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'Tis the season to be judge-y!
Oh please, like no one at work brought up Hal's office holiday party dance floor spectacle the following Monday. And look me in the eye and tell me again how you weren't secretly delighted when your high school rival showed up at the New Year's Eve fete with an extra 25 pounds. Seriously, a show of hands please, from those who don't coordinate the entire family's Christmas morning PJs so that everyone looks extra adorable in the home movies you'll be posting on FaceSpace?
As long as we're all being honest about what's really on our minds, we might as well work the angle and make a buck or two off the season of constant preening. You know, so we have more to give to charity next year.
Head-to-toe stock ideas
While everyone's checking their reflections in the mirror, investors should be giving retail stocks the onceover. Here are seven investing ideas to consider to pretty-up your portfolio... and (bonus!) pick an outfit for New Year's Eve that'll make you outshine everyone else at the party.
Start with skivvies …
Every woman knows the power of a foundation garment. (FYI, guys: Don't call them "girdles" -- it's "shapewear.") A little exposure to unmentionables could give your portfolio a nice boost.
Alyce Lomax and I -- aka "the stock-picking chicks" -- recently ogled the major players in the intimate apparel sector. (See our full coverage here.) We found a bra stock that is the perfect fit for investors of all shapes and sizes: Warnaco (NYSE: WRC ) . It might not be the most titillating of picks, but consistent growth, a strong balance sheet and low debt make it a company that will remain, uh, perky over the long term.
Next, pick out a fantastic frock ...
Oh the horror of two people at one party wearing the exact same dress. (Actually, it's only a horror if the other gal rocks it more than you do.)
Anyhow, bitter high-school rivalries aside, when you want something special -- an outfit with an exclusive, one-of-a-kind, eclectic air -- you'll find it at Anthropologie, the chic, with-it retailer that's part of Urban Outfitters (Nasdaq: URBN ) .
Unlike run-of-the-mill clothiers like Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, and AnnTaylor, the Urban Outfitters formula never seems formulaic. Each of the company's 300 stores has the air of an independent boutique. With plenty of cash on the balance sheet and great fashion instincts, Urban is looking lovely for the long term.
... and a fabulous (and fabulously priced) pair of shoes
(Please excuse the following interruption for a public service announcement: Attention shoppers, here are the dates for Nordstrom sales events.) Utter the words "Nordstrom (NYSE: JWN ) shoe sale" and that reserved, well-coiffed, elegant lady will throw down with the best of 'em to fight tooth and nail for that last pair of size 7 Ferragamo slip-on flats.
Well-priced, high-quality duds helped Nordstrom Rack clearance stores rake in a 17.9% increase in sales this most recent quarter. (The prices may have been a bit too good, though, since same-store-sales took a 2.2% hit.) Shoppers should be happy to know that in 2011 the company plans to open more than a dozen Rack clearance stores to add to the 86 existing outlets.
Powder your nose and put lipstick on your portfolio
If I were banished to a desert island and allowed only a single cosmetics company, it would be Estee Lauder (NYSE: EL ) . The grande dame of makeup is more than just its namesake brand. The brands under the Estee umbrella are the greatest hits of many a female's makeup drawer: Clinique, MAC, Bumble and bumble, Bobbi Brown, Aveda, Smashbox, and Origins, just to name a few. Not only that, but Estee products are sold everywhere -- through department stores, drugstores, the Internet, groovy cosmetic-centric stores like Sephora and Ulta, spas and salons, and for some of its brands, stand-alone, mall-based stores.
Add a little sparkle
I'm not much of a fine-jewelry gal (I know, what a catch, right?) but I'm clearly in the minority if you look at the comeback of bling. Of course, companies like Tiffany (NYSE: TIF ) can't help but look like a million bucks given the beating that luxury retailers have taken in the past couple of years. However, investors with commitment issues should consider two of Tiffany's finer traits: The first is that the little blue box means luxury in any language (nearly half of the company's sales are done internationally). Secondly, the company is feeling confident enough to increase dividends and resume the share repurchase program it abandoned at the altar in late 2008.
Don't forget to pick up a hostess gift
For TP and milk, a trip to any old supermarket will do. But when you want to do it up right -- flowers, fine wine, exotic chocolates, prepared food that really can pass as "homemade" -- you head to Whole Foods Market (Nasdaq: WFMI ) . Same goes for investors looking for a high-quality grocery store stock.
Whole Foods stock may cause a bit of sticker shock at the checkout register. But that's because it has earned its premium price. It boasts impressive revenue growth (up 12.1% v. Kroger's 5.8% over the last four quarters), high gross margins (34.8% v. SUPERVALU's 22.6%), and a manageable debt-to-equity ratio (21.4% vs. Safeway's 108.6%).
Stow it all in a classic clutch
Finally, there's no better place to stash your lipstick, extra earring back, and receipt for that bottle of wine than in a classic Coach (NYSE: COH ) purse.
Like the company's handbags, Coach is a timeless investment -- one that doesn't make you fret every time the fickle winds of fashion change direction. Still, the ongoing refrain about Coach is that "it's a great company, but a bit too pricey at [insert the share price du jour]."
Whatevs. Coach is a well-run company with historic appeal and international momentum. That's what I said in August during our 11 O'Clock Stock series when I told investors to man up and buy this company. Since then the stock has risen more than 55%. And, yes, I do need to buy a bigger Coach bag ... to accommodate my growing ego.