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Nintendo Switch, yoga pants and smaller brands set to win the holidays, analyst says

  • Cowen and Co. found November's month-to-date traffic — or the total number of shoppers — at retailers on pace to mark the smallest monthly decline in 2017.
  • Heading into Thanksgiving weekend, apparel retailers are betting on colder weather to hold steady across the U.S.
  • Meantime, America's department stores likely rely the most on having a "great Black Friday" to meet future earnings estimates, Thomson Reuters data show.
Shoppers walk with bags as they take advantage of Black Friday deals at a shopping mall in Troy, Michigan, Nov 29, 2013.
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Shoppers walk with bags as they take advantage of Black Friday deals at a shopping mall in Troy, Michigan, Nov 29, 2013.

The Nintendo Switch gaming console, yoga pants, gold accessories and Sherpa hoodies are some of Cowen and Co.'s favorite holiday gifts this season.

The firm also thinks 2017 is a time for smaller brands, such as men's shirt maker Untuckit, athletic apparel brand Outdoor Voices and mattress retailer Casper, to win shoppers' dollars.

"Given the rise of social media, lower barriers to entry at new pure-play brands, and a continued focus on personalization will likely be themes," Cowen and Co. analyst John Kernan wrote in a note to clients.

As Thanksgiving weekend approaches, which includes Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, Cowen and Co. found November's month-to-date traffic — or the total number of shoppers — at retailers on pace to mark the smallest monthly decline in 2017.

Traffic for the month so far is down 1.8 percent from same period a year ago, an improvement when compared with a 6.4 percent year-over-year decline in October, and an 8.2 percent drop during September, the firm found from its national traffic counters.

"Negative traffic will likely persist and retailers need to focus on conversion, store rationalization, and recapturing revenues from closed stores," Kernan said.

"Speed remains critical so that retailers can shift gears on product assortment quickly. All retailers also need to find ways to convert digital traffic to physical traffic in ways that are seamless, frictionless, and actually add convenience to shoppers."

Retailers are also betting on colder weather to hold steady across the U.S. this winter. A warmer than-usual start to the fall throughout much of the country left many companies calling out a glut of coats, boots and other snow accessories on recent third-quarter earnings conference calls.

Among them is shoe retailer DSW, which saw its shares tumble more than 13 percent Tuesday morning after a disappointing fiscal third quarter, hurt by weak winter boot sales.

A handful of devastating hurricanes and wildfires also put a damper on many apparel retailers' sales.

"The weather's out of our control," Nordstrom Co-president Peter Nordstrom said on a call with analysts and investors. "But we're prepared for it."

Still, on the minds of many retailers this holiday season is internet giant Amazon.

Black Friday has long been a day for brick-and-mortar retailers to kick off holiday deals, making use of their physical storefronts. But the importance of the day in the grand scheme of the shopping season looks to be fading.

"Regarding Black Friday, we expect a continued de-emphasis on the actual day and a shift towards more consistent promos throughout the month," Cowen and Co.'s Kernan explained.

That being said, out of all retailers, America's department stores likely rely the most on having a "great Black Friday" to meet future earnings estimates, Thomson Reuters data show.

Meantime, off-price retailers including T.J. Maxx and Ross Stores look to be increasingly popular destinations for consumers.

Fourth-quarter same-store sales: Department stores versus off-price retailers

Source: Thomson Reuters

Adobe Analytics has forecast online sales this holiday season to reach $107.4 billion, an increase of 13.8 percent from a year ago, with Cyber Monday becoming "the largest online shopping day in history," racking up $6.6 billion in sales alone.

A separate survey by Bain & Co. found Amazon is expected to capture roughly 50 percent of total holiday sales growth this season.

"This year's biggest holiday headlines are all about Amazon's own products: exclusive brands and private-label goods you can only find shopping on Amazon," Bain & Co.'s Aaron Cheris wrote.

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