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Does Designer Brands Inc. (NYSE:DBI) Create Value For Shareholders?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Designer Brands Inc. (NYSE:DBI) and reflect on its potential as an investment. To be precise, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.

First of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. Author Edwin Whiting says to be careful when comparing the ROCE of different businesses, since 'No two businesses are exactly alike.

So, How Do We Calculate ROCE?

The formula for calculating the return on capital employed is:

Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)

Or for Designer Brands:

0.084 = US$160m ÷ (US$2.6b - US$649m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to August 2019.)

Therefore, Designer Brands has an ROCE of 8.4%.

See our latest analysis for Designer Brands

Is Designer Brands's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. We can see Designer Brands's ROCE is around the 10% average reported by the Specialty Retail industry. Separate from how Designer Brands stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

We can see that, Designer Brands currently has an ROCE of 8.4%, less than the 15% it reported 3 years ago. Therefore we wonder if the company is facing new headwinds. You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Designer Brands's past growth compares to other companies.

NYSE:DBI Past Revenue and Net Income, November 7th 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. Companies in cyclical industries can be difficult to understand using ROCE, as returns typically look high during boom times, and low during busts. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Designer Brands.

Do Designer Brands's Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills that need to be paid within 12 months. The ROCE equation subtracts current liabilities from capital employed, so a company with a lot of current liabilities appears to have less capital employed, and a higher ROCE than otherwise. To counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Designer Brands has total liabilities of US$649m and total assets of US$2.6b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 25% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

Our Take On Designer Brands's ROCE

With that in mind, we're not overly impressed with Designer Brands's ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. Of course, you might also be able to find a better stock than Designer Brands. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

If you are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.