The e-commerce wave has put companies like Walmart Inc. (WMT - Get Report) on its back foot, battling to position itself for the future of retail. It's left dozens of bankruptcies in its wake and caused serious concerns for names like Sears Holding Corp. (SHLD) and JCPenney Company Inc. (JCP - Get Report) .
While many others have low valuations and steady profit, the concern is about the future. Will they have a place?
With Amazon's $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods last summer and its return drop-off partnership with Kohl's Corporation (KSS - Get Report) , it's clear that a bricks-and-mortar footprint isn't dead. With some of Amazon's other initiatives -- cashier-less store concepts for instance -- we know that the future's successful retailers will be a blend of online and e-commerce.
It's one reason why a Kroger Co. (KR - Get Report) merger with Target Corporation (TGT - Get Report) is so intriguing. Early reports on Friday suggested that this tie-up could be coming. Kroger stock initially rallied almost 7% in pre-market trading on the news, while Target stock's reaction was more muted -- the news certainly was not negatively received, though.
However, it's turned out that the conversations between Kroger and Target haven't been for merger purposes, but rather, for a partnership between Kroger and Target-owned Shipt, an online grocery platform Target bought in December for $550 million.
But it's fun to consider, right?
Kroger could give Target the grocery exposure it needs, while benefiting from the e-commerce presence it already has. Combined with its potential with Shipt and a Target-Kroger enterprise could be quite efficient between grocery and consumer goods. In-store pickup and returns would be a cinch, while any form of grocery pickup or delivery would be wildly convenient for consumers.
The issue they have with Amazon?
The e-commerce juggernaut already has a substantial lead in e-commerce, while its shareholders champion revenue growth and market share over profits -- quite unlike traditional investors. As a result, it now commands a whopping market cap of $740 billion.
Plus, it's able to charge many of its members $99 per year for its Prime services. While Amazon does not release Prime numbers, many believe the figure could be close to 100 million subscribers in the U.S. alone.
So while a Kroger-Target tie-up doesn't seem likely at the moment, it's fun to consider its potential and it's noteworthy that many investors seemed to back the move, based on the stocks' reaction.
In a note titled, " Why We Would Not Rule Out a Merger," Barclays analyst Karen Short isn't ruling out the potential tie-up.
"While it is impossible to know what - if any -discussions are ongoing between the companies we do not believe the idea is that far-fetched," she said. "In fact, press reports indicated that Target was plotting a move to acquire a food retailer [Sprouts Farmers Market SFM] in early 2017."
Short argues that a potential merger would unlikely result in a large amount of forced divestitures from regulators. The move could help Target's store-within-a-store ambitions while helping Kroger boost its product offerings and increase foot traffic.
While a deal is possible, investors should keep in mind that the companies would have to wait for approval and then get through "the long process" of integrating the two businesses, Short reasoned.
For the record, she has an equal-weight rating and $22 price target on Kroger and an equal-weight rating and $70 price target on Target.
Despite sporting gains for most of Friday's session, Kroger stock ended lower by 0.51% to $22.28, while Target dropped 1.47% and closed at $67.88.