There were plenty of winners and losers this week, with hot shows debuting on leading video streaming services and a once-popular clothing retailer making an unusual acquisition.
Walmart (WMT) — Winner
The turnaround at Walmart continues. The world’s largest retailer posted better-than-expected quarterly results this week. This is the fifth quarter in a row of positive comparable-store sales, and that means that this is the first time in several years that Walmart has padded positive comps from the prior year’s quarter.
There are concerns about how Walmart’s bottom line will play out in the future. The retailer has already said that a spike in wages will eat into next year’s profitability. However, now that sales are growing at the store level, one would think that Walmart is in a strong position to do right by its employees when it bumps its minimum starting wage early next year.
Urban Outfitters (URBN) — Loser
If you can’t make dough one way, you may as well try another. Urban Outfitters stunned the market Monday by announcing that it would be acquiring the Pizzeria Vetri chain. The retailer had experimented in the past with offering food at some of its stores, and apparently it thinks that this could be a novel approach. The market isn’t buying it.
It’s true that gourmet pizza is popular, lacking the lumpy seasonality and fickle fashion of specialty retail. If the ultimate plan winds up being combining trendy apparel and high-end pizza under the same roof, it would certainly be a differentiator. However, the real concern here — and why this move falls into the “loser” camp — is that it will make it harder for the parent company of Anthropologie and its namesake concept to focus on the turnaround that’s necessary.
Streaming Television — Winner
Two major TV shows debuted Thursday — “Jessica Jones” and “The Man in The High Castle” — and neither one is on traditional television. Netflix’s (NFLX) “Jessica Jones” is the latest serialized superhero series from the service’s partnership with Marvel. Amazon.com’s (AMZN) “The Man in The High Castle” is an alternative reality series set in 1962 as if the Nazis and Japanese had won World War II.
Both shows have generated positive buzz, but that’s not much of a surprise. Original programming for both Netflix and Amazon has already won Emmy awards. Streaming television has been validated, and having two big shows premiere on the same day is a milestone worth celebrating.
Streaming Radio — Loser
It may have been a great content-grabbing week for Amazon and Netflix, but the same can’t be said about streaming radio. Adele’s “25” hit record stores Friday, but as The New York Times reported Thursday, the highly anticipated release isn’t being made available for streaming services.
Folks have been flocking to Spotify and Apple (AAPL) Music as a substitute for buying individual tracks, but if too many prolific releases are missing from the catalogs, the services become less compelling. The first Adele single from the record is called “Hello,” but it’s feeling more like goodbye for the streaming radio providers.
Square (SQ) — Winner
It seemed as if it was going to be an embarrassing IPO for Square. The fast-growing payment platform was hoping to go public between $11 and $13 a share, but lukewarm demand found it settling for just $9 a share.
A profitless past and breaking off a partnership with Starbucks (SBUX) this summer could have given institutional investors cold feet, but Mr. Market had other plans. The stock began trading Thursday morning at $11.20, closing just above $13 — the high end of its initial range — by the end of the trading day.