They say Americans love to shop, although you wouldn't necessarily know it looking at the broad spate of retailer earnings released this season. "This week alone, we got a slew of reports, some of which were pretty darned ugly," said Jim Cramer.
However, not every release was a sad affair; Cramer said there were also some impressive reports, too.
And looking at the reports broadly, Cramer noticed a somewhat common theme. That is, retailers that posted strong results all found meaningful ways to connect with their customers. Cramer thinks their efforts were intended to safeguard their businesses against incursions made by Amazon and the growing proliferation of e-commerce.
Here are the companies that impressed Cramer:
For the quarter ended May 4, Williams-Sonoma reported a profit of $46.2 million, or 48 cents a share, up from $39.5 million, or 40 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue increased 9.7 percent to $974.3 million.
"Here's a company that has thought through all of the advantages of bricks and mortar and has exploited them in a 360-degree explosion of sales," Cramer said. "Customers read the catalogs and that sends them into the stores or online." Cramer also noted that the company, aided by its "superb" website, does a good job keeping up with its customers' tastes and styles.
As a result, Cramer thinks Williams-Sonoma has carved a niche that resonates with its constituents. "I think Williams-Sonoma embodies the definition of proprietary in a way that Amazon will never be able to touch."
on revenue of $2.93 billion for the period, exceeding the 68 cents and $2.86 billion that analysts polled by FactSet were anticipating.
Although Nordstrom benefited from improved sales, its profitability was somewhat hampered by increased investments in technology, however it stood by its full-year forecast.
Cramer isn't spooked by the so-called technology spend; in fact he views it as a bullish sign.
"When I last spoke with Blake Nordstrom, president of the chain, back in April, he told me that his company has had to invest billions of dollars online because he felt the legendary Nordstrom customer service had at last been trumped by another retailer, Amazon."
That investment in technology tells Cramer that Nordstrom intends to thrive for a long time to come.
"The company has built a fabulous Web presence and has also become a growth retailer again by rolling out Nordstrom Rack stores, one of the fastest growing retail divisions in the country," he said.
Although Home Depot missed forecasts, the company maintained its sales growth forecast of 4.8 percent for the year ending January and raised its full-year earnings forecast to $4.42 per share from $4.38 per share
But perhaps what resonated with Cramer most is that "Home Depot said on its conference call that May demand was very robust."
He thinks, at least part of the strength, is due to the company's aggressive attempts to relate to the community.
"If you go online to its amazing website you will know exactly what I am talking about. The site, built in conjunction with Salesforce.com, allows you to connect with the sales people and with other customers to learn more about products. I am calling it crowd-sourced hardware."
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Of course, many retailers stumbled this earnings season. Again, Cramer thinks the weakness was due, in part, to their inability to adjust to "this new world where almost every company is vulnerable to Amazon."
"Target doesn't have anything but it knows it, and I think the next CEO will address it, pronto," Cramer said. "Meanwhile, PetSmart and Dick's seem to have lost their way big-time and the former has the worst website of any major retailer I follow."
In a world where Amazon could steal business from almost every store imaginable, the trend warrants watching.
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