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.
Retail is in midst of its biggest selloff since the Financial Crisis. Stocks in the sector have not fallen this hard, this fast, since 2008, and that includes the 2017 panic in retail. Retail stocks had been swept up in a sort of cautious optimism this year that had allowed them to see gains. However, they have gotten caught on the wrong side of fears over the economy and trade war, falling a whopping 17% this quarter alone. The big tumble comes despite a quite bullish Christmas sales forecast.
FINSUM: Retail has a lot of problems facing it right now. Outside of the well-known threat of ecommerce, there is also rising labor costs which are pinching margins at the same time as revenue is getting tighter.
Christmas is not looking very merry for retailers. While 2018 has been kind to retailers, especially compared to 2017, the fourth quarter has been rough. The stocks have been getting hammered on the back of weak guidance from a handful of companies in the sector. Not only are retailers under topline pressure from ecommerce, but costs are rising too, squeezing margins. As an example, Target’s shares fell 9% on Tuesday and the shares are down by more almost 20% since August.
FINSUM: This selling pressure seems to be a combination of economic worry and fears about rising costs.
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.