Bear markets are tough, and this year, all three major indexes dipped into bear territory. But the good news is these down markets don't last forever.

In fact, the average bear market lasts about a year. What comes next? A bull market. Investors love these periods of gains because bull markets can significantly grow the value of a portfolio.

We can't predict exactly when the next bull market will take place, but we do know it's on the way. So today, when many top stocks are trading at bargain prices, is the time to prepare. Here are three potentially explosive players to buy before the new year.

1. Target

There are two reasons to love Target (TGT -3.38%) in tough times and in easier ones. First, this retail giant is an excellent dividend stock. It's among the list of dividend royalty known as Dividend Kings. These are companies that have raised their dividends for at least 50 straight years. This is important because it shows they favor dividend growth -- so you can count on them for passive income.

Second, Target offers a great earnings track record and has the elements needed to grow revenue down the road. The most recent quarter represented Target's 22nd consecutive quarter of comparable-sales growth.

Target should keep that growing through its focus on delivery and pickup services -- and its investments in its stores and owned brands. The retailer also recently launched a plan to gain in efficiency -- and that should lead to $2 billion to $3 billion in cost savings. All of this, plus strengthening consumer demand, could make Target a star during the next bull market.

Target shares -- trading at 26 times forward earnings estimates, down from more than 40 earlier this year -- look like a bargain today.

2. Etsy

Etsy (ETSY -1.90%) made tremendous gains during the early days of the pandemic. People flocked to the online seller of handmade goods. Etsy connects makers of these goods -- who have their own shops on the platform -- with shoppers.

The pace of revenue increases slowed as consumers returned to their routines of in-store shopping. But the good news is shoppers haven't left Etsy. In fact, Etsy's kept most of the gains it made during the past few years.

Etsy marketplace gross merchandise sales (GMS) in the most recent quarter totaled $2.6 billion. That's compared to $1 billion in the same quarter of 2019.

The company has continued to keep up growth despite today's tough economic environment. Etsy marketplace GMS increased in the quarter if we remove the impact of currency exchanges. The company also is managing to attract new buyers at a faster rate than it did prior to the pandemic. It added 6 million new buyers in the quarter -- 50% higher than the average in pre-pandemic days.

Etsy shares are heading for a 42% decline this year. In just one year, that's more than halved their valuation in relation to forward earnings. This is an absolute steal for a stock that could explode higher once economic pressures on consumers' wallets lift.

ETSY PE Ratio (Forward) Chart

ETSY PE Ratio (Forward) data by YCharts.

3. Starbucks

Starbucks (SBUX -1.13%) has reached an important turning point. The coffee-shop giant has launched a three-year plan to deliver double-digit revenue and non-GAAP earnings-per-share growth.

Importantly, Starbucks is starting off from a position of strength. The company already has a solid track record of revenue growth.

In the most recent quarter, Starbucks' consolidated net revenue climbed 11%, to a record $8.4 billion. Starbucks also has built a community of loyal customers. Its U.S. active Rewards program members increased 16% in the quarter, to $28.7 million.

Today, headwinds such as rising inflation and coronavirus disruptions in Starbucks' second-biggest market of China have hurt margins. These problems are difficult. But the good news is, like bear markets, they're temporary, and Starbucks is aggressively preparing for its future. This brings me back to the reinvention plan.

Starbucks' plan includes several areas of focus -- from beverage innovation to driving growth in China. These are two key areas for the company. Past innovations -- such as cold brew -- have led to revenue increases. As for China, Starbucks says this market still is in the early stages of development.

Today, Starbucks is trading for 28 times forward earnings estimates. That's down from about 40 earlier this year. At this level, Starbucks is a bargain buy. If all goes well, the growth plan could send the shares soaring.