Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) may seem like the obvious stock to own ahead of Cyber Monday. However, three Motley Fool contributors have other ideas as we head into the 2015 holiday shopping season. Arguably the busiest day in online shopping, Cyber Monday, creates immense opportunities for FedEx (NYSE:FDX), Target Corporation (NYSE:TGT), and Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) this year. Here's what investors need to know.
Tamara Walsh (FedEx): Shipping and logistics company FedEx is proving you don't need to be an e-commerce giant like Amazon to hit it big on Cyber Monday. FedEx predicts a massive volume spike in deliveries on Cyber Monday, followed by another two heavy volume days during the first two Mondays in December. The shipping giant also expects more than a 12% increase in seasonal volume over last year. FedEx said it could see a record-shattering 317 million shipments between Black Friday and Christmas Eve this year, according to a company press release.
And FedEx is well prepared for the peak delivery season. In fact, the company has invested as much as $1.6 billion recently to better automate its FedEx Ground shipping business. On top of that, FedEx is adding more than 55,000 seasonal jobs in an effort to reassure retailers that it's ready to handle the increase in shipping volume expected this year.
While retail sales in general are on pace to rise just 3% this holiday season, online sales are expected to increase more than 8% over the same period, according to the National Retail Federation. This is great news for FedEx, since any items purchased online must therefore be shipped to customers. With online retail sales set to top $105 billion this holiday season, FedEx could be a big winner.
Daniel B. Kline (Target): For many years Target was a retail company that happened to have a website.
Since Brian Cornell took over as CEO in August 2014, that has changed. The company has invested heavily in its digital operations and has made its website a viable competitor to the established online leaders. The results of those investments and increased focus began to show during the 2014 holiday season, where the retailer posted some impressive results:
- Sales on Target.com on Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday set a record, up 40% from 2013.
- Black Friday weekend purchases made via mobile phones were two times higher than in 2013.
- Cartwheel, Target's digital coupon app, added 2 million new users over the holiday period and surpassed $1 billion in promotional sales since it launched.
- Target.com store-pickup orders hit a new record high on Thanksgiving Day.
- On Dec. 20, the cutoff date for shipments to arrive Christmas Eve, Target.com doubled its sales from last year's cutoff date.
Cornell has kept digital a focus this year and in March announced a layoff, mostly at the company's corporate headquarters, to pay for $2 billion in investments over the next two years. Though the company didn't break down how that money will be spent, much of it will go toward continued digital improvements.
Target has already been aggressive this holiday season, offering free shipping for any order over $25. It hasn't announced any Cyber Monday deals, but that shopping holiday should be the cherry on top for what should be a very successful holiday season for its digital operations.
Delivering those results is made easier by last year's success. The company has more credit cards on file, more people are comfortable using its website and apps, and more customers are using Cartwheel. Given Target's continued efforts to keep pace with other online retailers, there is every reason to believe those people will come back.
That should lead to more records, and after Cyber Monday more people may see Target as a digital player.
Rich Duprey (Starbucks): Retailers pull out all the stops when it comes to creative ways to get you to part with your around Christmas, and there's none bigger than the five-day shopping extravaganza stretching from Thanksgiving Day on Thursday, across Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, and right on through to Cyber Monday.
Yet where 87 million people made a purchase last year on the better known Black Friday, the National Retail Federation says 127 million plunked down some money on Cyber Monday, making it the most popular shopping day of the weekend.
Investors can expect Amazon.com to reign supreme once more in 2015, but if you're looking for a less obvious investment to stock up on before Christmas shopping season really gets under way, you may want to fill your red coffee cups with Starbucks.
The coffee slinger is much more than just a company selling hot water poured over ground coffee beans. It's a connected, technological marvel, with one of the most impressive customer loyalty programs of any restaurant or retailer. And having made its mobile ordering and pay-now app available nationally, Starbucks has combined all three functionalities into one app, letting the customer order, pay, and even specify the location and time of pickup. And they receive rewards for using it.
In its recently reported fiscal 2015 earnings report, Starbucks recorded impressive high-single-digit gains in same-store sales growth coupled with higher store traffic, both here in the U.S. and around the globe. It plans on opening another 1,800 stores next year -- 700 here in the U.S. -- while still expecting operating margins to grow year over year. Its stock is trading near all-time highs, but that doesn't mean it won't be going higher still.
As we close in on the start of a holiday spree, an investment in Starbucks celebrates the digital life while serving as an end run around typical cyber plays.