It's going to be another lean holiday season this year for families across the U.S. Widespread unemployment and stringent credit policies are changing the meaning of Christmas. And budget-friendly presents are replacing the traditional elaborate gift giving traditions.
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'Tis the Season to be Thrifty
In a typical year, bustling shoppers can be seen throughout malls and department stores, splurging on gifts for the ones they love. And the focal point of Christmas tends to be what lies beneath the tree.
This year however, shoppers are more likely to be found purchasing practical items that used to be bought as everyday items. A heightened emphasis will be spending time with the family, rather than gift they have to offer.
Bah, Humbug Stocks
The first socks that come to mind for investors capitalizing on the frugal spending patters are typically dollar based retailers like Family Dollar (NYSE:FDO) and discount behemoth Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT). These companies will undoubtedly benefit from stingy consumers. However, there are three retailers that I have pegged to be the top winners this holidays season.
Costco (Nasdaq:COST): Many people do not even have the funds to purchase items they actually need anymore. The holidays will give them an opportunity to receive everyday goods. Costco's "treasure hunt" theme offers unique but practical gifts that make ideal presents that are often attractively priced. It's no surprise that memberships and customer visits were on the rise last quarter, as shoppers gear up for the start of the shopping season.
Amazon (Nasdaq:AMZN): The e-tailer often boasts rock-bottom prices, particularly on electronics, thanks to its unique business model that generates a negative cash conversion cycle. In a similar fashion to last year, families with a little extra spending money will likely make one large purchase, such as a gaming console or entertainment system, to please the entire family. Amazon is likely to be their outlet of choice, as consumers face few options to score deals on electronic gadgets aside from Best Buy (NYSE:BBY).
Aeropostale (NYSE:ARO): The teen retailer has literally emerged into a hotspot at malls across the country. In September, same store sales rose 19%, and year-to-date, total sales have skyrocketed 28%. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise though, as its stylish clothes mimic higher end brands like Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF) for a fraction of the price. Fashion-conscious youngsters can expect to open a few Aeropostale-labeled boxes on Christmas morning.
The Bottom Line: A Twinkling Holiday Portfolio
This is not meant to be an all-encompassing list of retailers bound to benefit from the 2009 Christmas season. That said, these are three stellar companies that sport solid balance sheets, operate efficient business models and can capitalize on budget conscious shoppers. Investors seeking to trade in advance of the holidays can count on these retailers to light up their portfolios. (For more, check out Holiday Spending Or Spending Holiday?)
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