Julia Roberts had twins yesterday, and we think we missed a real opportunity here. No, we never thought we had a chance with Julia, but remember, she was married to Lyle Lovett once. Now we're left to only imagine what the offspring would have looked like if the Pretty Woman and the talented, soulful, yet interesting-looking songwriter had procreated.

The market yawned on this news, remaining mostly flat throughout the day in a post-turkey hangover.

Lyle, we love you. Call us.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Is Santa Skipping Wal-Mart?


Seth Jayson (TMF Bent)

Are things really so bad as this? Last week, market watchers everywhere began predicting a big dose of holiday humbug based on the disappointing same-store sales at one little retailer. OK, so Wal-Mart(NYSE: WMT) isn't so little. But does it make any sense to try to predict the early winter weather for all retailers based on what happens at Sam's house?

Sure, Wal-Mart's comps for November are predicted to come in at a measly 0.7%, well below the 2-4% the Street had been expecting, based on management's hopes earlier in the month. But as much as it may sometimes seem otherwise, there are other places for shoppers to spend their hard-earned bucks. Reports from credit-card companies and other retailers suggest that overall, holiday shoppers have already spent 10-15% more than last year.

In other words, don't judge the world according to Wal-Mart. As I pointed out here, only a few lower-end retailers have been able to deliver any kind of meaningful sales growth lately. On the other hand, higher-end goods at luxury and specialty retailers have seen much more robust sales gains. Take a look at the action at places such as Coach(NYSE: COH) and Tiffany & Co. That doesn't mean that upscale retailers will be the only beneficiaries over the next few months.

Investors looking for clues as to who else may benefit this holiday season might want to read a little further down the press release to see what kind of goods are moving at Wal-Mart. Atop the blitz list: digital cameras, which should be good news for companies such as Canon, Lexar(Nasdaq: LEXR), and SanDisk(Nasdaq: SNDK). Also strong were learning toys -- think of LeapFrog(NYSE: LF). And, of course, the annual pop in video-game sales may juice sales all the way up the food chain from Electronics Boutique(Nasdaq: ELBO) to Electronic Arts(Nasdaq: ERTS).

For related Foolishness:

Seth Jayson loves shopping for stocks even more than shopping for stuff. At the time of publication, he owned shares of SanDisk but had no positions in any other firm mentioned. View his Fool profile here.

Discussion Board of the Day: Overstock.com

Are Overstock's closeouts and $1 shipping policy just the ticket to win over the Web-enabled shopper? Why do you think the stock has been on a tear lately? What can get in its way? All this and more -- in the Overstock.com discussion board. Only on Fool.com.

Few Defectors in Wireless War


Dave Mock

One year ago the moment that nearly every American was waiting for finally happened -- consumers could switch wireless service providers and keep their telephone numbers. It took the FCC years of dogging the nation's service providers to put the technology in place, and they fought the mandate the whole way.

When the wireless local number portability (WLNP) rules took effect in the top 100 markets last November, many predicted a flood of defections. It comes as no surprise that people are attached to their phone numbers, which factor into their identity. Certain numbers are hot commodities to some, with a Chinese man recently bidding $215,000 to buy a mobile number there.

Well, the onslaught of defectors didn't really happen. Actually, the FCC reported last week that nearly 8 million consumers chose to leave their wireless carrier and take their number over the past year. To give a little perspective, though, nearly five times that many left their provider the year before portability was in place. A portion of these 8 million would likely have left their providers with or without their numbers anyway, clouding the true impact of the ruling.

So what gives? Wasn't this newfound freedom designed to give subscribers the chance to flee lousy service subscribers, taking their phone numbers with them as they switched to a competitive service?

The answer is simple: The contract is still king. Before WLNP rules took effect, most wireless service providers made great efforts to entice those not tied to a contract to sign up for a one- or two-year plan. Many a carrot was dangled -- free minutes, free phones, free everything. As a result, many people are still stuck -- for a while.

So which providers have come out ahead so far? In a nutshell, it has gone as most predicted. Verizon Communications(NYSE: VZ), Nextel Communications(Nasdaq: NXTL), and T-Mobile (subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom AG(NYSE: DT)) have had a solid year of subscriber growth, while SprintPCS(NYSE: FON), Cingular (joint venture between SBC(NYSE: SBC) and Bellsouth(NYSE: BLS)), and AT&T Wireless have languished. AT&T Wireless had an absolute mess of a year, with their customer care and activation system experiencing major problems through the busiest time of the year. They've now merged under Cingular, and SprintPCS no longer has a tracking stock.

But while number portability didn't live up to most of the hype floated in the press, it has started a very positive trend in improving services for consumers. It has also helped investors zero in on which companies are providing better services to their customers.

Fool contributor Dave Mock cherishes his mobile number but would give it up in a heartbeat for a six-figure bid. He does not own shares of any company mentioned in this article.

Quote of Note

"My work is a game, a very serious game." -- M.C. Escher

Overstock's Locked and Loaded


Nathan Slaughter

Given the lackluster post-Thanksgiving results reported by Wal-Mart(NYSE: WMT), it might be easy to conclude that the eagerly anticipated kickoff of the holiday shopping season didn't exactly get the retail ball rolling. However, sluggish sales at the industry bellwether may be more reflective of Wal-Mart's firmer pricing policy this year, rather than a broader reluctance by shoppers to hit the stores early. In fact, ShopperTrak, which compiles sales figures for 30,000 stores, announced that Black Friday sales rose 10.8% over last year's total.

If some of the nation's malls and strip centers were a little less crowded, it could be the missing shoppers were lining up behind online cash registers at companies like Overstock.com(Nasdaq: OSTK). The Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection reported today that traffic to its flagship website spiked 31% from the weekend before, not quite as robust as the 70% increase at Yahoo!'s(Nasdaq: YHOO) virtual storefront, but still busy enough to generate the highest one-day sales total in the company's history.

The closeout retailer did not divulge overall year-over-year comparisons, but did release a few exciting tidbits that prompted investors to bid the shares several dollars higher in morning trading. Sales of apparel and jewelry, for example, were cited as particularly brisk -- a trend that bodes well for online jewelry specialist Blue Nile(Nasdaq: NILE), another Rule Breakers pick. Furthermore, Overstock.com division Worldstock, which markets goods produced by disadvantaged artisans, posted record four-day sales of $250,000.

The company also noted that its online auction division -- launched last quarter to siphon away some of eBay's(Nasdaq: EBAY)350 million listings by charging 30% lower fees -- had 140,000 active auctions during the weekend.

Overstock.com's weekend results are encouraging, particularly considering that most online retailers don't experience a surge in traffic until the Monday following Thanksgiving. Last year, consumers spent more than $300 million in online sales on that day, which has no-so-creatively been dubbed Black Monday.

To date, seasonal online spending has jumped 23% to $5.7 billion, and total holiday sales are expected to rise 25% to top the $15 billion mark. With a new advertising campaign promoting increased brand awareness, and continued consumer preference for discounted merchandise, Overstock.com is well-positioned to capture a healthy percentage of those revenues. Still, with the stock having skyrocketed since this summer to a new 52-week high, that bright outlook has already been factored in. Investors may need to shop carefully before overspending on Overstock.com.

Check out these other items in the Fool's inventory:

Fool contributor Nathan Slaughter owns none of the companies mentioned.

More on Fool.com Today

In One Slick Stock, Alyce Lomax asks: Is Urban Outfitters a slick investment or a slippery slope?... A dividend strategy is eminently more rewarding than you think, Mathew Emmert says in Extra Dividends, Extra Growth.... In Investing in Car Culture, Jeff Hwang is back from a car show with three investment ideas, presented in a two-part series.

In other news:

For a list of all our stories from today, see our Today's Headlines page.