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Better Buy: Disney vs. Target

By Adria Cimino - Updated May 17, 2021 at 9:34AM

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One is recovering. The other hopes to build on its strongest growth ever.

The Disney (DIS 4.68%) experience and the Target (TGT -0.04%) experience over the past year have been quite different. Disney has struggled with closed parks. Revenue fell and even swung to an annual loss. At the same time, Target's revenue and profit climbed. It won sales as customers ordered online and favored its contactless pickup options.

But these days, things are looking positive for both companies. Disney is beginning to recover. And Target is continuing its growth story. Now, the question is: Which of these consumer stocks makes the best buy at this point? Let's take a closer look.

An investor checks out stock prices on his tablet as he sits in his living room.

Image source: Getty Images.

Disney

Disneyland in California, one of Disney's best-known parks, had been closed for more than a year because of the pandemic. Disney reopened Disneyland and Disney California Adventure on April 30, and now, all of Disney's parks except Disneyland Paris are open. Why is this such great news? Because the parks, experiences, and products business generally contributes the most to the entertainment giant's revenue.

Disney's parks are operating at reduced capacity. But here's why that isn't a big concern. In last week's earnings call, Disney said revenue at the parks is surpassing the cost of opening them. The company said that in the previous quarter, too. This is a great starting point on the road to recovery.

In more good news, Disney says bookings are strong for the Florida and California parks. So there's reason to be optimistic about Disneyland's contribution to earnings in the next report.

Disney also makes money through its streaming services -- including Disney+. Some investors were disappointed when the Disney+ subscriber numbers in the quarter fell short of analysts estimates. Disney said they reached almost 104 million. That's lower than estimates of 109 million. But we should put this in perspective. Disney+ beat its subscriber expectations last year -- its first year of operation. And it's on track to meet guidance of 230 million to 260 million subscribers in fiscal 2024.

Target

Last year was a transformative one for Target. Earnings per share climbed more than 47% to $9.42 year over year. Revenue growth of $15 billion surpassed the growth of the prior 11 years combined. And digital sales soared 145%. Target's strengths in essentials, casual clothing, and grocery offered customers what they wanted, and where they wanted it. Same day services such as order pickup and drive up surged 235% last year.

The retailer made progress in new areas. For instance, it launched its owned activewear line, All in Motion, in early 2020 -- and it's already become a billion-dollar brand. Target also ramped up its Good & Gather line of food and beverages. The company started it in 2019. And the brand brought in more than $2 billion in sales last year.

Target reports first-quarter earnings on May 19. This will be a key moment for the company. Here's why: Investors want to know if Target can keep up the growth beyond the pandemic. Of course, the health crisis continues. But COVID-19 cases are on the decline. And more than 35% of the population is fully vaccinated. That means people may return to pre-pandemic routines. And that could result in weaker growth at Target.

Will it be Disney or Target?

Let's take a look at share price. Disney and Target both have gained significantly over the past year. They've each climbed more than 70%. They also both are trading close to record highs.

Moving forward, we can imagine Disney shares rising as the company recovers. And we can expect Target shares to increase as the company's growth story continues. I think those are reasonable scenarios. So, I'm positive about both of these companies as a long-term investment.

But if I had to choose just one to buy right now, I would opt for Target. The company is less expensive in relation to forward earnings estimates.

TGT PE Ratio (Forward) Chart

And even if Target's revenue growth slows as the pandemic wanes, I'm optimistic about steady growth over the long term. Target has built a solid foundation in popular areas such as digital sales and convenient pickup options. All of this means major potential for this retail stock well into the future.

Adria Cimino has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

The Walt Disney Company Stock Quote
The Walt Disney Company
DIS
$117.69 (4.68%) $5.26
Target Corporation Stock Quote
Target Corporation
TGT
$169.60 (-0.04%) $0.07

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