Retail stocks are in a tenuous position. They thrived to begin 2018, and for three quarters rolled to solid gains. Then in the fourth quarter they got rocked despite the fact that they had been gaining momentum from healthier consumer spending and a stronger than expected holiday shopping season. So what to do? Jefferies says it is time to buy the dip, based on the fact that “The consumer is strong, Amazon isn’t killing retail, the Federal Reserve is more dovish, oil down, first-half weather compares easy, free cash flow piling up, margins are moving up and consumer discretionary stocks are cheap on absolute and relative basis”. Check out these names: Gap, American Eagle Outfitters, Five Below, Foot Locker, Kohl’s, Urban Outfitters, Under Armour, Tapestry, and Lululemon Athletica.
FINSUM: Our view is that at some point soon (has it already happened?), ecommerce and brick and mortar are going to fall into equilibrium. When that happens, it will be good for traditional retailing stocks.
Walmart has taken a pounding this year. The stock is down 8.4% even though it has seen solid earnings performance. The reason why? Shares first got beat up early in 2018 when investors worried its digital strategy wasn’t taking hold. Then in the middle of the year worries about margins cropped up. Finally, in November, shares saw losses even though Walmart beat earnings and raised payouts. Interestingly, the shares were a counterpoint to the rest of retail, which saw gains for much of the year.
FINSUM: We think Walmart is a great buy. It has good same store sales momentum and its ecommerce operation is growing rapidly. This seems like a good buying opportunity to us, especially as the brand sells consumer staples, which will hold up even in an economic downturn.
Amidst all the gloom gripping the markets, there have been a handful of positive publications about 2019. One of them was just put out by Nomura. The bank published a list of 5 tech stocks that might surge in 2019. The call is an ambitious one given the trend of how tech shares have been going. The shares are not all FAANGs either, which makes them more interesting. With further ado, the list is: Google, Amazon, Salesforce, Broadcom, and AT&T.
FINSUM: Amazon seems like a good call to us, especially after its recent declines. The company is going to see increasing margins as it consolidates its dominant position and earns more recurring revenue. Salesforce is also an interesting business.
Amazon may get all the fan fare, but Walmart is lurking. For many years, Amazon was considered so far ahead of rivals in ecommerce, that anyone catching up with it was considered unlikely. And while Amazon is still the undisputed leader, that view is changing. Walmart’s most recent earnings show that its commitment to ecommerce is thriving. Walmart is leveraging its food business particularly well in transforming its operation. The company is already operating click-and-collect food businesses in 600 US locations. Amazon only has such operations in 22 cities, via Whole Foods.
FINSUM: Both companies seem to want to be the “everything” of 21st century retail, but they are going about it from different angles. Amazon is going from ecommerce into groceries, and Walmart is doing the opposite.
Amazon has seen some significant volatility lately. A weak earnings report sent the stock plummeting, and weaker top line growth is making some worry. The stock is down 17% since the beginning of October. However, the company’s bottom line seems likely to grow strongly as it starts to benefit from its massive scale. A Nomura analyst summarized the situation best (and interestingly), saying “AMZN’s size and scale are eclipsing its ability to suppress margins … Put simply, it seems AMZN sales and GP [gross profit] dollars are growing faster than their ability to spend”.
FINSUM: We don’t think Amazon is in trouble by any means. The company is just transitioning into a more mature state where topline growth will slow, but margins will rise.