CARS.COM: The Car Dealers Marketplace, Stocks is basically an online marketplace that connects car buyers and sellers. It was founded in 1998 and is based in Chicago.

Their main customers are local dealers. According to the last quarterly results report released on May 6th, they account for approximately 88.7% of total revenue.

An old adage about brick-and-mortar business says the three most important factors are location, location, and location. We should replace them with traffic, traffic, and traffic in online businesses. Of course, there are other important factors. But usually, the revenue correlates to the number of visitors to a shop. And if these visits don’t require a significant expense in advertising, the business can have a big competitive advantage.

I think the best moat or competitive advantage of is being able to attract so much organic online traffic. This traffic usually comes from results from search engines. In Ahrefs, we can check through which keywords a potential buyer has searched and how each website ranks or in which position it appears in the search results. If we see the main keywords through which most users arrive at the website, we get this list:


As we can see, ranks first in promising searches. It is not only necessary it brings traffic to the site but also its quality. Somebody searching “cars for sale” is likely to be thinking about buying a car, so it is definitively the correct lead for a dealer. is aware of this, and they are even offering additional services to the dealers, such as the use of promotional videos for these visits with the FUEL program. You can check how it works in the site


As long as can maintain this position in the search results and these visits numbers, it will bring value to the dealers and continue achieving the constant free cash flows they have been getting in the last years.



The main risk I can find in this business, or at least the big drawback, is growth. Currently, is selling its services to around 19,500 dealers. In the call commenting on last quarter’s results, the CEO said they still have room to grow in 40,000 dealers.

Indeed this would imply multiplying by three the current number of customers and potentially the revenue. But looking to the long term, even talking as we are about a small company (around $680 million), we cannot expect a multi-bagger if they stick to the current business. Of course, they can expand geographically or to other adjacent businesses in the future.

Their current strategy of combining the increase in their customer base with adding more services to them, like the recent purchase of Accu-Trade (for valuating vehicles) or CreditIQ (for offering loans), makes a lot of sense. As more services are used from, the switching costs to another platform will be higher. In addition, to attract new dealers, they also increase the loyalty of their existing ones.



Capital Allocation

Due to the high free cash flow that the company generates, is in an excellent position to reinvest in its business, buying adjacent services providers as commented or returning capital to shareholders through buybacks.

In fact, they have in place a repurchase program to acquire $200 million in shares. At the current market price, this amount represents almost a 30% of the company. During the first quarter of 2022, they have repurchased 0.3 million at an average price of $14.78 (currently is trading at $9.8).

Finally, it is also a good signal that some of the company officers have been recently buying shares for $9.85.


David Makuen, CEO of Citi Trends, highlighted the company’s achievements in the fourth quarter and throughout fiscal year 2022. He emphasized the following points:

  1. The company achieved a healthy gross margin of 39.1% in 2022 and reduced operating expenses by 9% compared to 2021.
  2. The company managed its inventories well and ended the fiscal year with a better-than-expected cash position of nearly $104 million and no debt.
  3. Citi Trends has been investing in enhancing the in-store experience and its infrastructure, and now 13% of their stores reflect the improved CTX experience.
  4. Despite a challenging economic environment, the strong balance sheet enables the company to invest in key product categories to continue delighting customers with fresh, exciting products at affordable prices.

For 2023, the company will focus on four main priorities:

  1. Driving comparable store productivity, focusing on opportunities to capture market share in areas such as footwear, beauty, kids’ apparel, and juniors and missy ladies’ apparel.
  2. Managing inventory and maximizing margin, expanding select categories, recouping sales in specific categories, and broadening the brand’s appeal to new multicultural families.
  3. Controlling SG&A expenses and leveraging the balance sheet, using analytics to eliminate unnecessary costs and establishing solid controls for spending decisions.
  4. Executing technology enhancements, continuing to develop the technology infrastructure to improve operational efficiency across the business.

However, the first quarter of 2023 has had a slower start than expected due to unfavorable economic factors affecting Citi Trends’ customers. The company remains cautiously optimistic and expects an improvement in the economic situation throughout the year.