×

The companies that need the holiday season the most

Call them the 12 companies of Christmas: This is a time of good cheer for the handful of names that get more than 30 percent of their annual revenue from the holiday quarter.

Those 12 S&P 500 companies include the two big toymakers — Hasbro and Mattel — as well as cosmetics brands, department stores and jewelers. Yum Brands and Monsanto also make the list for reasons that are unrelated to rampant gift giving or religious holidays.

The top Christmas companies in the S&P 500 may not be a huge surprise. Signet Jewelers, which sells diamonds through the Zales brand, notes in its regulatory filings that December is "by far the most important month of the year." The company's fourth quarter accounts for almost 40 percent of its sales and 45 to 55 percent of its annual operating income.

L Brands, which operates specialty stores including Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, also gets "a substantial portion" of its annual operating cash flow from the holiday season. Amazon also has long reported higher sales volumes for the fourth quarter, and the big toy companies and department stores face similarly skewed sales.

"In recent years, many consumers have delayed their purchases until just before the holidays," wrote Mattel in a recent filing. "As a result, Mattel's operating results depend, in large part, on sales during the relatively brief traditional holiday season."

The season for making money is even tighter for one of Mattel's primary retailer partners, Toys R Us, which gets 42 percent of its revenue from its holiday quarter. There are only a few companies on U.S exchanges that have a bigger dependence on the season, including image publishing company Shutterfly (53 percent) and Deckers Outdoor, which makes Ugg boots (47 percent).

Monsanto is also a highly seasonal business, but not because of the holidays. According to the company, about 72 percent of the sales in its seeds and genomics segment happen in the fiscal second and third quarters, running from the beginning of December to the end of May to correspond with the natural agricultural cycle.

Facebook's seasonal dependence is driven in part by the same forces as retail stores. Advertising, which makes up the bulk of the company's revenue, is traditionally strongest at the end of the year as companies try to push their goods on holiday shoppers.

According to Facebook's filings, advertising revenue usually jumps 20 to 30 percent in the fourth quarter relative to the quarter before.

That leaves Yum brands, owner of Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut, which in its filings says it "does not consider its operations to be seasonal to any material degree." So what gives Yum's fourth quarter a sales boost? It's just extra time — the structure of Yum's fiscal year is three 12-week quarters followed by a 16-week fourth quarter, according to filings. A Yum spokesperson did not comment on why the company opted for such uneven quarters.