Tickers in this Article: AMZN, BBY, JWN, WMT
The dust is still settling and the crowds are still dispersing, but the early victors of the all-important Black Friday shopping weekend are emerging. It's a set of details investors may want to take note of, simply because these initial sales results reflect a marketing plan for the entire holiday shopping season - if they're doing well now, the buyers and marketing departments probably know what they're doing. First things first though ... some perspective. (For additional reading, check out: Businesses That Benefit The Most From Black Friday.)

Investopedia Markets: Explore the best one-stop source for financial news, quotes and insights.

The National Retail Federation says spending this weekend jumped 16%, from $45 billion to $52.4 billion. ShopperTrak's numbers weren't quite as strong - the retail data group said Black Friday spending improved by only 6.6%. Still, whether talking about just the one day or the whole weekend, spending hit record levels, at least partially abating fears that this year's holiday sales would stink. Maybe consumers aren't dead in the water after all.

Some retailers were deemed as bigger winners than others though, and these are the ones that may have an edge for investors.

It's All Relative
Being the biggest retailer in the world doesn't inherently mean Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) is the best - the company also has to spread its results out across an enormous base of shareholders. Even on a relative 'per share' basis though, the discounter cued up the biggest win for 2011's Black Friday weekend. The store was repeatedly, specifically named as the biggest beneficiary of consumer-spending demand this weekend ... the only deep discounter to be named over and over in that discussion.

Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) was also figured as one of the big Black Friday winners, repetitively cited along with Wal-Mart as the biggest draw for shopping crowds. It was the only consumer electronics retailer to really get the attention of analysts, who noted the company played the "in-store only" card quite well but still managed to beat the usual great deals offered by Amazon (Nasdaq:AMZN).

Online Sales
Still, don't feel too sorry for Amazon this holiday shopping season - the retail shopping site saw the biggest increase in traffic (among all the major retailing sites) this past weekend ... a double-digit increase, according to ComScore, and 50% more traffic than the next-nearest competitor.

What about numbers two and three for increased traffic in the online world? As it turns out, if shoppers are willing to go to a store to buy it, they're just as willing to buy it from you online. Wal-Mart's e-commerce site and then Best Buy's saw the second and third biggest jumps in web traffic compared to last year's Black Friday online shopping.

Though it didn't receive any specific analyst accolades for its web traffic, an honorable mention should go out to Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN) ... not because it pumped up its e-commerce activity, but because it beefed up the online shopper's total experience.

Nordstrom finally stepped neck-deep into the e-commerce race, and may have whipped the competition with the effort. A custom-built application - only available for the iPhone right now, but with an Android version on the way - actually acts like a personal shopper for the user, suggesting related items based on the shopper's preferences ... a virtual personal shopper. It can even determine if a certain item is available at the nearby store, potentially bringing in foot traffic. The e-commerce site is also part of a same-day delivery experiment, paired up with free shipping.

It's a risk to be sure, but one that has so far been well-received by consumers. And remember, though e-commerce isn't new to Nordstrom, this level of online customer engagement is, and online sales largely represent incremental growth.

Do Not Open until After X-Mas
The proof of the pudding won't fully be known until after Christmas, but the early clues do tend to be good barometers on a company-by-company basis. So, if any retailers are 'must have' names for a portfolio, these names are certainly among that group. (To know how to analyze retail stocks, read: Analyzing Retail Stocks. )

Use the Investopedia Stock Simulator to trade the stocks mentioned in this stock analysis, risk free!

At the time of writing, James Brumley did not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article.

comments powered by Disqus

Trading Center