leverage will be our main focus today. It shows how much of assets are funded by equity and can show how sustainable the company’s capital structure is. Since ROE can be inflated by excessive debt, we need to examine Nordstrom’s debt-to-equity level. Currently the debt-to-equity ratio stands at more than 2.5 times, which means its above-average ROE is driven by significant debt levels.

NYSE:JWN Historical Debt June 22nd 18

Next Steps:

While ROE is a relatively simple calculation, it can be broken down into different ratios, each telling a different story about the strengths and weaknesses of a company. Nordstrom exhibits a strong ROE against its peers, as well as sufficient returns to cover its cost of equity. Its high debt level means its strong ROE may be driven by debt funding which raises concerns over the sustainability of Nordstrom’s returns. ROE is a helpful signal, but it is definitely not sufficient on its own to make an investment decision.

For Nordstrom, I’ve compiled three essential aspects you should further research:

  1. Financial Health: Does it have a healthy balance sheet? Take a look at our free balance sheet analysis with six simple checks on key factors like leverage and risk.
  2. Valuation: What is Nordstrom worth today? Is the stock undervalued, even when its growth outlook is factored into its intrinsic value? The intrinsic value infographic in our free research report helps visualize whether Nordstrom is currently mispriced by the market.
  3. Other High-Growth Alternatives : Are there other high-growth stocks you could be holding instead of Nordstrom? Explore our interactive list of stocks with large growth potential to get an idea of what else is out there you may be missing!


To help readers see pass the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned.