I think the most interesting thing about this year’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday is that, despite the weekend’s decreasing overall relevance for American shoppers, business has been unusually strong. This is likely in large part because consumers in the aggregate finally–eight years after the bottom of the economy (and 8 1/2 years after the bottom in world stock markets)–feel confident that the recovery is real. Yes, we still have serious regional, educational and other demographic disparities. But the typical consumer appears to feel that his/her job is safe and that family finances are enough under control to allow a return to more-or-less normal spending. This is an important positive economic sign.
If this is correct, then it’s probably also time to begin to sort through the Wall Street wreckage in the retail sector. I’d be particularly inclined to look at bricks-and-mortar, where more open wallets are likely to make the greatest positive impact.
By the way, I’ve been shopping online for a RAID array. While I was looking on one site, a price comparison app told me that the item I was thinking about was substantially cheaper at Wal-Mart (WMT). The WMT site told me that I would get $35 off the purchase if I applied for a credit card and bought today–both of which I did. Almost immediately I got an email that said my purchase had been cancelled, but gave me a phone number to call for an explanation. I did. After about 10 minutes of waiting, when I was next in line for an agent, the line disconnected. I ended up finding the item for the same price and with much faster delivery from B&H.
WMT may be a more formidable competitor for Amazon than it was a year or two ago. And the AMZN price for what I wanted was 50% higher than WMT’s!!! But WMT still has a ways to go, at least handling high-volume online days. That’s probably more a positive than a negative for the stock, however, since there’s still considerable scope for improvement.