With the holiday retail season getting under way, it’s time to do a bit of shopping of our own — with a look at a few retail stocks to watch.
This year, for a variety of reasons we’ll see shortly, we’re looking at three familiar names. They are TJX, Nordstrom and Best Buy.
First TJX, the parent of Marshalls and TJ Maxx, and the acknowledged leader in off-price branded fashion merchandise. Marshalls and TJ are familiar names up and down the Central Coast, but Santa Barbara insiders were appalled a few years back when it was Marshalls that won the lease for a coveted spot on the corner of State and Canon Perdido streets. They were perhaps expecting Neiman Marcus, but that was not to be.
It turns out, however, that Marshalls is not a bad fit for a block that boasts Tilly’s and Forever 21 with cheap luxury king H&M just a few steps away. And judging by TJX’s stock price performance recently, it’s poised to rack up a respectable Christmas season.
TJX is trading at or near a 52-week high around $64.20 per share at press time. The fashion-at-a-discount formula seems to be working, and analysts’ big concern is that the stock has run up too fast to be a bargain. Others point out that with economic fundamentals improving, TJX could grow at a steady pace — its biggest warning has been about costs in opening stores in Austria.
A couple of wild cards for the Massachusetts-based company are the fact that its comparisons to last year’s frigid winter could be super easy. And the fact that any slowdown at California’s ports would dump some really off-price bargains into the lap of its savvy buyers.
Meanwhile, Nordstrom, a fixture in the region with stores at The Oaks and in Santa Barbara, has been posting stronger-than-expected results. Its shares have been trading at within a dollar of its 52-week high at $76.34 after it beat estimates for third quarter earnings by a couple of cents.
Nordstrom famously competes with TJX and other discounters with its Rack stores, including a spot in Oxnard that’s a favorite place to hunt for bargains. It also has positioned its mainstream stores to compete more heavily for younger shoppers, striking a longstanding agreement with Goleta-based Deckers Outdoor for lines of the Ugg Australia and other brands.
The Christmas season is going to be good for Nordstrom, which also will face easy comparisons over weather. And the revised GDP numbers released Nov. 25 are perhaps a harbinger of even better sales to come.
Finally, there is Best Buy. Beaten down earlier this year when it badly missed earnings estimates, the stock, which trades as BBY, fell off a cliff earlier this year, tumbling from the $43 range to the mid-20s.
It’s been a long and sometimes ugly climb back, but Best Buy is trading in the $38 range after posting an unexpected revenue gain and profit for the third quarter. Analysts say that Best Buy is being helped by strong appliance sales, the new phones from Apple and a generation of high-definition televisions that are being bought as replacements for earlier digital models.
Last year’s holiday season was deeply impacted by first the government shutdown, and then the extremely cold weather on the East Coast. Will 2014 deliver a Christmas miracle? A year that, for once, surprises on the upside and lifts retail stocks to new heights?
We’ll just have to ask Santa for a no-drama Christmas and cross our fingers.