Five things to watch on Black Friday

In a time long, long ago it was told to us that Santa knows all, hears all, and is the gatekeeper in determining whether a sweet gift is planted under the Christmas tree.

But, in addition to satisfying his obligations to children worldwide, what if Jolly Old St. Nick was also an investor in the companies that he picked gifts from for the masses, like J.C. Penney, Macy's, or nowadays, Starbucks? Santa would undoubtedly be monitoring the less obvious developments happening at companies during Thanksgiving store openings and Black Friday. Dare to say that Santa, due to his mystical powers, would be privy to trading on inside information?

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Here is a festive list of secret things that Santa, the overweight, forever smiley investor will be monitoring amidst the craziness that is the start of the holiday season.

1. Disappearing merchandise in stores

Best Buy, Macy's, J.C. Penney, and Target have gone live with buy-online-ship-from-store programs this year. Such a capability, which has turned physical stores into Amazon-like distribution centers, was not in effect in a significant way last holiday season. For example, only 400 Best Buy stores were ship-from-store capable last holiday season; this year, all 1,000+ of the company's domestic stores have the function.

  • Target: shipping roughly 60,000 eligible products from 136 stores in 38 markets, covering more than 90 percent of the U.S. population.
  • J.C. Penney: available in 50 J.C. Penney stores.
  • Macy's: available in 800 plus Macy's stores.

Read MoreAttention Santa: 10 gifts that will be on many wish lists

Alerts being sent to store associates on their mobile devices to go and grab merchandise from a shelf to satisfy an online order could lead to disappearing merchandise for folks wandering into the store. One group that could be impacted are baby boomers and seniors, who are not exactly owners and prolific users of giant- screen smartphones. Missing merchandise = missed sales opportunity.


2. What customers are buying at Apple stores

An iPhone 6 Plus on display in an Apple store as customers talk with a salesperson.
Scott Mlyn | CNBC
An iPhone 6 Plus on display in an Apple store as customers talk with a salesperson.

The iPhone 6 and 6+ will be the "big" gift that many parents buy for their tech-obsessed teens, or for one another on a family plan. According to KGI Research, overall iPhone shipments will surge 82 percent, sequentially, to a staggering 71.5 million units in the holiday quarter. Beats by Dre headphones are also likely to be bought at an Apple store this season, as well at Target and Walmart, where select models are being lightly discounted for Black Friday.

But, Santa will be paying extra close attention to the bag sizes in the hands of those mall faithful leaving an Apple store for a specific reason – small bags or tiny envelopes could mean gift cards are being purchased to pay for the upcoming Apple Watch, which is scheduled to arrive in early 2015.

3. Will J.C. Penney hit its mark?

The department store retailer has made a huge inventory wager in basic apparel, items such as Levi's jeans, HanesBrands socks, St. John's Bay sweaters, and private label fleeces. If this merchandise is not sold through at pre-planned promotions on Black Friday, J.C. Penney could fall short of its fourth quarter same-store sales and margin plans. At the moment, J.C Penney has guided to fourth-quarter same-store sales increasing by 2 percent to 4 percent, and gross profit margins expanding a robust 500 to 600 basis points year-over-year.

Read MoreThe hottest gadget gifts for holiday 2014

4. New offerings at Starbucks

Whereas J.C. Penney has amassed inventory in boring, everyday essentials, coffee king Starbucks has elevated the quality of its holiday gift items (gift card photos, designer inspired mugs, and arrival of the Starbucks for Life card) and broadened the assortment of the merchandise in its stores. The goal: Pique the interest of those out and about as weak mall, and off-mall, traffic has plagued Starbucks for about a year.

"A year ago today, we began talking about the macro shift in the amount of traffic that was going through malls and main streets in America," pointed our Starbucks Chairman, President and CEO Howard Schultz on the company's recent earnings call. "And as a result of what happened last year and that is less people shopping with bricks and mortar stores and much more people shopping online in their mobile devices." Starbucks COO Troy Alstead added, "We are not satisfied with 1-percent traffic growth in the Americas and are taking immediate steps to grow traffic."

Read MoreLook out! Avoid these holiday-shopping traps

Therefore, a good start to Black Friday for the nation's retailers may not necessarily mean the holidays is off to a great beginning for mighty Starbucks. It's reasonable to expect commentary on the company's holiday sales to date at its hotly-anticipated biennial investor day set to be held on Thursday, December 4. The future of Starbucks is likely to be unwrapped as well, specifically new evening foods and the mechanics behind the rollout of a same-day delivery service next year.

5. Overstocked shelves at Sears and Kmart

A customer shops for TV deals on Black Friday at Kmart in Griffith Indiana.
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A customer shops for TV deals on Black Friday at Kmart in Griffith Indiana.

The noose is tightening around the thin neck of Sears Holding Corp., and Santa is especially worried. Sears' competitors in mall across the country — J.C. Penney and Macy's — have significantly improved their in-store merchandising of apparel, stock levels of key holiday items, and established gift centers featuring unique merchandise that is often found in the aisles of Brookstone. Best Buy has added more appliance shop in shops. "In merchandising, we continued to expand our appliance offering through the opening of 15 Pacific Kitchen and Home stores-within-a-store, and are on track to end the year with 117 stores versus 67 last year," remarked Best Buy President and CEO Hubert Joly on the company's third-quarter earnings call. Home Depot has expanded the floor space that is dedicated to appliances and holiday decorations. Walmart is selling more affordable organic food; ditto for Target.

If Sears and Kmart are overstocked in important holiday categories by Sunday, and promotions are subsequently increased throughout the store, it could a sign of a disastrous beginning to the holiday season. In turn, that may require additional cash-raising efforts in early 2015.

Commentary by Brian Sozzi, CEO and chief equities strategist at Belus Capital Advisors. Follow him on Twitter @BrianSozzi.

Disclosure: Neither Brian Sozzi nor Belus Capital Advisors own shares of any of the stocks mentioned here.