Retail's Plan to Snuff Out the Dot-Competition

Bricks-and-mortar leaders are scrambling for a way to fend off their online rivals.
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So the heads of the five families of retailing got together in upstate New York recently and collectively said that the bricks-and-mortar empire can't be allowed to falter. The families almost never get together -- that's just too dangerous -- but the crisis this time was so great that they had to convene a big meeting in some sleepy New York hideaway.

They didn't know I was there. I couldn't tell

who

was doing the talking, but I did get to eavesdrop enough to hear what the main thrust of the meeting was.

In particular, I caught this one bit of intelligence -- a conversation between big retailer No.1 and big retailer No. 2:

No. 1:

We gotta stop any more Amazons (AMZN) - Get Report from popping up. We gotta make sure that nobody else gets a dime to come in against us. These guys are killing us -- just killing us. And the money keeps flowing to them. They are going to put everybody out of business. We can't keep lying to Wall Street. It is going to show up in the comparable numbers soon.

No. 2:

There's only one thing we can do: We have to develop Stinko.com, a spinoff of some of the boys in this room. And we do Stinko.com with millions of shares. All of those other deals are all small-time offerings, just a few million. We bring Stinko.com public and sop up every dollar those Net heads have. And we break the print price. We make sure that the deal doesn't work by jacking the pricing up so high that it has to fail. That ought to do it.

No. 1:

But won't that hurt our regular stock? Who wants to sacrifice the regular stock on the dot-com altar?

No. 2:

Nonsense. It's in everybody's interest in this room to have this dot-com market collapse. It will put upward pressure on our own stocks when people realize that the dot-com easy money is over.

At that point, some of the guards at this retail syndicate meeting spotted me and chased me off.

But I got to snatch the cassette from my tape recorder before they smashed it.

Random musings:

It's probably no coincidence that the brokerage stocks are swooning this morning. They'll get stuck holding the underwriting bag when this dastardly plan goes into effect.

James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund had no positions in any stocks mentioned. His fund often buys and sells securities that are the subject of his columns, both before and after the columns are published, and the positions that his fund takes may change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Cramer's writings provide insights into the dynamics of money management and are not a solicitation for transactions. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to comment on his column at

letters@thestreet.com.