Should you buy the dip on Woolworths shares?

Is this a good time to look at the supermarket business?

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A female Woolworths customer leans on her shopping trolley as she rests her chin in her hand thinking about what to buy for dinner while also wondering why the Woolworths share price isn't doing as well as Coles recently

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The Woolworths Group Ltd (ASX: WOW) share price has dropped 15% since the start of 2024, as the chart below shows.

After the recent pain, could now be a potential opportunity to investigate investing in the supermarket giant?

If the outlook is still appealing, a share price decline can mean an ASX stock is better value.

With this sort of potential investment, I'd remind myself of what legendary investor Warren Buffett said when he compared investing to buying burgers from the supermarket:

To refer to a personal taste of mine, I'm going to buy hamburgers the rest of my life. When hamburgers go down in price, we sing the 'Hallelujah Chorus' in the Buffett household. When hamburgers go up in price, we weep.

Most people react the same way to everything they buy in life and see price drops typically as good news. Except with stocks. When stock prices fall, and you can actually buy more for your money, many people don't see them as worthy investments any more and run for the hills.

But when ASX shares fall in value, like Woolworths shares, I get excited.

Are sales growing?

It's not often that I think of a supermarket business as an exciting opportunity. The company already operates a large national supermarket network. Can it open many more locations?

In my mind, store growth is largely limited to the new suburbs being created on the edges of our cities. Population growth is increasing overall demand, but that's not huge in percentage terms.

The business is seeing long-term growth in its revenue, though its recent trading update was not inspiring.

Woolworths reported that sales in the first seven weeks of the second half of FY24 had "continued to moderate, reflecting lower inflation and a more cautious consumer."

Retail sales in Australian food had increased by 1.5% only for the first seven weeks, hurt by moderating inflation and lower item growth. This is usually the key division for Woolworths shares because of how much of the profit it generates.

The company also advised that New Zealand food sales only grew by 1%, and BIG W sales had declined by approximately 6% in the first seven weeks.

It's understandable that BIG W's performance is variable, seeing as it's a discretionary retailer. However, it was quite disappointing that Woolworths significantly underperformed the Coles Group Ltd (ASX: COL) sales figure for the early part of 2024.

There is no guarantee that Woolworths' performance will recover, but I think it can return to a stronger rate of sales growth in FY25 with the issues caused by rapid food inflation starting to subside.

Is the Woolworths share price an opportunity?

The Woolworths share price is a lot cheaper now. According to the estimate on Commsec, Woolworths shares are valued at 21x FY25's estimated earnings. Earnings per share (EPS) could then grow another 7.6% in FY26 if the forecasts are accurate.

The dividend payments could also steadily grow, reaching $1.23 per share in FY26 — that would be a grossed-up dividend yield of 5.5%.

Tony Langford from Seneca Financial Solutions rated Woolworths shares as a hold on The Bull. He said the company provided quality earnings, and the recent $31.90 share price was considered "a sound entry-level". It was trading slightly lower at $31.70 near the close on Monday.

I'd call it a buy at this price for income from an ASX dividend share – a solid, growing yield is appealing. But, I don't expect a lot of capital growth over the long term, though Australia's growing population is a helpful tailwind.

Motley Fool contributor Tristan Harrison has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has positions in and has recommended Coles Group. 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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