The conventional wisdom about Thanksgiving and Black Friday winners and losers is easy to agree with to some extent. Shoppers will flock to Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) in greater numbers year after year as the e-commerce firm marches toward being a $100 billion a year business. However, there is at least one bricks and mortar company which has enough muscle already online to push strong growth–Walmart (NYSE: WMT) which rates second in web traffic among retailers. That leaves crumbs for most competition.
Walmart has set a system, based to a large extent on its massive customer base and marketing budgets, to drive people online with run-of-the-mill free shipping and lay-away plans. The fact that people can pick up at stores what they have ordered only enhances that. And, the brand it has built with a foundation for “everyday low pricing” continues to capture the low income and middle income shopper. A look at its sales numbers compared to the balance of the industry shows the extent of its overwhelming presence.
Another set of retailers is large enough, has brand power, balance sheet strength, and marketing talent enough to likely hold their own. Target (NYSE: TGT) as the “mini-Walmart” is first among these. Macy’s (NYSE: M) still has a hold on the upper middle class. Best Buy’s (NYSE: BBY) most recent same-store sales show that it is back from the wounded. Amazon may not overwhelm it for another year. The consumer electronics company appears to have balanced how it markets online and how it draws customers to its store.
J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP) has one advantage, it can leverage if management is smart. It has received more publicity than any retailer in the country. Most has been negative. However, some public relations experts argue that all visibility offers a chance for a positive outcome. Penney needs to demonstrate that people who have read about it have some reason to also shop. It has turned away from the crazy merchandising of Ron Johnson, and may have turned far enough back to traditional retail habits. There there could be a rabbit in the hat.
All of this leaves one very clear loser, or two based on preference. The KMart and Sears divisions of Sears Holdings (NASDAQ: SHLD) have demonstrated that they cannot market their stores effectively during any part of the year. These stores have been criticized as black holes of drabness, and the brands smell of something which has already departed. In a market in which the competition is either desperate to win, or has won already, Sears Holdings doe not even have a place to make a last stand.