For shareholders in blue-chip retailer Woolworths Limited (ASX: WOW) it’s been a very disappointing half decade.

Over the past five years the share price has declined by 17%; while in the past 12 months the stock is down 23.5%. In both instances, the share price of Woolworths has significantly underperformed the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 (Index: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO).

While the recent past performance is certainly disappointing there are reasons of hope for a better future…

Turnaround potential – One of the big drags on earnings and no doubt an even bigger distraction for management has been the retailer’s decision to take on the Wesfarmers Ltd (ASX: WES) owned Bunnings with its Masters Home Improvement offering.

So far this has led to Woolworths bleeding significant amounts of cash. For the faithful however, if the board’s decision to enter this attractive market segment turns out to be ‘on the money’, then there could be significant upside.

Growth – Woolworths’ leading footprint of stores across Australia makes it one of the largest touch points to the Australian population. This access to literally millions of consumers creates an opportunity to cross-sell other services such as insurance, banking and telecommunications to its customers who regularly come through its doors.

While the market’s current focus is firmly on the competitive threats posed by entrants such as Aldi – certainly a real risk – less attention is being paid to the potential growth opportunities available to Woolworths.

Dividends – The group has a very impressive long term track record of paying out an ever increasing stream of dividends. In fact, the dividend has been raised every year since 1997.

In financial year (FY) 2015, Woolworths paid a record dividend totalling 139 cents per share (cps).

While this impressive track record looks set to end in FY 2016, with analysts forecasting a reduction in the dividend to 113 cps, this would still represent a fully franked yield of 4.9%.

Why These 3 Blue Chip Shares Look Set to Soar in 2016

Discover The Motley Fool's top 3 blue chips for 2016. These 3 "new breed" shares pay fully franked dividends AND offer the very real prospect of significant capital appreciation. Simply click here to gain access to this comprehensive FREE investment report.

No credit card required

HOT OFF THE PRESSES: Motley Fool’s #1 Dividend Pick for 2017!

With its shares up 155% in just the last five years, this ‘under the radar’ consumer favourite is both a hot growth stock AND our expert’s #1 dividend pick for 2017. Now we’re pulling back the curtain for you... And all you have to do to discover the name, code and a full analysis is enter your email below!

Simply enter your email now to receive your copy of our brand-new FREE report, “The Motley Fool’s Top Dividend Stock for 2017.”

By clicking this button, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. We will use your email address only to keep you informed about updates to our website and about other products and services we think might interest you. You can unsubscribe from Take Stock at anytime. Please refer to our https://www.fool.com.au/financial-services-guide">Financial Services Guide (FSG) for more information.

Motley Fool contributor Tim McArthur has no position in any stocks mentioned. Unless otherwise noted, the author does not have a position in any stocks mentioned by the author in the comments below. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.