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Which Retailers Are Leading the Digital Race?

Stocks in this article: GPS TGT WMT ARO JWN TCS URBN KSS TGT

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Every traditional retailer fears the same thing: Amazon (AMZN). But some companies are pushing back against the e-commerce giant with so-called omnichannel strategies and doing a fine job at it. Others, not so much.

"Most retailers are pursuing omnichannel initiatives to make the shopping experience more convenient for their customers, but in many cases these initiatives are required to keep up with the pure play etailers," according to Wells Fargo Securities analyst Paul Lejuez in a note to clients on Friday. "Bricks and mortar retailers are trying to use the primary advantage they have over pure pay etailers -- the ability to go to a physical store -- either to get a product same-day, to see the product in person, or to more easily return an item. But in many cases, it is a game of catch-up for the bricks and mortar group."

Gap (GPS - Get Report), Nordstrom (JWN - Get Report), The Container Store (TCS - Get Report), and Urban Outfitters (URBN - Get Report) are seen as leaders in the retail digital space, Lejuez wrote. Others, such as Aeropostale (ARO - Get Report), Kohl's (KSS - Get Report) and Target (TGT - Get Report) have more work to do, the note said.

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Lejuez and his team asked retail companies under their coverage list which digital initiatives have been implemented from a list of nine capabilities. Those initiatives included: find in store; reserve online, pick-up in store; purchase online, pick-up in store; buy online, ship from store; single view of inventory; store credit for [e-commerce] sales; mobile inventory check/order instore; interactive e-commerce ordering from store; and associate mobile checkout. TheStreet's Laurie Kulikowski has details on the retail winners and losers:


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Much talk has been made in the retail world about Macy's (M) aggressive adoption of omnichannel strategies, however "department stores are generally ahead of the game, but perhaps this also reflects the pressure they feel from online retailers who in many cases sell similar products/brands," the note said. "In the specialty world we believe URBN is near the top, perhaps given the large size of their direct business, GPS is also fairly advanced with its initiatives (we believe CEO Glenn Murphy has made this a priority)."

That said, Kohl's "seems to be moving quickly to upgrade its omnichannel capabilities," while Walmart (WMT) and Target have moved their digital strategies up in the priority list "as they aim to leverage their store assets (the obvious gap in Amazon's arsenal) and play catch up," the note said.

The note pointed out that teen retailers, particularly Aeropostale, seem most behind. Those in the teen retail space may have felt that investing in omnichannel initiatives was "less pressing" since merchandise cannot be bought elsewhere. That said "it is precisely their teen customer that is likely to be most current on everything related to [ecommerce] and to expect up-to-date mobile/ecom capabilities when they shop," Lejuez wrote.

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