Retail stocks are not big performers on Cyber Monday

Warehouse operator GLP counts online retailers such as Amazon as its clients.
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Warehouse operator GLP counts online retailers such as Amazon as its clients.

While the numbers are still coming in for early Christmas sales, a couple observations can already be made.

1) Sales are fair but will likely pick up. ShopperTrak estimated brick-and-mortar sales on Thanksgiving and Black Friday were down to $12.1 billion from $12.29 billion last year.

However, even though the National Retail Federation (NRF) changed its methodology, making comparisons with previous years difficult, it is maintaining its estimate that retail sales will be up 3.7 percent this year. That is not terrible in an economy with 2 percent GDP growth.

2) Online sales continue to increase. Adobe reported that online sales from Thursday through Saturday increased 19 percent to $6.1 billion.

Separately, in a widely quoted statement, the NRF reported that the number of shoppers online (103 million) exceeded the number shopping in the stores (102 million).

3) Black Friday was really Black November. There were deals all over throughout the month, especially the week of Thanksgiving.

4) There were pockets of strength in brick and mortar. RetailMetrics reported strong traffic at JC Penney, Bath and Body Works, and Victoria's Secret. Macy's said it had 15,000 shoppers waiting in line at its flagship Herald Square Store in Manhattan, similar to last year.

It may be a big day for retailers, but not for retail stocks. Black Friday and Cyber Monday loom large for buyers, but not for investors, according to our partners at Kensho.

Of the 10 Cyber Monday promotions since 2005, the major department stores have all traded down at least 9 of the 10 sessions (buy at the close Friday, sell at the close Monday)

Cyber Monday (average return)

S&P 500: down 1.2 percent (down 8 of 10 times)

Kohls: down 2.7 percent (down 9 of 10 times)

Sears: down 3.3 percent (down 10 of 10 times)

Macy's: down 3.7 percent (down 9 of 10 times)

Why the poor performance? Kensho speculates it may be because these names established their online presence late in the game; as a result, these companies focused resources on in-store sales for Black Friday rather than through the growing e-commerce channel.

As for Amazon, it only trades positive 50 percent of the time. The average return is negative 0.06 percent, but who cares? The stock is up 116 percent this year.

  • Bob Pisani

    A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

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