Targeting the Middle-class Squeeze, Target unveils Smartly, but will it work?

Targeting the Middle-class Squeeze, Target unveils Smartly, but will it work?

 

When a company brings out a new product line, more than likely it is looking to tap into a demand channel in order to grow revenues, its consumer base or both. What we see with the new consumer staple brand, Smartly, that is being launched by Target is an attempt to catch the tailwind associated with our Middle-class Squeeze investing theme. That theme focuses on cash-strapped consumers that facing tepid wage gains or rising costs and pressured disposable income are changing where they buy the products they need and in some cases sacrificing well-known brands for more affordable prices. It’s what made the Dollar Shave Club such a thorn in the side of Proctor & Gamble’s Gillette razor and razor blade business.

With Target, odds are they are trying to use Smartly to lure cost-conscious shoppers back into their locations, hoping it can convert the traffic into buyers of other items. It sounds a lot like the loss leader strategies of yore, but even in those cases the question is will the traffic (if it comes) convert to buyers? The jury is out on that for now.

 

Target Corp. is wading into a new territory: $1 toiletries.

The Minneapolis-based retailer said it is planning to launch a new brand for consumer staples called Smartly with more than 70 products, including razors, toilet paper and dish soap, mostly priced under $2. The products will be offered at stores and online in mid-October.

Mark Tritton, Target’s chief merchandising officer, said the new line of consumer staples is an attempt to compete with generic brands at drugstores and discount chains. “It’s about showing people that I don’t have to go to Aldi or I don’t have to go to Dollar General to find what I’m looking for,” he said in an interview.

Meanwhile, the market for generic consumer staples has become more crowded. Last year, Brandless, a San Francisco-based startup, began selling staples such as fluoride-free toothpaste and dish soap, priced at $3. German grocer Aldi has also been opening more locations in the U.S. and gaining traction by selling a pared-down selection at rock-bottom prices.

The competition has forced players such as Walmart to revamp their brands. In 2016, the big-box chain scrapped a discount store brand in sparse blue packaging called Price First as part of a wider reworking of all its private-label products. The company now sells its lowest-priced groceries under Great Value and toiletries under Equate, with boxes and bottles more reminiscent of traditional brands.

Source: Target’s Answer to Discounters Is an Even Cheaper Store Brand – WSJ

Cocktail Investing Ep. 7  – Crude Tumbles, Jobs, Inflation and the Fed as More People Stop Fighting Obesity? Say What?

Cocktail Investing Ep. 7  – Crude Tumbles, Jobs, Inflation and the Fed as More People Stop Fighting Obesity? Say What?

In this episode of Cocktail Investing, Tematica Research’s resident mixologists Chris Versace and Lenore Hawkins not only recap, but also scrutinize the rash of conflicting economic data that has put a pause in the stock market’s move higher. Some data points to an improving economy, while others have led the Atlanta Fed to dramatically cut its GDP forecast for the current quarter.

Chris and Lenore tackle the factors behind that as well as other impediments that are likely to keep the US economy rangebound over the coming quarters. They also share their views on the upcoming economic data points the Fed is likely to focus on as it decides if it should boost interest rates this month.

 

Some Thematic Signals You Might Wish to Forget

As we like to say here at Tematica, one needs to dig below the headline to see what is really going on. As one does that, context and perspective are key to put the data puzzle pieces together in a cohesive manner to get a clear signal lest one be even more confused by all the noise. In our view, there is no better way to do that than with our thematic perspective, which means we are not following the herd and using the same tired sector based approach. You’ll hear some examples when Chris and Lenore share some thematic signals for Tematica’s Fattening of the Consumer, Rise & Fall of the Middle Class and Disruptive Technologies investing themes. After you’re done, you may think twice about meatless protein and perhaps you’ll sign up for a virtual reality lesson on how to re-tile your shower.

 

Companies mentioned on the Podcast
  • ADP (ADP)
  • Amazon (AMZN)
  • Chevron  (CVX)
  • Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLE)
  • Exxon Mobil (XOM)
  • Express Inc. (EXPR)
  • JC Penney (JCP)
  • J. Jill Group (JILL)
  • Lowe’s Companies (LOW)
  • Kohl’s (KSS)
  • Macy’s (M)
  • RadioShack Corp. (RSH)
  • Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A)
  • Snap Inc. (SNAP)
  • Swift Transportation (SWFT)
  • Tyson Foods (TSN)
  • Weight Watchers (WTW)

 

 

Chris Versace Tematica Research Founder and Chief Investment Officer
Lenore Hawkins Tematica Research Chief Macro Strategist
Cocktail Investing Ep 6: The growing divide between the hard & the soft economic reports, boxed.com CEO Chieh Huang

Cocktail Investing Ep 6: The growing divide between the hard & the soft economic reports, boxed.com CEO Chieh Huang

In this week’s program, Tematica’s cocktail mixologists, Chris Versace and Lenore Hawkins talk about everything from the market’s reaction to Trump’s speech before Congress to the widening divide between the real hard economic data reports coming in, (spoiler alert – not so hot) and the softer sentiment reports which are on fire, as well as the latest Thematic Signals. From mobile carriers moving more and more into content in our Connected Society in which Content is King to McDonald’s experimenting with different delivery models for our Cash Strapped Consumer who is eschewing quick service restaurants, preferring Foods with Integrity.

This week we saw the wind down to the December quarter earnings season, Trump’s first speech before Congress and Amazon Web Services wreaked havoc on businesses far and wide when it went down. Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, traded publicly for the first time and despite iffy fundamentals, the share price jumped up dramatically.

January’s real personal income growth weakened materially while real spending growth was the weakest since 2009 – not exactly consistent with the jubilant headlines. It also raises questions for our consumer spending led economy. With signs of inflation picking up both in and outside the US per February data from Markit Economics and ISM, the Fed is looking more like it will hike in March, despite their recent Beige book being full of terms like “modest”, “moderate”, “mixed” and subdued” – go figure.

McDonald’s is looking to offer mobile ordering alongside curbside pickup as it experiences declining foot traffic and same store sales. As we share on the podcast, we think embracing technology is not going to get at the heart of McDonald’s problems.

Mobile carriers are finding more and more they need to feed their networks with content as more than 80 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds in the U.S. use mobile platforms to consume content, spending more than two hours on average every day viewing videos or using apps. We think this is bound to result in a boom for the eye-glass and contact lens industry in a few years time – we’re only half kidding.

If that all wasn’t enough, we had the great pleasure of speaking with Chieh Huang, CEO of our latest online shopping obsession, Boxed.com. In just four years Chieh and his team have grown the business from operating out of Chieh’s garage to now generating over $100 million in revenue while getting their products to 96 percent of their customers in just two days or less. We spoke with him about just how his team has generated such stellar growth and his insights into the incredible level of pain we see in the retail sector. We couldn’t have enjoyed ourselves more talking with a guy who is deep in the thick of a Disruptive Technology with a compelling offering for the Cash Strapped Consumer in our Connected Society.

Companies mentioned on the Podcast

  • ALDI
  • Amazon.com (AMZN)
  • Apple (APPL)
  • AT&T (T)
  • Boeing (BA)
  • Comcast (CMCSA)
  • Costco (COST)
  • Dycom (DY)
  • Goldman Sachs (GS)
  • Facebook (FB)
  • Lidl
  • McDonald’s (MCD)
  • Snap (SNAP)
  • United Parcel Service (UPS)
  • Verizon (VZ)
  • Walmart (WMT)
  • Wegmans Food Markets

 

Chris Versace Tematica Research Founder and Chief Investment Officer
Lenore Hawkins Tematica Research Chief Macro Strategist