Consumer discretionary stocks are found wherever ordinary people spend money on items that aren't basic necessities of life. These companies don't make paper towels, soap, and frozen vegetables, but some of them land very close to these everyday staples. In fact, you might argue that some of the companies I'm about to mention really are essential in 2020 -- and that's exactly why they belong on this list of excellent investment ideas.
Without further ado, let's dive into three household names in the discretionary spending category that are fantastic buys today.
Coffee chain operator Starbucks (SBUX -0.60%) is a daily routine for millions of Americans, and that customer loyalty has helped the company manage the challenges of COVID-19. Foot traffic to Starbucks stores may be down, but the average order size has grown dramatically as consumers make the most of each trip.
The company is also learning new tricks in this unusual business environment. A new store format known as Starbucks Pickup is about to hit the busiest city centers in America, offering nothing but mobile orders for takeout. Upgraded ordering systems should help the company manage its takeout operations better, and the data the new systems collect about each order will shape Starbucks' marketing and promotional efforts on a local level.
Business is already picking up in important growth markets like China, and Starbucks appears to be enjoying a boost from parents dropping their kids off at school.
The stock has gained 11% over the last month, but it's still down 2% in 2020. Starbucks is a solid buy at these lower prices, complete with a generous dividend yield of 1.9%.
2. Domino's Pizza
Pizza vendor Domino's Pizza (DPZ 0.39%) is crushing it these days. The stock has gained 34% in 2020, 110% in the last three years, and 263% from a five-year perspective, absolutely roasting the broader market in all three comparisons:
Lots of Americans turned to the leading pizza makers when coronavirus restrictions shut down dine-in restaurants in the spring. Domino's was already on a roll when that trend started, supported by a successful rebranding and recipe-tweaking effort a decade ago. Second-quarter sales rose 13% year over year, and earnings increased by 37%. In both cases, Domino's left Wall Street analysts eating its dust.
Like Starbucks, Domino's is picking up some new ideas in this market environment. The company recently rolled out some new chicken wing options to tap into the rapidly growing popularity of takeout wings. Improvements to the digital ordering, car-side delivery, and home delivery processes should add lasting value. Domino's is opening new stores and hiring thousands of additional employees to handle the high demand, and that infrastructure will remain when the coronavirus crisis has passed.
CEO Ritch Allison hopes this unprecedented boost will help separate Domino's from other pizza chains.
"COVID-19 has accelerated some of the trends that we were already seeing in motion around delivery, carryout, and digital adoption. And we expect that customer expectations around safety and contactless experiences will remain heightened for the foreseeable future," he said in the second-quarter earnings call. "We will likely never forget the second quarter of 2020 as a chapter in our path toward dominant No. 1."
The stock isn't cheap at 34 times trailing earnings and 51 times cash flows, but you get what you pay for. Domino's is a solid buy in September 2020.
3. Walt Disney
Finally, let's consider the venerable House of Mouse. Walt Disney (DIS -0.82%) suffered horrific results in the spring and summer as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down many of the company's most important operations while placing huge roadblocks in front of other Disney businesses. Movie theaters closed down alongside the theme parks, cruise ships, and hotels. Disney's cable TV networks saw lower advertising activity, and ESPN was reduced to showing reruns of sporting events in lieu of live-action games. Third-quarter sales fell 41% year over year, and earnings dropped from $1.35 to $0.08 per share.
Disney's stock plunged as much as 48% below December's highs in March and is still trading 8% lower in 2020. The parks are back in business, albeit with lower attendance and tight social distancing rules. ESPN is showing some live sports again. The company rerouted some of its cinematic content to premiere on the Disney+ streaming instead, inspiring a spike in downloads of the Disney+ app.
Everything is most certainly not back to normal yet, and it could take a long time to get there. But Disney is armed with a massive stockpile of cash and undrawn credit lines, and it's not like the company's fans are giving up on Mickey Mouse and Cinderella. Disney+ is becoming a powerhouse in the digital media market as we speak.
Long story short, Disney is poised to make a full recovery from this dark period and the stock is sure to follow suit. It might take some time, but successful investing is all about patience anyhow. Buy Disney shares now at a modest discount and you might get to sit back and enjoy returns from the gold standard of entertainment stocks for decades to come.