Whether its fashion or technology, demand from millennials (aged 18-34 this year) is a crucial factor for a company to remain relevant. This section of the population is expected to outnumber the Baby Boom generation of the U.S. this year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
While demand from millennials has helped shaped the present and future of companies such as Apple, Samsung, and Nike, there are many others struggling to make themselves relevant to this group of individuals.
We've found three companies with brands that Millennials love, as per a survey by ad agency Moosylvania, and which have changed their strategies to align themselves with the Millennial mindset and their consumption patterns. They're among a group of stocks tapped into secular trends, making them suitable for long-term growth portfolios. Let's take a closer look.
The face of Millennial fashion is changing, fast. Teens who once sought branded apparel from labels such as Abercrombie & Fitch and Aeropostale are now flocking to more affordable fast fashion brands such as Forever 21, Zara, and H&M. Add to this the ballooning student debts, discouraging youth employment figures, and a sluggish economy, and it becomes understandable why the teen and overall retail industry is languishing.
However, in the face of these changing times that are making big names irrelevant, American Eagle Outfitters is getting its act together.
One of these measures is opting out of the practice of constantly offering discounted clothing. This way its shoppers will not get used to year-round discounts and will be more willing to pay full-price for the quality that AEO is offering.
AEO is also looking to churn its range of clothing quicker, a strategy put in practice at Zara, thus avoiding inventory build-up that requires sales for clearance, in the first place.
But the trump card for AEO is its lingerie brand for younger women, Aerie. In the $13 billion lingerie market in the U.S. where 14% of the female population is between 15 and 24 years of age, Aerie has tremendous potential to expand.
The brand has even managed to strike a chord with strong and independent women, by abandoning the practice of airbrushing photos of lingerie ads, making the models more relatable to real women. The result? Sales climbed 9%, executives said.
Despite encouraging third quarter numbers where comp sales rose 9% compared to a 5% decline year-over-year, and operating margins swelled 320 basis points, investors seemed to want more. Post the Dec. 2 earnings announcement, the stock actually closed the trading day of Dec. 3 lower by 3%. In the last six months, the stock has fallen 13.8%.
Seems like the bearishness surrounding the retail industry is weighing down on the AEO stock. But with a solid, contemporary strategy and a promising turnaround in numbers, AEO should not be left out in the cold and deserves a place in your long-term growth portfolio.
In February, Sony revealed a business strategy of focusing on growth-driving segments such as its devices, game and network services, pictures, and music divisions and shift away from businesses where it can't keep up with competition. These mainly include smartphones, where Apple and Samsung dominate the market, and TVs.
Ever since, the stock extended the previous year's gains and hit a four-year high of $32.95 in May this year. From January to May alone, Sony surged an impressive 60% before it gave up gains to trade near $24 currently. For a little over half a year now the stock has been struggling to recover lost ground, as the company tries to regain its position as a consumer electronics powerhouse and battles the effects of a strong dollar.
Proving to be the wind beneath Sony's wings is the PlayStation 4 (PS4). Late in November, Sony announced that had managed to sell over 30 million units of its PS4 video game console in about two years, the fastest growth ever recorded in the history of its gaming console sales.
This figure also trumps the sales of rivals Microsoft's Xbox, likely between 15 million-18 million units, and the Nintendo Wii U, which sold 10.7 million units as of September. With the launch of Sony's virtual reality headset next year, Millennials may just help PS4 surpass PS2's 155 million unit sales over the next few years.
Even though Sony registered losses in the past fiscal year, it has improved from the year before that, and FactSet consensus estimates expect comfortably positive earnings for the current fiscal year.
While Sony has still a long way to go before its core electronics business is back on the growth path, it boasts a solid story of recovery, which is probably why 15 out of 19 analysts of FactSet consensus suggest buying the stock. If your horizon is for retirement planning over the long haul, Sony fits the bill.
Intense competition from online players such as Amazon and tight margins has sent discounter Wal-Mart's stock on a steady decline, down 30% year-to-date. Rival Target too has seen a roller-coaster of a year, but it's trading more or less flat.
While in terms of brand love, Wal-Mart lags a little behind Target, Millennials seem to flock to Wal-Mart rather than Target for 20 of the 25 merchandise categories considered for this study.
One major reason being that for every Target store in the U.S., there are about 2.5 Wal-Mart stores. But Wal-Mart really needs Millennials to survive and grow. Location being a big factor of consideration for Millennials, Wal-Mart has also taken several steps to remain on top of the minds of Millennials when they think of shopping.
Wal-Mart's launch of its app which helps customers discover discounts at the store was the product of its understanding of Millennials' reliance on technology. Upping the ante, the discounter recently also unveiled Wal-Mart Pay where users can register their preferred payment option and use their phone camera to scan QR codes generated at checkout.
Further trying to appeal to convenience-seeking Millennials, Wal-Mart is going all out with its Neighbourhood Markets, smaller stores which stock groceries and consumables and are located closer to city centers. These can prove to be direct competition to grocers such as Whole Foods Market, Kroger, and Trader Joe's.
Further, Wal-Mart's friendlier policies ranging from wage hikes for employees and improved standards for meat sold at the store are also likely to find favor with the progressive Millennial mindset.
This year alone, Wal-Mart stock has crashed more than 30%, but if it continues to hit the right notes with this rising consumer segment, Wal-Mart will rebound.
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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.