It's been a rough year for investors with the major market indices posting flattish returns during the first three months of 2014. However, there have been more than a few winners during the first quarter. Let's go over a few of the consumer-facing companies that saw their stocks post healthy double-digit gains in this year's freshman quarter.
E-Commerce China Dangdang (NYSE:DANG) -- up 50% in Q1
It wasn't a good quarter for domestic online retailers. The market leader saw its shares plunge 16%, and it was one of the lucky ones. It's a different story in China, where some of the country's biggest gainers were e-tailers.
Dangdang got its start selling books through its website, but it has gone on to expand into bigger-ticket general merchandise items. That may sound familiar, but for Dangdang, it's been a rocky run as a profitless operator until just recently. Dangdang shot higher after posting a surprising profit in its latest quarter when analysts were settling for another loss. There are naturally some pretty significant risks when buying into China, but Dangdang has lived up to the greater rewards' end of the bargain so far in 2014.
Keurig Green Mountain (UNKNOWN:GMCR.DL) -- up 40% in Q1
The company behind the Keurig single-cup brewer soared 82% last year after fears of its fading relevance were vanquished. The original K-Cup patents may have run out, but Keurig still has too many potent relationships, affiliates, and products in the pipeline to dismiss that easily.
Keurig got a major credibility boost this year when the world's largest beverage company agreed to buy a 10% stake in the company and offer up its popular brands as beverage flavors for the upcoming Keurig Cold machine.
RealD (UNKNOWN:RLD.DL) -- up 31% in Q1
Multiplex attendance has been relatively stagnant in recent years, but a big reason why box office receipts are inching higher is that exhibitors are able to charge more for 3-D screenings and other premium experiences. RealD is the leading outfitter of 3-D systems for multiplex operators.
This isn't just a stateside phenomenon. RealD turned heads two weeks ago when it announced a deal with a Chinese exhibitor that will result in 780 screens being upgraded by RealD's platform.
RealD shares also spiked after posting better-than-expected quarterly results in early February. It came through with strong top-line results, fueled partly by the success of Gravity gaining rave reviews for its visual artistry that seemed to beg for 3-D screenings. It also posted a much narrower deficit than the pros targeted.
Skullcandy (NASDAQ:SKUL) -- up 27% in Q1
It's been three summers since Skullcandy went public at $20. The maker of edgy headphones, earbuds, and other accessories has spent most of the past three years as a busted IPO, and that didn't change this past quarter. Skullcandy continues to trade in the single digits. However, it may finally be ready to live up to the hype.
Most of Skullcandy's pop came on March 7, the day after posting quarterly results. It posted another loss on a brutal 28% drop in sales for the holiday quarter, but it did surprise the market with guidance calling for sales to increase during the first quarter and for all of 2014. That's music to Wall Street's ears.