Why Benjamin Graham Might Have Picked Ross Stores (ROST)

Ross Stores meets some but not all of Benjamin Graham's requirements for a defensive stock. The Apparel Retail company does not offer a large enough margin of safety for cautious investors, but it does have many qualities that may interest more enterprising investors.

Ross Stores Is Probably Overvalued

Graham devised the below equation to give investors a quick way of determining whether a stock is trading at a fair multiple of its earnings and its assets:

√(22.5 * 4 year average earnings per share (3.55) * 4 year average book value per share (12.639) = $31.77

After an impressive 33.0% performance over the 12 months, Ross Stores is now trading well over its price because its Graham number is 277.6% above today's share price of $119.99. Even though the stock does not trade at an attractive multiple, it might still meet some of the other criteria for quality stocks that Graham listed in Chapter 14 of The Intelligent Investor.

Impressive Revenues, Consistent Profitability, and a Growing Dividend Imply Value

Ross Stores’s average sales revenue over the last 4 years has been $16.55 Billion, so by Graham’s standards the stock has sufficient revenues to make it worthy of investment. When published in 1972, Graham’s threshold was $100 million in average sales, which would be the equivalent of around a half million dollars today.

Ben Graham believed that a margin of safety could be obtained by investing only in companies with consistently positive retained earnings. Retained earnings represent the cumulative net earnings or (deficit) left to equity holders after dividends have been paid out. Ross Stores had positive retained earnings from 2010 to 2023 with an average of $1.69 Billion over this period.

Ben Graham would also require a cumulative growth of Earnings Per Share of at least 30% over the last ten years.To determine Ross Stores's EPS growth over time, we will average out its EPS for 2009, 2010, and 2011, which were $0.84, $0.51, and $0.63 respectively. This gives us an average of $0.66 for the period of 2009 to 2011. Next, we compare this value with the average EPS reported in 2021, 2022, and 2023, which were $0.67, $4.87, and $4.38, for an average of $3.31. Now we see that Ross Stores's EPS growth was 401.52% during this period, which satisfies Ben Graham's requirement.

Negative Current Asset to Liabilities Balance and a Decent Current Ratio

Graham sought companies with extremely low debt levels compared to their assets. For one, he expected their current ratio to be over 2 and their long term debt to net current asset ratio to be near, or ideally under, under 1. Ross Stores fails on both counts with a current ratio of 1.9 and a debt to net current asset ratio of -1.1.


Ross Stores offers a decent combination of value, growth, and profitability. These factors imply that the investment offers a decent margin of safety — especially if the shares are bought during a sell-off.

2020-01-31 2021-01-31 2022-01-31 2023-01-31
Revenue (MM) $16,039 $12,532 $18,916 $18,696
Gross Margins 28.1% 21.5% 27.5% 25.4%
Operating Margins 13.4% 1.5% 12.3% 10.6%
Net Margins 10.36% 0.68% 9.11% 8.09%
Net Income (MM) $1,661 $85 $1,723 $1,512
Net Interest Expense (MM) $18 -$83 -$74 -$3
Depreciation & Amort. (MM) -$351 -$364 -$361 -$395
Earnings Per Share $4.6 $0.24 $4.87 $4.5
EPS Growth n/a -94.78% 1929.17% -7.6%
Diluted Shares (MM) 361 355 354 341
Free Cash Flow (MM) $1,616 $1,840 $1,181 $1,035
Capital Expenditures (MM) -$555 -$405 -$558 -$654
Net Current Assets (MM) -$2,556 -$2,735 -$2,107 -$2,223
Current Ratio 1.27 1.69 1.77 1.9
Long Term Debt (MM) $313 $2,448 $2,452 $2,457
Net Debt / EBITDA -0.19 -3.08 -0.68 -0.6
The above analysis is intended for educational purposes only and was performed on the basis of publicly available data. It is not to be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell any security. Any buy, sell, or other recommendations mentioned in the article are direct quotations of consensus recommendations from the analysts covering the stock, and do not represent the opinions of Market Inference or its writers. Past performance, accounting data, and inferences about market position and corporate valuation are not reliable indicators of future price movements. Market Inference does not provide financial advice. Investors should conduct their own review and analysis of any company of interest before making an investment decision.