There is a lingering misconception that investing is a tough and complex exercise where significant brain power is required. While it is true that some analysis and critical thinking skills are required, the fact remains that the basic premise of investing is easy to understand -- buy great businesses and hold them over the long term as they continue to grow.
Many successful consumer businesses are represented by brands, products, and services that we use daily. As consumers, we use the products and services regularly without even realizing that they are provided by public companies. This familiarity makes it much easier for an investor to link the business to the product, brand, or service. With this ease of understanding, it makes it easier for investors to put money into these companies.
Here are three stocks that I believe anyone will find easy to understand.
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) probably needs no further introduction. The personal electronics giant has grown from a struggling computer company in the 1990s to a behemoth now. Its iconic iPhone is now a ubiquitous accessory for almost every cool teenager and young working adult, while its app stores are now overflowing with programs and ideas coming from all walks of life. Apple has also devised a wearable called the Apple Watch that can help to track your fitness statistics, make payments, and communicate with friends (through an accompanying iPhone, of course).
Sales of iPhones still make up around 60% of total revenue for Apple and are going strong, up 7.6% year over year for the company's fiscal first quarter (which ended Dec. 28). The wearables division has also experienced strong growth, up 37% year over year to hit $10 billion for the first time -- proof that Apple is slowly but surely diversifying its sources of revenue.
Services are also growing in importance, taking up 13.8% of revenue and growing 17% year over year. Whenever you subscribe for a service such as Apple Music, Apple TV, or iCloud, the company makes money from you through subscription fees.
On your way to work, or at the airport, or just walking along, you've probably stopped by a Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) store to grab a cup of freshly brewed coffee. The outlets also offer a dizzying array of food choices to go along with your cuppa.
The company has grown strongly over the years and also expanded internationally, ending its fiscal first quarter on Dec. 29 with 31,795 stores. Starbucks' loyalty program has garnered 18.9 million members, up 16% year over year.
Starbucks is actively opening new stores domestically and overseas, particularly in China, which is seen as a potentially lucrative growth market. The company has seen its revenue grow consistently in the past five years from $14.9 billion to $26.5 billion, and barring short-term effects arising from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, should continue to see strong growth. That's something to think about the next time you sip your latte.
If you've ever observed a bunch of kids playing with their toys, there's a high chance that some of those toys are from Hasbro (NASDAQ:HAS). Hasbro is one of the top three toy companies in the world and boasts a range of iconic brands such as Power Rangers, Monopoly, Hot Wheels, Play-Doh and Magic: The Gathering.
The company has just completed its $3.8 billion acquisition of Entertainment One, the studio behind children's favorites Peppa Pig and PJ Masks. In addition, it reported fiscal 2019 revenue growth of 3% to $4.72 billion, with the entertainment, licensing and digital division seeing the biggest year-over-year revenue jump of 22%.
Hasbro has also just renewed its agreement with Walt Disney to make toys based on the popular Marvel and Star Wars franchises. This has the potential to boost the company's revenue over the medium term, as these two movie franchises are hugely popular and have a strong following.
Staying updated on the business
Though the three companies above have businesses that are easy to understand, it's still important for investors to stay updated on what's happening within the business.
Apple and Starbucks will face short-term obstacles due to the spread of COVID-19 (including store closures or service changes), but they should do fine over the long term. Hasbro looks to continue its growth after sealing the deal with Disney, while its acquisition of Entertainment One will also provide it with a portfolio of new brands that are hugely popular with children.
But if you want to study up on big, battle-tested companies in a time of uncertainty, these three are a good starting point.