NEW YORK (Real Money) -- Yesterday, I got a behind-the-scenes look at J.C. Penney's (JCP) holiday plans from a store manager and veteran employee of the company. As this was happening, one thought came to mind: "Whoa, this is fun." It is fascinating to see how a merchant views a store as opposed to how a stock analyst does -- though I must admit, there are oodles of parallels.
I can tell you that J.C. Penney is bringing the heat this holiday season. The company is much better-merchandised than it was before in key areas -- such as holiday apparel and home -- than I had previously thought following the third-quarter earnings call. That ultimately got me thinking: If J.C. Penney is back, what does that mean for Macy's (M) and Sears (SHLD) on the other end of the shopping mall?
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Here is a brief look at the battles that are about to shape up for the holiday season.
Coach vs. Michael Kors
Coach (COH) is already showing vastly improved holiday-display windows as compared with the emotionless windows of last year. Heck, even the company's merchandise is not so extremely boring in full-price stores.
The problem is that, for Michael Kors (KORS) , stores are just popping with color and bling across categories. Further, Michael Kors has taken over the sales floor of Macy's (the company now sells winter headbands) to such a degree that Coach's new merchandising efforts are getting drowned out. Although I am not a huge fan of playing the handbag space this season, given increased impetus by the companies to discount -- and that includes department stores -- I would have to say that Michael Kors is likely to emerge as a winner over a Coach as the latter tries to make a comeback.
Nike vs. Under Armour
I have no idea how Nike (NKE) is creating this consistent stream of product innovation that has been appearing on the sales floors of Dick's Sporting Goods (DKS) , Macy's and J.C. Penney, and at Nike's own full-price stores for the better of a year. But Nike is on a product roll, and I very much like what the company is bringing to the table in lightweight jackets and, of course, in sneakers (Lebron, Jordan, Kobe).