Amongst Really Large Stores, Who Wins this Holiday Season?
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Wal-Mart cleaned up thanks to its staggered deal promotion (and management sure did provide the data to support it and also try and quiet the protestor movement…), stores looked very picked over by the end of the weekend. Forearm to throat, I don’t believe what Wal-Mart has put forward thus far alleviates the margin headwinds in the U.S. business (investing in price) and Sam’s Club (getting more aggressive on price after a sluggish third quarter), and obviously doesn’t help a weakening international sales/margin story. Overall, the quarter is likely running in line to management’s plan, which was for strength (it bought more inventory than the norm to support sales).
That said, this commentary does not mean Target has started the season terribly or is at risk of a guidance miss, relatively speaking Wal-Mart’s traffic and conversion was just eye popping. I recently moved to sidelines on Wal-Mart following earnings, am staying there for now, would rather look for more nimble retailers to navigate the choppy holiday season waters in front of fiscal cliff mania.
TJ Maxx is another winner from large box world, a good bit of inventory soaked up by the end of the weekend both at the namesake division and at Marshalls (holiday pick). Considering the company is running on lean inventories, the margin picture appears solid. In the same space, Big Lots (reports earnings next week) did not impress at all. I observed leftover fall items in the store (ripe for a markdown) and cautious buying of seasonal on the part of cash-strapped consumers. BTW, a shout out to management, might want to redo the labeling on private label products, it’s limiting their sales (they don’t create confidence in taste or effectiveness, for example).
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