Right now, Target is hard at work reducing its margins. And that's actually a good thing. Across the country, Target stores are getting revamped with new grocery options for shoppers, a move that isn't intended as a growth engine in and of itself, but rather as a new way to get people inside its doors to get them buying other products. While the addition of grocery will dilute margins for TGT, it should translate into bigger absolute profits, a very good thing for investors.
Like Costco, Target's biggest competitor is Wal-Mart. But Target's pitch to a slightly higher end of the consumer demographic has worked -- and so has the effort that Target has poured into its private label brands. Today, around 20% of sales come from Target's own brand, a fact that helps to boost margins to mid-single digits. This firm's Black Friday sales could be a big catalyst for investors at the end of the year.
2012 has been a strong year for Akamai Technologies ( (AKAM) -- the $6.4 billion internet CDN provider is up close to 12%, besting the broad market by a respectable margin. Akamai's main business is built on helping companies speed up their web content and serve media more quickly to visitors. That's been an attractive business in the last couple of years as cloud computing increases consumers' reliance on web-based content.Akamai boasts some significant infrastructure. The firm's 95,000 servers are positioned to collocate content closer to the users who need that content, a simple task on its face that's enough of a technical challenge to warrant the hefty paychecks Akamai earns for its trouble. Competition has been ramping up in recent years, as the cloud computing buzzword attracts more tech firms, particularly from niches that are struggling right now. Even so, Akamai has proven its long-term wherewithal, and a rising tide should continue to lift all ships for the foreseeable future. Akamai's finances are in stellar shape, with more than a billion dollars in cash and investments and no debt. That, coupled with deep double-digit net margins, should keep investors interested in this stock. While AKAM is hardly a value name, it should be able to keep up its momentum into 2013.
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