WMT - Walmart Inc.

NYSE - Nasdaq Real Time Price. Currency in USD
-0.25 (-0.21%)
As of 10:58AM EST. Market open.
Stock chart is not supported by your current browser
Previous Close119.78
Bid119.37 x 800
Ask119.39 x 800
Day's Range119.35 - 119.85
52 Week Range85.78 - 125.38
Avg. Volume5,046,985
Market Cap339.128B
Beta (3Y Monthly)0.38
PE Ratio (TTM)23.91
EPS (TTM)5.00
Earnings DateFeb 18, 2020
Forward Dividend & Yield2.12 (1.79%)
Ex-Dividend Date2019-12-05
1y Target Est130.24
  • KFC's fried chicken-scented firelogs are back at Walmart
    Yahoo Finance Video

    KFC's fried chicken-scented firelogs are back at Walmart

    KFC is selling fire logs that smell like fried chicken - and will be available at Walmart for $18.99 each. Yahoo Finance's Dan Roberts, Dan Howley, and Jared Blikre joins Seana Smith to discuss on The Ticker.

  • Health-care spending hit $3.65 trillion
    Yahoo Finance Video

    Health-care spending hit $3.65 trillion

    New government data show that total health care spending in 2018 spiked 4.6%. That's a lot higher than income growth, which was just 3% in 2018. The reason: More Americans are foregoing health coverage, leading to a rise in health care spending nationwide. 

  • Target is the Yahoo Finance 2019 Company of the Year
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    Target is the Yahoo Finance 2019 Company of the Year

    Target is the Yahoo Finance Company of the Year for 2019. We talk with Target's executive team and experts on how the retailer made it happen in 2019 and what's in store for 2020.

  • Small-Cap Stocks Set to Deliver a Stellar Performance in 2020

    Small-Cap Stocks Set to Deliver a Stellar Performance in 2020

    Recent macroeconomic developments, escalating geopolitical tensions and historical data point to a surge in stock prices of small companies Continue reading...

  • The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Microsoft, United Technologies, Procter & Gamble, Walmart and Intel

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  • Tesco Should Take the Money and Run

    Tesco Should Take the Money and Run

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Selling Tesco Plc’s operations in Thailand and Malaysia for about 7 billion pounds ($9.2 billion) would be a nice parting present from outgoing Chief Executive Officer Dave Lewis to his successor Ken Murphy. But there could be a sting in the tail from such a lavish gift. Tesco would be even more focused on its home turf in the U.K., where it’s in a merciless battle with discounters from Germany.Tesco said on Sunday that it was carrying out a strategic review of the business, after receiving interest from potential buyers. Britain’s biggest supermarket is right to consider whether its remaining Asian operations might be worth more to a rival. Analysts at Bernstein estimate the Thai and Malay businesses could fetch between 6.5 billion pounds and 7.2 billion pounds. What’s more, with Bernstein estimating of typical transaction multiples in the region of about 13 times Ebitda, and Tesco currently trading on an enterprise value to Ebitda multiple of 7.6 times, then this unit isn’t being adequately reflected in Tesco’s valuation.The Asian business is a highly profitable one, with an underlying operating margin of 5.87% in the year to February 2019, close to twice that at both Tesco’s U.K. and central European divisions. Selling this arm would be a further retrenchment from Tesco’s international assault of the 1990s, and leave the company focused on its core retail operations in the U.K. as well as its bank in its home market. Its only overseas outpost would be central Europe, a business it would most likely love to sell if a buyer could be found.Tesco doesn’t need to offload assets to strengthen its balance sheet, in contrast to when it parted company with its South Korean business in 2015. It has been bringing down debt, enabling it to raise its dividend and generating hopes that it may soon begin returning cash to shareholders. A chunky price for the Thai and Malay units would make this even more likely. Indeed, the shares rose about 5% on Monday as investors salivated over a sizable buy-back or special dividend.It would also provide Murphy with a war chest to slash prices. He joins Tesco from Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., where he spearheaded an expansion in China. However he has no direct experience of the cutthroat U.K. grocery sector.  Pricing is one area where Lewis could have done more. Although he made Tesco more competitive with its suite of cheaper exclusive brands, he could have tackled the problem earlier in his tenure.With the disposal proceeds, Murphy would be able to move quickly. He needs to. The U.K. arms of the German discounters Aldi and Lidl continue to go from strength to strength, improving their premium offerings and moving into high-margin areas for the mainstream supermarkets, such as vegan food. Being able to more effectively fight the no-frills supermarkets would be helpful to the new CEO.He would also be able to put pressure on traditional supermarket rivals, such as as J Sainsbury Plc, Wm Morrison Supermarkets Plc and Walmart Inc.’s Asda, at a time when the grocery market is sluggish. Meanwhile, some of the proceeds could be used to beef up other areas of Tesco, such as its online operations and its cash and carry arm Booker.But prices on the shelves of its domestic supermarkets are the key driver of the retailer’s fortunes. And with an attractive Thai and Malay deal, it might just be able to get them right.To contact the author of this story: Andrea Felsted at afelsted@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Melissa Pozsgay at mpozsgay@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Andrea Felsted is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering the consumer and retail industries. She previously worked at the Financial Times.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Benzinga

    Walmart Takes Down Christmas Sweater Featuring Coke-Snorting Santa, Others

    One of the sweaters featured Santa Claus with three lines and a heap of a white product along with the phrase “let it snow,” alluding to the recreational method of taking the drug Cocaine. “That’s why Santa really likes to savour the moment when he gets his hands on some quality, grade A, Colombian snow,” the description of the product sold by FUN wear said. “You know what's going on with the carrot and the jingle balls, we know what's going on with the carrot and the jingle balls and your friends definitely know what's going on with the carrot and the jingle balls,” the sweater’s description on FUN’s website reads.

  • Delta among companies using immersive MR technology for more 'visceral' connections
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    Delta among companies using immersive MR technology for more 'visceral' connections

    A panel was slated to discuss new content models at Atlanta Business Chronicle's Business of Entertainment event.

  • Dow Jones Today: Jobs Jubilee Sends Stocks Soaring

    Dow Jones Today: Jobs Jubilee Sends Stocks Soaring

    The November jobs report delivered today before the opening bell brought some holiday cheer and that was enough to send stocks soaring to close the week as the major equity benchmarks closed higher for a third consecutive day.Source: Provided by Finviz * The S&P 500 surged 0.91% * The Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied 1.22% * The Nasdaq Composite soared 1% * For the second time this week, industrial 3M (NYSE:MMM) was the Dow's daily leader, advancing 4.32% on news of an asset saleThe Labor Department said the U.S. economy added 266,000 new jobs last month, while the October number was revised higher to 156,000. Economists were expecting the addition of 180,000 jobs in November.Alright, so let's assume there are naysayers out there and there probably are. They'll say, and they're not wrong, that November report was aided by 41,000 General Motors (NYSE:GM) employees heading back to work, seasonal hiring for the holiday shopping season and census hiring. All true, but even combined, those factors likely didn't account for 266,000 jobs in a single month.InvestorPlace - Stock Market News, Stock Advice & Trading Tips * 7 Hot Stocks for 2020's Big Trends Moreover, the unemployment rate dipped to a 50-year low of 3.9% while wages rose 3.1%. Some investors may be apt to look for the political implications of these numbers and there are undoubtedly some, but these numbers also reveal that near-term downside for stocks may be limited and that's obviously good news.In late trading, 27 of the Dow's 30 components were in the green and of the three losers, downside was limited. UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH) was the Dow's worst performer today, but its Friday loss was modest and that stock has been on a tear of late. 3M RenaissanceIndustrial conglomerate 3M is one of the Dow's worst-performing names this year and it will take a miracle, Christmas or otherwise, for the shares to finish the year flat. A 13.70% year-to-date loss is difficult to overcome with not many trading days left in the year.However, 3M did give investors reasons to cheer today as it paced the Dow on rumors that the company is mulling a sale of its drug delivery systems unit, which could command $1 billion. That's not jaw-dropping news for a $95 billion company, so the stock's move today was likely more attributable to the jobs report and news that China is planning to waive some tariffs on U.S. commodities imports.That's relevant to 3M because the stock is trade sensitive and with China showing a gesture of good faith, President Trump may decide to back off of tariffs slated to go into effect on Dec. 15. Consumer CheerThe aforementioned jobs report wasn't the only cheery piece of economic data out today. The University of Michigan's preliminary sentiment index for December jumped to 99.2 from from 96.8 last month. An interesting element of that report is that respondents were divided along partisan lines with Republicans feeling good while sentiment among Democrats declined.Politics aside, the Dow's three consumer discretionary names -- Home Depot (NYSE:HD), McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) and Nike (NYSE:NKE) -- all closed higher. Underscoring the strength in that trio, McDonald's was the worst performer today, adding about half a percent.Keeping with theme of consumer strength, Walmart (NYSE:WMT), the largest domestic retailer, meaning it's highly levered to the jobs and consumer sentiment data points, added 0.94%. Disney DividendWalt Disney (NYSE:DIS) announced a modest dividend increase, saying its payout for fiscal 2019 will be $1.76 a share, up from $1.72 in fiscal 2018. That works out to 88 cents per share on a semi-annual basis. * 10 Stocks That Should Be Every Young Investor's First Choice "This has been a monumental year for The Walt Disney Company, marked by the launch of our new streaming service Disney+ and the completion of our acquisition of 21st Century Fox," said Disney CEO Bob Iger in a statement. "We are pleased to deliver another substantial dividend to shareholders as we continue to invest in the company's future." Bottom Line on the Dow Jones TodayFor those addicted to Federal Reserve rate cuts, today's data points weren't good news, but that's good news for the rest of the market. Sure, November's pace of job creation will be difficult to maintain, but even it remains simply "strong," the Fed won't be compelled to trim rates again anytime soon."We see the current stance of monetary policy as likely to remain appropriate as long as incoming information about the economy remains broadly consistent with our outlook of moderate economic growth, a strong labor market and stable inflation," said Fed Chairman Jerome Powell in Congressional testimony last month. "There is nothing in the November jobs report would seem to undermine that view."As of this writing, Todd Shriber did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. More From InvestorPlace * 2 Toxic Pot Stocks You Should Avoid * 7 Hot Stocks for 2020's Big Trends * 7 Lumbering Large-Cap Stocks to Avoid * 5 ETFs for Oodles of Monthly Dividends The post Dow Jones Today: Jobs Jubilee Sends Stocks Soaring appeared first on InvestorPlace.

  • The Most Successful Corporations in the U.S.

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  • 5 Cheap Stocks Under $10 to Buy for December Heading into 2020

    5 Cheap Stocks Under $10 to Buy for December Heading into 2020

    Today we found five stocks, with the help our Zacks Stock Screener, that are currently trading for under $10 per share that also sport a Zacks Rank 2 (Buy) or better that investors might want to buy in December heading into 2020...

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    Kroger Misses 3rd-Quarter Earnings and Revenue Expectations

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  • 5 Safety Stocks to Buy Without Trade War Exposure

    5 Safety Stocks to Buy Without Trade War Exposure

    The stock market has had a great 2019. Year-to-date, the S&P 500 is up about 28%. If the index were to trade flat into the end of the year, then 2019 would go down as the best year for the stock market since 2013, and the third-best year of the 2000s.But the stock market has also had a volatile 2019. Year-to-date, the S&P 500 has experienced more than 10 pullbacks of 2% or greater. By itself, that's not shocking. But what is shocking is that pretty much all of those 2% pullbacks have had the same culprit: the U.S.-China trade war.So, while I think U.S.-China trade tensions will ease going forward and the markets will consequently power higher, I also recognize that the trade war isn't over. Flare-ups will happen throughout 2020. Each one of those flare ups will be followed by a harsh stock market correction.InvestorPlace - Stock Market News, Stock Advice & Trading Tips * 7 Hot Stocks for 2020's Big Trends Given that, I don't blame you if you want sit out all the volatility and buy safety stocks in 2020 that don't have trade war exposure. If you're in that boat, this gallery is for you. I've hand picked a group of five safety stocks to buy for their strong internal fundamentals and lack of external trade war exposure. Safety Stocks to Buy: AT&T (T)Source: Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock.com The core reason to be attracted to telecom giant AT&T (NYSE:T) in the midst of the U.S.-China trade war is that this company provides various wireless and wired communication services which consumers in the U.S. need (and will continue to pay up for), regardless of the global trade situation. Broadly, then, no matter how the trade war plays out, AT&T's revenue and profit trends should remain relatively stable, leading to a relatively stable AT&T stock price.Further, AT&T stock has two huge catalysts on the horizon which could propel shares higher in 2020. First, there's the big mainstream 5G push, which will lead to increased demand for AT&T's wireless services at more favorable price points, as well as an increase in the number of connected devices in AT&T's wireless network. Second, there's the big streaming push with HBO Max. If that service gains healthy momentum in the streaming world, then the company will have found a cure for its cord-cutting headwinds, and the stock will benefit from multiple expansion as secular cord-cutting fears disappear -- just see what happened with Disney (NYSE:DIS) stock and Disney+.Of course, any mention of T stock as a safety stock would be incomplete without mentioning that: 1) this stock is incredibly cheap at just 11-times forward earnings, and 2) the stock also has a huge dividend yield that is north of 5%. Facebook (FB)Source: Ink Drop / Shutterstock.com Perhaps shockingly, social media giant Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) makes this list of safety stocks to buy without trade war exposure because, at its core, this company does not have much trade exposure.Facebook doesn't operate in China, so there are no levers China can pull here to hurt Facebook. Further, FB's properties will remain highly engaging in all other countries that they do operate in, regardless of the trade situation. That's because Facebook provides entertainment and communication services which consumers deem as central to their day as brushing their teeth or combing their hair. So long as consumers remain engaged, advertisers will continue to pour money into the Facebook ecosystem to chase that engagement.Sure, there's the risk that escalating trade tensions depress capital spending plans. Advertising is part of those capital spending plans. In theory, if the trade war gets really bad, Facebook ad budgets could get hit. But that has yet to happen. It's unlikely to happen anytime soon, because cutting Facebook ad budgets is something no one wants to do unless things get really ugly. Things won't get really ugly in 2020. If anything, trade conditions will improve. * 7 Retail Stocks to Buy That Dominated Thanksgiving Shopping In the big picture, then, FB stock is actually well shielded from trade war volatility. At the same time, this is a 20%-plus revenue and profit growth company trading at less than 25-times forward earnings, an attractive combination which implies minimal valuation risk and huge upside potential. American Electric Power (AEP)Source: Casimiro PT / Shutterstock.com The three big reasons to like U.S. utility company American Electric Power (NYSE:AEP) so long as the U.S.-China trade war wages on are that this company: 1) has minimal trade exposure, 2) is characterized by unparalleled stability, and 3) has attractive safety stock characteristics.American Electric Power is a U.S. utility company which provides electricity and power services to U.S. consumers. They don't operate outside of the U.S. This 100% domestic focus shields the company from international trade war noise.At the same time, the electricity and power services which AEP provides are necessary, with unwavering demand. That is, regardless of how the U.S.-China trade situation plays out, U.S. consumers will forever need and pay up for electricity and power services. Demand isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Neither are AEP's revenues or profits. This financial stability creates tremendous support for AEP share price stability.Lastly, AEP stock trades at a reasonably 21-times forward earnings multiple, has a rock solid 3% dividend yield, and is supported by stable and sizable cash flows. These ideal safety stock characteristics imply that investor demand for AEP stock during turbulent times will remain strong. Walmart (WMT)Source: Sundry Photography / Shutterstock.com Investors may be shocked to see global retail giant Walmart (NYSE:WMT) on this list. After all, Walmart does operate in the retail world, and tariffs do have a direct negative impact across the entire retail world in the form of higher input prices.Walmart is no exception here. The higher tariffs go, the higher Walmart's input costs will go, and the more that will either: 1) weigh on Walmart's margins, or 2) push up Walmart's shelf prices. But if you zoom out, it's easy to see that Walmart is actually a winner here.One of two things will happen in 2020. Either U.S.-China trade tensions will meaningfully de-escalate, or they won't. If they do, Walmart will continue to fire on all cylinders through sustained omni-channel and e-commerce expansion. If they don't, tariffs will pressure the entire retail sector. But, consumers won't stop shopping. They will just become more price-sensitive. The more price-sensitive they become, the more likely they are to shop at off-price stores, and Walmart is king in the off-price category.This is exactly why WMT stock was a huge out-performer during the last economic downturn. Consumers don't stop shopping when times get tough. They just shop smarter. * 9 Tech Stocks You Wish You'd Bought During 2019 Big picture, then, it looks like WMT stock is a strong safety stock to buy, because it will outperform regardless of which way the trade war swings. McDonald's (MCD)Source: 8th.creator / Shutterstock.com Last, but not least, on this list of safety stocks to buy without trade war exposure is global fast-casual food giant McDonald's (NYSE:MCD).The bull thesis on MCD stock as a safety stock is pretty simple. Regardless of how the trade war progresses, consumers globally still need to eat. Consequently, they will still visit McDonald's stores. Further, if trade tensions do escalate, that will cause broad consumer concern, which will in turn force consumers to become more price-sensitive. The more price-sensitive they become, the more they will cut back on costs. One way to cut back on costs? Stop going to expensive restaurants, and start going to McDonald's.As such, much like Walmart, McDonald's is supported by this fact that consumers don't stop buying things when times get tough -- they just start buying cheaper things.Also of note, tariffs have not created much noise in McDonald's financials, nor will they anytime soon. The word tariff wasn't mentioned even once during the company's most recent earnings call. Nor was the U.S.-China trade war. This lack of financial noise will help keep MCD stock shielded from trade-war-induced market volatility in 2020.As of this writing, Luke Lango was long T, FB, and WMT. More From InvestorPlace * 2 Toxic Pot Stocks You Should Avoid * 7 Hot Stocks for 2020's Big Trends * 7 Lumbering Large-Cap Stocks to Avoid * 5 ETFs for Oodles of Monthly Dividends The post 5 Safety Stocks to Buy Without Trade War Exposure appeared first on InvestorPlace.

  • Costco Sustains Decent Comparable Sales Run in November

    Costco Sustains Decent Comparable Sales Run in November

    Costco's (COST) better price management and strong membership trends have been playing a crucial role in driving comps. The metric improves 5.3% during the month of November.

  • 20 businesses that died in the 2010s
    Yahoo Finance

    20 businesses that died in the 2010s

    Yahoo Finance takes a look back at some of the biggest corporate busts of the last decade.

  • Benzinga

    Smells Like Chicken? This KFC-Scented Fire Log Is A Real Thing You Can Buy At Walmart

    What better way to celebrate the holidays than making your home smell like a KFC restaurant. Walmart is selling a fire log made with 100% recycled materials and makes your home smell like delicious chicken. Brands, Inc. (NYSE: YUM), captured the "hearts, noses and fireplaces" last year with a similar log.

  • Beware the Valuation of Costco Stock

    Beware the Valuation of Costco Stock

    I'd like to start this article on Costco (NASDAQ:COST) stock by saying two really important things. First, Costco is as good as it gets in the retail world.Source: Helen89 / Shutterstock.com Costco has been dominant because it has utilized two successful retail models: the warehouse retail model, which is successful because it optimizes convenience by putting everything under one roof and the membership retail model, which is successful because it enables Costco to sell goods at low prices. COST's high-margin membership fees make up for any profits the company loses by selling products for low prices.Second, Costco stock is a great long-term holding. In the long run, COST stock will hold its own against the likes of Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Walmart (NYSE:WMT), Target (NYSE:TGT), and others. COST's market share in the continuous- growth North America retail market will naturally stay steady. Its margins will also remain largely stable. Thus, the company's revenues and profits will march higher over time, propelling Costco stock higher.InvestorPlace - Stock Market News, Stock Advice & Trading TipsBut investors should not buy COST stock at its current levels.Costco stock has been on fire in 2019. The shares are up 44% in 2019 amid a plethora of positive developments. But, while Costco is a great company, Costco stock is dramatically overvalued at its current levels.Sure, hot stocks can keep going higher for a long time despite their high valuations But there are multiple catalysts on the horizon which could cause investors to become concerned about the valuation of Costco stock, ultimately causing COST stock to drop by a large amount. * 7 Hot Stocks for 2020's Big Trends Costco Stock Is OvervaluedPut very simply, Costco stock is overvalued.Costco operates in the North American retail market, which is growing steadily, due to population growth, labor force growth, and wage gains. But the retail market is not growing rapidly. U.S. retail sales have been rising all year long at a 3%-5% clip. Canadian retail sales have been growing at a 1%-4% clip. Thus, North American retail sales are currently increasing 1%-5%.Costco's share of this market has been rising. Its comparable sales growth has been north of 5% for more than two years. It will likely continue to gain market share as the retail world consolidates around a few central players. But its revenue growth probably won't be too impressive. Costco's revenue growth has been stuck in the 5%-10% range for the past decade. It will stay stuck in that range for the foreseeable future.Its gross margins have peaked around 11%, as they haven't risen much in over two years. At the same time, Costco's comparable sales growth trends have slowed from about 7% in fiscal 2018, to about 6% in FY19 to roughly 5% in fiscal Q1. As a result, Costco's profitability hasn't climbed much. These dynamics should persist, so Costco's margins are likely to be stable going forward.So, at best, Costco's earnings growth is likely to rise about 10% over the next several years. Costco stock trades at 34 times analysts' average forward earnings estimate. That is a ridiculously rich multiple for a retail stock. Simply consider that the entire consumer discretionary sector trades at a much lower forward earnings multiple of 22, and its projected earnings growth rate of 12% is higher than Costco's earnings growth.In other words, Costco's valuation has exceeded its fundamentals, and that makes COST stock dangerous. Negative Catalysts on the Horizon Present Huge RisksThe scary thing about Costco stock isn't its excessive valuation. Rather, it is the fact that there are multiple excessive catalysts on the horizon which could spark a major decline by COST stock.On the bright side, the economy and consumer spending are improving thanks to easing U.S.-China trade tensions. But, nonetheless, Costco's sales trends are deteriorating. Its comparable sales growth has slowed from about 7% in FY18 to roughly 6% in FY19 to 5% in Q1. The growth of the company's e-commerce sales has slowed from 20%-plus throughout most of 2018 and 2019 to less than 20% over the past three months.In other words, Costco's growth has been slowing for years. At the same time, its margins could come under pressure because the company may be forced to invest more to offset rising e-commerce competition.So Costco stock could be hit with slowing growth and falling margins in 2020. That combination is a recipe for disaster for a richly valued growth stock. The Bottom Line on COST StockCostco stock is a long-term winner that's trading at a highly unattractive valuation. The game plan for COST stock, then, is simple. Let the company's slowing growth and stagnant margins pop the bubble of Costco stock in 2020 Then, once the stock falls back towards the $250 level, consider buying the shares on weakness.As of this writing, Luke Lango was long WMT. More From InvestorPlace * 2 Toxic Pot Stocks You Should Avoid * 7 Hot Stocks for 2020's Big Trends * 7 Lumbering Large-Cap Stocks to Avoid * 5 ETFs for Oodles of Monthly Dividends The post Beware the Valuation of Costco Stock appeared first on InvestorPlace.

  • 5 Blue Chip Stocks to Buy on the Dip for a Stronger Portfolio

    5 Blue Chip Stocks to Buy on the Dip for a Stronger Portfolio

    As stock market volatility continues, the blue-chip index is showing fluctuation. However, a closer look into the index reveals that not all stocks are erratic.

  • Strong Cyber Monday Eases Woes Over Abbreviated Online Sales Season
    Investor's Business Daily

    Strong Cyber Monday Eases Woes Over Abbreviated Online Sales Season

    U.S. shoppers spent a record $9.4 billion via the web during Cyber Monday. That's up 20% from the year-ago period, and offers a promising sign, given the abbreviated shopping season.

  • The Wrong Way to Fight Porch Pirates

    The Wrong Way to Fight Porch Pirates

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- One consequence of America’s Cyber Monday shopping binge is the imminent arrival of $9.4 billion worth of merchandise on the nation’s doorsteps. And that will cue the annual cries of frustration about porch pirates — along with a raft of local news stories on how to evade them, and a few viral tales of consumers attempting to spook them with booby-trapped packages or glitter bombs.The fixation on thwarting porch pirates is understandable. (I, for one, will confess to being irrationally angry recently when a $27 baby onesie was swiped from my front stoop.) But it is also a flawed way of thinking about a legitimate and persistent problem with e-commerce.The problem is not just theft. It is that shipping giants such as United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp., as well as big retailers, are not moving fast enough to make delivery of online orders more flexible and to turn over more control to shoppers.Consumers and neighborhood associations should spend less time trying to answer the question, “How can we create a world where expensive goods can sit on my doorstep for hours and not get stolen?” Instead, they should be asking, “How can we make it so that expensive goods are not left on my doorstep in the first place?”UPS and FedEx, to be fair, have made strides toward giving customers more options. Each has a network of thousands of access points where shoppers can pick up packages, including at ubiquitous stores such as Dollar General or CVS Pharmacy. Both shippers have apps that allow residents to provide delivery instructions for a driver.Retailers, too, are getting more creative. Amazon.com Inc. now offers the option of choosing a single day each week for all of your recent orders to arrive, making it easier to ensure you’ll be home when your haul is delivered. And both Amazon and Walmart Inc. are piloting services that rely on smart-home technology that allows a driver one-time, secure access to your home.Surely such a service, or some variation of it, will become commonplace within a decade. (After all, there was once a time when it was creepy to get in a stranger’s car, but thanks to Uber and Lyft that’s now ordinary.) For now, though, the choices for consumers are underwhelming or confusing — or, in some cases, both.For example, UPS and FedEx both trumpet the convenience of letting you reroute an in-progress shipment to an access point. But online shoppers aren’t able to fully take advantage because retailers can put restrictions on packages preventing the recipient from redirecting them. This is likely a well-intentioned anti-fraud tactic, but it means access points aren’t the reliable solution they’re cracked up to be.And retailers aren’t always great at steering customers toward desirable secure options. Amazon, for example, routinely tries to nudge me at checkout to try a pickup point that is a 30-minute drive from my home, even though there is a Whole Foods Market with Amazon lockers in walking distance.But there are bigger ideas that could do even more to ensure package security. What if UPS or FedEx were to more routinely provide narrower time windows for drop-offs, or to allocate more workers for nighttime deliveries when nine-to-fivers are likely to be at home? What if retailers allowed customers to choose their shipping provider at checkout, which might force shippers to compete for their loyalty?Such changes would further complicate the “last-mile” delivery challenges the industry has been addressing for decades, and would likely add costs. But these are the same logistics experts and retailers that were able to make speedy two-day delivery standard.  It’s not unreasonable to expect them to innovate their way to giving shoppers more choice.Even if it’s difficult, improved delivery flexibility is a far better remedy for porch piracy than other headline-grabbing approaches. Police departments have experimented with planting bait packages on doorsteps that are outfitted with GPS trackers, potentially allowing them to catch individual thieves. Texas has a new law on the books that makes package theft punishable by up to 10 years in prison.Never mind that there are already laws against theft. These kinds of punitive measures are not useless, but they are likely to be helpful only in a limited area for a limited period of time.The more productive approach is to focus on reducing the unsecured supply of porch treasures. And no one is better equipped to attack that problem than the retailers and shippers. So shoppers should raise their expectations of these companies and demand that they do more.To contact the author of this story: Sarah Halzack at shalzack@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Newman at mnewman43@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Sarah Halzack is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering the consumer and retail industries. She was previously a national retail reporter for the Washington Post.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • How a Vegan, Alcohol-Free Christmas Is Taking Over the World

    How a Vegan, Alcohol-Free Christmas Is Taking Over the World

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- This Christmas, instead of a free-range turkey, how about a beef-less Wellington washed down with a few glasses of “Nosecco”? And rather than falling asleep watching the Queen, why not tune in to your inner self with a spot of meditation?This might not sound like traditional festive fun, but now that the craze for all things vegan has crossed the Atlantic, it’s what British retailers are betting on to lift sluggish supermarket sales and see off brutal conditions on the high street, at least for a spell.A rough estimate suggests that across the big U.K. supermarket chains, meat-free offerings of traditional Christmas fare are up by between 40% and 400% this year. This underlines how veganism has moved from niche to mainstream over the course of 2019 as more  consumers cut out animal products altogether, or reduce their meat intake with a “flexitarian” diet. Just look at the popularity of the vegan sausage roll introduced by baker Greggs Plc. There’s likely to be at least one vegan at any big Christmas gathering, and so being able to cater for them with plant-based canapés is crucial. And while many families won’t ditch the turkey altogether, they may well replace another meat protein, such as beef or gammon, with a fancy nut roast, savory yule log or vegetable wreath. Sales of plant-based substitutes still represent a small share of the overall grocery market, but they can have a significant influence over shopping habits. Being able to buy a good selection of food for a vegan daughter, for example, is likely to determine where shoppers fill up their grocery carts for the whole family. No wonder the category has become a key battleground.There’s another reason why it’s worth supermarkets’ while to go vegan. Plant-based versions of festive favorites such as pigs in blankets tend to be more complex to make and require innovative ingredients. J Sainsbury Plc is this year offering party food made from the blossom of the banana tree, which can be used as a substitute for fish. This builds on the popularity of the jackfruit, a tropical fruit that is a good alternative to pulled pork. All of this added value means supermarkets can charge a premium.QuicktakeThe Vegan EconomyThat won’t last forever though. The U.K. arms of the German discounters Aldi and Lidl are piling into this market too. Lidl has two Christmas-specific vegan lines, while Aldi has nine, including pastry crowns and vegan cocktail sausage rolls. Neither had a plant-based offering last year. Wm Morrison Supermarkets Plc recently cut the price of its foods that are free from certain ingredients, such as gluten, while Tesco Plc has launched an affordable plant-based range.In another sign of the times, supermarkets this Christmas season are bulking up on party drinks that are low in alcohol, or contain none at all. Not only do they  tend to be premium products, particularly non-alcoholic spirits, but retailers don’t pay duty. So, while they can charge the same or more for a fancy but sober drink, they get to keep a bigger slice of the selling price.It helps that the market is growing rapidly, as many consumers, particularly younger people captivated more by their social media feeds than their real social life, reduce their alcohol intake. Beer led the way, spawning Budweiser’s Prohibition Brew and Brewdog’s Nanny State, with wines and particularly spirits exploding this year. Demand from supermarket shoppers follows the trend in clubs and pubs where “mocktails” are now a staple of the cocktail menu. Going on the wagon is usually associated with January, but the run-up to Christmas can also be a time for restraint as people become more conscious of pacing themselves through rounds of festive events, not to mention all of those designated drivers. Asda, the U.K. arm of Walmart Inc., estimated that December sales of low- and no-alcohol drinks are double those of the average month. It’s all part of the new mood around Christmas, characterized by rising environmental awareness and a focus on health and wellness. Throw in the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit and the general election, and there are fewer celebrity blockbuster Christmas advertisements this year, with most retailers returning to traditional themes such as family and nostalgia for the past.Even tree trimmings are falling in with the trend. The Sanctuary range from John Lewis features pastel hued baubles including Buddha heads and an ornament depicting a woman reclining in a luxurious bubble bath. Its focus is on serenity — something that’s often in short supply over the busy festive season.After the decorations come down, consumers may continue to embrace plant-based diets with Veganuary, which has rocketed in popularity over the past five years. Dry January will bolster sales of no- and low-alcohol ranges.  But beyond that, it could well be retailers themselves that are in need of some self-care. The months following the holidays are often lean ones, as consumers rein in spending after the excess of Christmas. It can also be tricky for supermarkets to accurately gauge demand and control waste when consumers switch in and out of different food and drink trends so dramatically. This year could be particularly hard if the election is followed by the return of fretting over Brexit. So these swings will be an extra burden to manage.The New Year hangover may still be with us, even if it is an alcohol-free one.To contact the author of this story: Andrea Felsted at afelsted@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Melissa Pozsgay at mpozsgay@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Andrea Felsted is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering the consumer and retail industries. She previously worked at the Financial Times.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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