Top ASX small-cap shares to buy in 2023

Sometimes you have to go deep to catch the next big fish.

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ASX small-cap shares may not be household names. They might not get the same media attention as the big S&P/ASX 200 Index (ASX: XJO) banks and miners.

However, some pint-sized ASX companies could turn out to be the big-cap stocks of the future. And wouldn't it be great to invest in a few during the relatively early stages of their growth stories?

But with so many tiny ASX fish in the sea, how can investors sort the future big catches from the minnows destined to forever remain small fry?

For their thoughts, we decided to open a can of worms and ask our Foolish writers which ASX small-cap shares they reckon are worth reeling in right now. Here is what they said:

6 best ASX small-cap shares for 2023 (smallest to largest)

City Chic Collective Ltd (ASX: CCX), $127.56 million

Healthia Ltd (ASX: HLA), $191.79 million

Adairs Ltd (ASX: ADH), $414.87 million

Arafura Rare Earths Ltd (ASX: ARU), $1.28 billion

Platinum Asset Management Ltd (ASX: PTM), $1.35 billion

GUD Holdings Limited (ASX: GUD), $1.40 billion

(Market capitalisations as at market close on 20 February 2023)

Why our Foolish writers love these ASX small-cap stocks

City Chic Collective Ltd

What it does: City Chic is an Australian-born, plus-sized fashion retailer. It boasts 200 locations around the globe as well as multiple online channels.

By Brooke Cooper: The last 12 months have been rough on the City Chic share price. It's dumped almost 90% since this time last year amid inventory concerns and balance sheet pressure.

But I believe most of the bad news could now be behind the company. City Chic recently revealed its inventory levels are expected to come in below guidance for the first half, while its recently-amended debt facility should support the company's financial position.

Goldman Sachs is neutral on the stock due to concerns around continuously-compressed margins and a promotion-focused customer base.

However, I'm not averse to risk so think the current City Chic share price could represent a buying opportunity right now.

Motley Fool contributor Brooke Cooper does not own shares in City Chic Collective Ltd.

Healthia Ltd

What it does: With over 300 clinics across Australia and New Zealand, Healthia describes itself as a leading, diversified allied healthcare provider.

The company operates networks of optometry, podiatry, and physiotherapy clinics and also owns iOrthotics, a leading manufacturer of custom-made and 3D-printed foot orthotic devices for podiatrists.

By Tristan Harrison: The Healthia share price has fallen by around 40% since the start of 2022, making it great value, in my opinion.

I think the business is exposed to a number of helpful tailwinds, including an ageing population and a growing potential market (helped by the resumption of immigration).

This small-cap ASX share is also relying on an acquisition strategy to boost its scale. It's also working on improving the performance and efficiency of its existing clinic network. Healthia is planning to spend at least $20 million on acquisitions in FY23.

FY23 half-year revenue is expected to grow by between 31.7% to 37.1%, with like-for-like revenue growth of 5.4%. January 2023 showed "positive momentum" as well.

Motley Fool contributor Tristan Harrison does not own shares in Healthia Ltd.

Adairs Ltd

What it does: Adairs is an ASX retailer that sells homewares like linens, furniture, and decor items. It operates 170 stores across Australia and New Zealand as well as a growing online channel.

By Sebastian Bowen: This is one ASX small-cap share I think could have a big future.

The Adairs share price has had a bit of a rough trot over the past year or two, having fallen by around 50% from its pandemic highs. But this could well present a buying opportunity.

The company is still growing healthily, posting record revenues for the first half of FY2023, which were up 34.1% over 1H22's numbers. Its online channels have also been booming, with roughly 26.5% of all sales over the half done over the internet.

Perhaps best of all, Adairs currently has a fully-franked trailing dividend yield of around 7.5% on the table today.

Considering all of this, Adairs could well be a small-cap ASX retailer to consider right now.

Motley Fool contributor Sebastian Bowen owns shares in Adairs Ltd.

Arafura Rare Earths Ltd

What it does: Arafura Rare Earths is the rare earths developer behind the globally significant Nolans Project in the Northern Territory.

By James Mickleboro: I think Arafura Rare Earths could be an ASX small-cap share to buy right now. This is because of the potential for the Nolans Project to supply a significant proportion of the world's neodymium and praseodymium (NdPr) demand in the future.

These are critical minerals in the production of high-performance neodymium magnets, which are used in everything from mobile phones and electric vehicles to wind turbines and military weapons.

And with the company expecting demand to more than double from 2020 to 2030, and supply to remain constrained, I believe Arafura looks well-positioned to benefit from strong prices once it commences production.

Motley Fool contributor James Mickleboro does not own shares in Arafura Rare Earths Ltd.

Platinum Asset Management Ltd

What it does: Platinum Asset Management is an Australian-based niche investment manager focused on international shares.

By Bernd Struben: After a tough 18-month stretch, the Platinum Asset Management share price has seen a big turnaround in 2023, up by almost 30% year to date. I like buying into strength and believe the company can deliver more gains in the year ahead.

Adam Lund, head of trading at Spheria Asset Management, recently tipped Platinum to outperform. He told Motley Fool, "When you buy Platinum shares, you are investing in a very experienced investment team that manages $18 billion across strategies that have outperformed their direct competitors over most periods."

Atop potential share price gains, Platinum pays a 7.8% trailing dividend yield, fully franked.

Motley Fool contributor Bernd Struben does not own shares in Platinum Asset Management Ltd.

GUD Holdings Limited

What it does: GUD Holdings is an Australian-based company that manufactures and distributes a diverse range of products in the automotive aftermarket and water industries. With a history spanning 65 years, GUD has raised a slate of trusted brands including Ryco Filters, DBA brakes, CSM, Cruisemaster, and Davey.

By Mitchell Lawler: GUD Holdings is not a flashy company touting futuristic software. However, it does meet a valuable need by providing a host of aftermarket car parts.

A growing berth of brands continues to fortify GUD's pricing power, reputability, and top-line growth. In the company's latest half-year results, revenue increased a significant 56% to $517 million.

What I find particularly attractive about this company is its exposure to non-discretionary spending. Around 80% of GUD's automotive revenue is derived from wear-and-tear/replacement parts. I believe this bodes well for the company, in conjunction with a large number of registered cars in Australia and the rising average vehicle age.

I personally think GUD's assets and growth potential are currently undervalued. At present, the company trades at around 11 times estimated FY2025 earnings.

Motley Fool contributor Mitchell Lawler does not own shares in GUD Holdings Limited.

The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has positions in and has recommended Adairs and Healthia. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has recommended Adore Beauty Group. The Motley Fool Australia has positions in and has recommended Adairs. The Motley Fool Australia has recommended Adore Beauty Group and Healthia. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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