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How Retail Bankruptcies Affect Other Retailers

In this episode of Motley Fool Money, Chris Hill chats with Motley Fool analysts Emily Flippen and Ron Gross about the latest news from Wall Street. They talk about the work-from-home culture and the changes it brings. They go through the earning reports of some major retailers and a gaming company, and also discuss the potential delisting of Chinese companies. They share some stocks to keep on your watch list and much more. And TiVo (NASDAQ: TIVO) CEO Dave Shull talks about the future of television.

To catch full episodes of all The Motley Fool's free podcasts, check out our podcast center. To get started investing, check out our quick-start guide to investing in stocks. A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on May 22, 2020.

Chris Hill: We've got the latest headlines from Wall Street, we will dig into the future of television, and as always, we've got a few stocks on our radar. But we begin with the future of the workplace.

This week, MasterCard and Spotify became the latest companies to announce extended working from home policies for their employees. Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, said many employees at Facebook will work from home permanently. And with all this new flexibility comes increased safety for the health of those employees and increased risks for the businesses that have depended on big companies having their employees in a single office building. So, Ron, we haven't really heard yet from the big banks on Wall Street; you have to imagine they're thinking about this as well. What does this mean for commercial real estate as well as the restaurants and shops in those urban areas?

Ron Gross: Nothing good, Chris. [laughs] This is going to be a big deal. Commercial real estate has got to be, I think, the biggest thing that gets impacted as a result of the work-from-home trend. Companies are inevitably going to reduce their need for office space, vacancies will increase, prices will drop, I think retail bankruptcies that we've been seeing are going to exacerbate this commercial real estate problem and it's going to continue for some time.

Interestingly, I think we're also going to see an exodus from cities into suburban locations from people. And as folks move out to the suburban areas, we actually could end up seeing a residential real estate boom out in the suburbs. Again, leaving the cities in some type of pain as a result of increased vacancies that we've already started to see. As you mentioned, I think restaurants as well, especially those that rely on office parks, right around Fool HQ, for example, we were talking about earlier, some of those restaurants are going to be in real trouble as the amount of people that come to work each day permanently declines. And as a result, I think, we are bound to see permanently less restaurants in the U.S.

I think there will be some positives from the work-from-home trend, cars are going to last longer. We're not putting as much mileage on them. There will be a reduced demand for gas. I think the environment is likely to benefit. So, there are some pros to this.

Apparel is going to change as well. Less need for work apparel, less need for pants, more need for sweatpants and pajamas, but there will, I think, be a change to the apparel industry as well.

Hill: Emily, what do you think?

Emily Flippen: I think what Ron said is true, but there is also another silver lining here that I feel like not enough people are talking about, it's pets. I mean, there's no way that a permanent work-from-home trend doesn't result in more pet ownership across the United States. All these people who are spending hours commuting, living in cities where they didn't have space for pets, now are living at home, right, living in the suburbs, living in spaces that allow them to have cats and dogs. So, that could be a wonderful long-term trend that also comes out from this movement.

Hill: I hadn't thought of that until you just mentioned it, and now I'm thinking I need to look at businesses like IDEXX Labs and sort of the pet care industry.

Flippen: Or Chewy.

Ron Gross: Or pet food. Yeah, Chewy.

Hill: Let's move on to the home improvement industry. Home Depot (NYSE: HD) and Lowe's (NYSE: LOW) both out with first quarter reports this week. Emily, we typically see a similar story with these two, this quarter was no exception, higher revenue for Home Depot and Lowe's, but higher costs as well.

Flippen: Yes. Home Depot and Lowe's typically move in line with each other. So, it was really interesting to see them have such substantially different quarters despite both existing in the same macroenvironment this quarter. So, Lowe's had amazing comparable same-store sales. I mean, that was up over 11%, and that's nearly 5% over Home Depot was, at 6%. So, both were great quarters, but it's weird that we see such outperformance by Lowe's, especially when typically, it goes in Home Depot's favor.

When I think about the tailwinds that both of these companies are experiencing, I come back to what their core customer is. And Home Depot and Lowe's spent a lot of money this quarter supporting their employees, but ultimately the DIY home improvement person, you or I, is more likely to shop at Lowe's versus contractors which will typically go to Home Depot. And they do have some overlap, there's some competition there, but I think that's what we saw really influencing on Home Depot this quarter; it was the fact that a lot of contractors who were working on big projects didn't come through with those projects during this pandemic, whereas the average person who is sitting at home, looking at that hole in the wall [laughs] maybe they haven't fixed in a while thought they should probably get out to their local Lowe's and improve that.

Gross: Yeah, I think it was interesting the comments that Home Depot made about comp sales which, in a vacuum, 6% comp sales is nothing to sneeze at, at all. But obviously, Lowe's, as Emily pointed out, faired a bit better.

Home Depot said they were accelerating, and that'll be interesting to see what this next current quarter they were in, how that shapes up. Do these even out and become a little bit more the way we've seen in the past, similar types of increases or is something changing at Lowe's that will continue the outperformance? You know, we've said in the past, these companies are similar. Obviously, we think Home Depot is probably a little bit better-run than Lowe's, as a result it trades at a premium consistently, the stock trades at a premium. So, for example, now you can buy Lowe's at about 19X earnings where you have to pay about 23X earnings for Home Depot, but you're getting a little bit of a better company.

I actually always say, I don't see the need to necessarily choose one or the other, they're both fine companies to own and you could split the difference, but I do want to see what kind of acceleration to comp sales Home Depot comes up with in the current quarter.

Hill: Well, and one of the things that we've seen from other companies in other industries that we are not really seeing with Home Depot and Lowe's is the marketing spend. Home Depot and Lowe's are traditionally big spenders on advertising. They haven't really ratcheted that back the way that some companies have. So, that's probably also having a little bit of impact on the margin picture.

But, Emily, to Ron's point about Home Depot, typically being a better-run company; Marvin Ellison at Lowe's, I think, he's been CEO for nearly two years now. It really seems like his work is starting to pay off in terms of the way Lowe's is operating.

Flippen: Yeah. Ellison has made a lot of improvements to Lowe's that are similar to the improvements that Home Depot has been making over the past five years or so; digitizing the experience, making it easier for people to sign up for loyalty programs, really improving on the omnichannel experience for shopping at Lowe's. Ultimately, if you go to Home Depot, there's probably a Lowe's within a stone's throw distance and vice versa is true for Lowe's. So, there is a lot more price competition and customer competition there than there is in other industries.

But these two companies, to Ron's point, are the two dogs in the home development space. I mean, there really is no other competition. So, I think there's value in owning a basket. I do think that Ellison has more to prove with Lowe's than Home Depot needs to prove though.

Hill: Shares of Walmart (NYSE: WMT) and Target (NYSE: TGT) flat this week as the two major retailers issued their first quarter reports. Ron, there are a bunch of different ways we can go here, but I'll just start by saying, Walmart and Target putting up same-store sales growth of 10% to 11% is pretty impressive.

Gross: Very impressive. And these are similar stories here, right up until you get to the bottom-line, but let's talk about the similarities first. Both saw revenue increases, Walmart 9%, Target 11%. As you said, both had comp sale increases in the 10% range, Walmart doing just a little bit worse than Target; Target at 10.8% and Walmart at 10%. Big numbers there. Obviously, the beneficiary of being open, being a necessary business while other businesses got shut down and them really taking advantage along with folks like Costco.

Very strong online sales, as you would expect, Walmart up 74%, Target up 141%; different bases obviously. But Target, I think, their investments that they've made over the last few years in same-day delivery and pick-up, really paying off, seeing the same-day business up 278%; a huge number, obviously, aided by the crisis that we're all being impacted by.

Both had to spend a ton of dough as a result of COVID-related costs and wages to keep employees. Walmart put the cost at about $900 million, Target at about $500 million. Margins were lower for both companies as a result of those lower margin items like food being sold and some of the higher margin items like apparel being weak.

But then when you get to the bottom-line, you see that Walmart was, kind of, able to absorb these extra costs quite a bit better with earnings per share up 5% versus Target getting, kind of, whacked there, down about 60% on an earnings per share basis. No guidance from either company, but they're both really strong companies, I expect them to continue to execute well even when the country reopens and they're not necessarily the only game in town. But they will be one of the winners of this retail shakeout that we've been talking about.

Flippen: And I wouldn't want to downplay the importance of the permanent changes in habits that will come from people who have adjusted their grocery or food delivery to different platforms as a result of this pandemic. If I can bring everybody back to the beginning of 2020 when Walmart spent millions of dollars on their Super Bowl ad, reminding people that they had grocery pickup in most of their locations. I mean, I was one of the people who laughed and said maybe that was a waste of money, right, I mean the people who are ultimately shopping at Walmart are aware of the fact that they do grocery pickup, but that money, as it's been proven out over the past few months, was well-spent.

I think people who have made a shift to grocery pickup are probably more likely to retain those habits once this pandemic is over then we may have given them credit for a few months ago.

Hill: Ron, just real quick on the apparel question. Obviously, apparel, a higher margin item. Target has made investments in apparel. It really seems like, you know, I'm not looking to add pressure to CEO, Brian Cornell, but it really seems like they are set up to succeed in a future where we're wearing fewer suits and more casual clothing.

Gross: They are very well positioned here. They've brought designer brands in-house, they've private labeled some of the designers they brought in, they've created a new price point for those designers who have been willing to, kind of, dilute their brand and sell more to the masses at a value proposition, a value point that lots of folks can afford. They make absolutely fine clothes at a reasonable price. I think that continues, I think they continue to steal business from some of those retail apparel companies.

Hill: Wednesday was the day that shares of Luckin Coffee (NASDAQ: LK) resumed trading. Luckin had been halted in the wake of an accounting scandal, and shares down more than 40% this week.

Emily, we're getting a lot of questions about this issue. I mean, obviously, the House of Representatives would still need to take this up and then it would need to go to the President, but this seemed like a pretty strong signal.

Flippen: Yes, this is Senate bill 945 and it actually had bipartisan support in the Senate. This bill would essentially say that any foreign-listed company in the U.S., and this is really targeting Chinese companies since they are the main offenders, would need to certify that they are not controlled or owned by foreign governments, and then also get the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board to audit their financial statements or have an auditing firm that is approved by the PCAOB.

So, this would be a big change in response to how Chinese companies are listed in the U.S. exchanges today. They do escape some of the oversight from the Securities and Exchange Commission, because the Chinese government is one of those governments that says the financial information of our companies is relatively proprietary. Now, as you mentioned, Chris, this would need to be taken up in the House of Representatives and approved, then voted on by President Trump. It's also worth noting that this, as you mentioned, is in connection with Luckin, it's not a coincidence that this bill is proposed around the same time that Luckin Coffee is being delisted from the Nasdaq here in the U.S. because of fraud allegations.

So, Chinese companies are definitely being targeted right now. This is not something to be overly panicked about. There would be a three-year period, as proposed in the Senate bill, for these companies to essentially come into compliance with this new law. It would also need to be passed by the House of Representatives, but if these Chinese companies weren't able to come into compliance, then they would potentially list themselves on other exchanges, Hong Kong, London, potentially, which would prevent American investors from being able to get exposure.

Hill: Is it possible they could list on the Toronto exchange?

Flippen: It is possible, it only applies to U.S. exchanges, and this includes the over-the-counter exchange, the OTC or pink sheets market here in the U.S. So, the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and the over-the-counter exchanges.

Hill: Neiman Marcus and JCPenney (NYSE: JCP) are just two of the retailers that have filed for bankruptcy so far this year. And Macy's (NYSE: M) CEO, Jeff Gennette, sees an opportunity. Gennette said this week, there's $10 billion worth of sales up for grabs in the retail landscape. He's not wrong, Ron, but can Macy's be one of the retailers to capitalize on this?

Gross: They could potentially be able to capture a small portion. I think the lion's share will go to stronger retailers. Right off the bat, the few that we always talk about as being the survivors here: Walmart, Target Costco, Amazon will get the lion's share, and then the rest can, kind of, divvy it up. I don't think it's going to be, kind of, the savior for companies like Macy's that are struggling.

And these department stores, you know, we just saw JCPenney, obviously, recently file bankruptcy finally. As you mentioned, lots of other folks, Pier 1, J.Crew, Neiman Marcus, Stage Stores, and lots of smaller ones that we don't talk about or really don't hear that much about, and that's going to continue.

So, sure, there's going to be a demand from the consumer for these items still, but I think it's going to continue to be the big guys that benefit.

Hill: Emily, I mean, I think we all think we're going to see more retailers going out of business. Do you see retailers essentially spinning off part of their brands just so that the remaining business can survive?

Flippen: We see some retailers doing that right now. So, JCPenney has potentially talked about spinning off their retail brand versus the real estate aspects of the company, but it's worth noting that the underlying economics or demand trends that exist don't change just because you spin something off. Ultimately, all of these retailers have really struggled with merchandising. Trying to predict what people are going to want to buy and in what quantities and in what colors next season has been the struggle that companies like JCPenney and Macy's have been put up against, which has really supported discount retailers, which happen just to take excess inventory, they're not trying to make any predictions about where the market will be a season or two from now. That produces a much lower-cost model, and there's really not much that a lot of these traditional retailers can do to completely change their business model at this point.

Hill: Shares of Take-Two Interactive (NASDAQ: TTWO) hit an all-time high this week as the video game company wrapped up its fiscal year; fourth quarter revenue of more than 40%. Emily, this is a great quarter and really a great 12 months for Take-Two.

Flippen: And most people can assume why it was such a great 12 months for the company, because this pandemic has caused a lot of people to play games that weren't necessarily playing games before. Take-Two has an amazing collection of really great brand names, including Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption, Borderlands, these are stalwarts in the gaming industry that are not going away anytime soon.

Hill: Is TiVo still around? That's the question Dave Shull asked before he became CEO. He'd already been an executive at DISH Network and The Weather Channel. Recently, Dave Shull talked about TiVo's business and future with Motley Fool analyst, Tim Beyers; and contributor, Dan Kline, who kicked off the conversation.

[...]

Dan Kline: Dave, to set the stage here, and I cleared this question first, because I didn't want to come off as glib, but there was a point where TiVo was a pop culture company. There were jokes on late night TV, because you watched The Simpsons, you would like to watch The Jetsons. And TiVo has 10 trademark noises and some of those noises were actually like, you know, the beep-boops that everybody knew. And the company does not have that profile right now. Can you set the table for, sort of, what TiVo is compared to what it used to be? And I'm excited about where it's going, and share a little bit about where it's going.

Dave Shull: So, it's interesting, when I walked into the company my first question was, are they still around? Right, this amazing heritage of innovation goes back more than 20 years; that's like, damn, that's pretty cool. But the company has changed a lot. We've done 15 acquisitions in the last 15 years. We've had four CEOs, when I first came in, we had four CEOs in a quarter. So, things have changed a lot. And there was a lot of, sort of, turmoil.

What people don't understand is, there's maybe a million people out there that don't have TiVo service. And I love those fans because they're so tied to the technology and they can tell me, sort of, the 20 years of history our tech, but if you look at sort of the broader business, we have 22 million households around the world that are using TiVo technology, but they're doing it through their cable company. They may not realize that it's actually TiVo technology that's powering that. But 22 million around the world is pretty broad. And so that's really the bread-and-butter of the company, where we're going.

Well, when I said, listen, we've got to get on the streaming wars. And so today we announced this product TiVo Stream 4K which puts us, kind of, squarely into the streaming wars and is really the future of the company.

Kline: Now, I looked at the 4K and I'm very excited to order one. But I would like to hear, is this you taking on Roku, like is that sort of -- you know, are you throwing down the gauntlet going after, you know, Amazon, Roku, the other players in this space, or is it a little bit of a differentiated product?

Tim Beyers: And just to add to that, Dave, before you answer that, you have a partnership with Roku, if I understand right. So, if you can sort of paint the whole picture here, because it's a little strange and it would be really great to get like the whole picture there.

Shull: So, there's going to be a little bit of Roku envy. I think those guys have done, Anthony there has just done an absolutely amazing job. You look at his market gap, I don't know what it is today, about $14 billion, $15 billion, our market cap is a little bit less than $1 billion. They've done a phenomenal job, so kudos to them.

But I do think, there's really a missed opportunity, which is, when you look at the Roku device, it's easy to install, it plugs into your TV, but what it does is it gives you a bunch of different apps. And you have to remember, is that on Netflix or is that on Hulu or is that on Prime or Sling TV? When we look at our research, on average, people have seven different apps that they're trying to manage. And it could be an advertising-based on-demand service, it could be a Netflix or Prime or a Hulu, it's like, where's that show, where do I find it? And so, we think that's a missed opportunity in the streaming space.

And so, because we have decades of experience dealing with complex content recommendations, we can say you know what, it's not about the apps, it's really about the shows. And so, what I want to know is, what show do I want to watch now. And we have all the metadata, we have all the content recommendations and the algorithms, so we can say, "Hey, we're going to bring all your entertainment together and we're going to make it really easy for you to find the show that you want to watch and you don't have to remember what app is out there." And so, that's kind of the magic of TiVo Stream.

Kline: You know, when I look at the financials of the company, the biggest part of your business is intellectual property and licensing. And so, you're primarily a software company here. And it sounds like what you're doing here is building out an operating system of sorts, sort of, a layer on top of all these services that is consumer-friendly, intended to be consumer-friendly, that organizes the mess that otherwise exists.

Shull: Yes, so that's fair. Let me, kind of, back up and at a higher level, I want to talk about TiVo as a company, if that makes sense. So, $650 million in revenue roughly, $227 million in EBITDA. And I'm in the middle of closing a merger, so we've given very specific projections in the proxy. So, I would direct the investors to that proxy S-4. But it's roughly half-and-half intellectual property, and half product.

And so, on the intellectual property side, there's a base of about 5,000 patents. And we license those patents out and those patents go back decades. Any place where you see people playing video in some sort of linear stream fashion or targeting ads around video, we have some pretty good intellectual property claims. And so, the vast majority of paid TV operators, certainly in North America, but also in Europe and in Asia license our patent portfolio for that.

On the products side, we're the TiVo consumer base, these million loyal customers that we have tied to the DVR. And many of these people have very high-end, complex, sort of, TV systems and so, that's where the value of the technology is.

We then have built out a software stack, to your point, that's in 22 million households around the world, where we've deployed, sort of, the best of all the TiVo know-how and put that in place for the consumers to experience that but in a traditional cable setting. We're now taking the best of all that and we're synthesizing all that down to a $49 dongle that you can just plug into the back of your TV and any content that's available on the Android TV platform is immediately, sort of, integrated and gives you recommendations across live TV. So, we have a very unique partnership with Sling TV on-demand content, Netflix, Prime, Hulu, and then also all the AVOD [Advertiser-Supported Video On Demand] content: Tubi, Xumo and now Pluto.

And so, basically, it's kind of the culmination of, OK, intellectual property, invented stuff that got deployed in millions of set-top boxes around the world, and now we're saying, how do we distill the best of that software platform down to this dongle that we call TiVo Stream?

Kline: Let me ask the business question. So, Roku makes money from, if I don't have Netflix and the first time I subscribe to Netflix, I do it through my Roku box or dongle or whatever device I have, I have all of them, they make a cut of money. Do you have the same relationship with some of your brand? So, if I've never been a Sling customer and I sign up through them, I am a Sling customer, but when I sign up, do you get a cut of the money?

Shull: Yes. And the simple answer is, again, I think Roku has done a brilliant job of trailblazing here. So, we make very little money on the hardware, which is why it's $49.99 for a product that's 4K and Dolby and a bunch of other stuff. So, it's an amazing little piece of hardware for that price, which means that we have to make money in the future. So, the way we make money in the future is a cut of your additional subscriptions, but also most of these AVOD services, like Tubi and Xumo and Pluto are ad-based and so there is some revenue-sharing there, because what they want is, they want an engaged consumer. And our view is, consumers can't process 50,000 titles, and so that recommendation engine on top of the metadata makes it much more likely that someone is actually going to watch that show. So, it's a valuable relationship for both us and for the provider.

Kline: And, Tim, I'll let you jump in with the real business questions, but I have one more question. I live in a house with a 16-year-old and my wife who is also my age. And we all have very different television choices. Do we need one device per person are there multiple accounts on the same device, how does that work?

Shull: So, right now the devices are intelligent by room and by time of day. So, what we haven't done is we haven't layered another set of, sort of, profiles on top of that, right? So, the box in my office knows that I'm sitting here at this time and it knows that it's kind of my box, right? So, if I'm going to put another one up in the playroom where the kids are, and so it will have very different content recommendations for them based on the time of day because it knows it's a different box.

We're looking at profiles in the future, but we're trying hard to make it a really, really simple interface. And so, we think, lots of people provide recommendations, very few companies actually provide recommendations based on time of day. And so, that's sort of a proxy for profiles, because the viewing habits tend to be very different at 5 o'clock at night versus 10 o'clock at night.

Beyers: Can you just for context here, and maybe to oversimplify things a little bit. I think most of us who followed TiVo in the past know that you have some patents that are related to the four-letter words you were relating to, the DVRs and so forth. But there are probably a lot that we don't really know about that our TiVo innovations that I'd like to invite you to maybe give us two or three that are patented technology that TiVo introduced, that people just, you know, we gloss over and we don't realize that's TiVo technology. Can you give us a couple of examples of that?

Shull: Well, I would say a lot of the voice technology that you use today when you talk to your set-top box actually originated with TiVo. And we would argue that some of the companies that maybe haven't licensed our technology that, [laughs] you know, I'm not going to name names at this point, but you can, kind of, [...] some we just talked about, actually derived their voice capabilities from our voice patents. And so, we provide voice technology around the world, actually much more than the 22 million households that I talked about, because we actually have a know-how and a dedicated team that's focused on that.

So, what's interesting about the TiVo voice product, we call it Conversation, is you can say, "Hey, what's on tonight?" So, it has to understand what's on TV tonight and that I'm talking about entertainment content. "No, I actually want a comedy," "Comedy from the 80s," "Something with Tom Hanks." "Wasn't the one where he was on an island?" And it starts to bury down to that, and you can have that contextual conversation that's really unique.

Now, we're not magicians, the way we're able to do that is we understand we're talking about entertainment, and we have a very, very deep understanding of the metadata and, sort of, the linkages between all of these different assets based on our knowledge base. And so, there's a lot of IP tied to that. And we think there's some strong claims around that as well.

Kline: So, Dave, is your vision on the TiVo side to eventually just organize everything? The mass of content, whether it be podcasts or video or YouTube videos or all the other things, to just provide, sort of, a blueprint in order for people, is that, sort of, the bigger, grander plan?

Shull: Yeah, I think so. So, our tag line, which there was a little bit of trying, right, you got to blame the marketing folks, but I actually kind of like it. Our tag line is, "bringing all your entertainment together," making it easy to find, watch and enjoy. And so, there's two parts to that statement, really. One is, we do want to bring all of your entertainment together in one place and then we want to make that finding process easy.

And so, we think there's a lot of challenges in the streaming world right now and so we want to solve that for you.

Beyers: Where do you think the bulk of your business -- like, let's talk about the future here. We're five years ahead, and TiVo and Xperi have merged, where is the business coming from? You know, five years from now, are the winds at your back because of cord-cutting, where is your growth coming from five years from now? If you had to cast a vision for what we as investors want to be looking for if we're investing in your company?

Shull: So, I think the future is still to -- the plan is to split the IP business away from the product business, and I think what that does is that gives you a team that's very, very focused on building up intellectual property as an engine, and making it recurring. And then the product team is not having to deal with litigation, they're very focused on new innovative products.

So, when you look at the product side, I think the future is very much, hopefully, TiVo or some version of the TiVo experience is embedded across hundreds of millions of devices, whether it's a TV or whether it's an automobile. And I think that very quickly becomes a very light, software-only solution, and doesn't require any hardware changes. I think that's really the win, because I think there's a proliferation of streaming content that is going to continue over the next couple of years and I think consumers love having that choice and they love having a free choice, which is AVOD.

So, if you look at, you know, your investors may or may not track it, but Pluto was sold to ViacomCBS, Tubi TV was sold to Fox. Zumo was sold to NBC. And these are all three big consumer advertising-based on-demand services. So, consumers love that model. And then they're still willing to pay a premium for unique content, like Netflix and Prime and Hulu.

Kline: In that five-year future then, in this area where TiVo as a technology is pervasive, does that mean TiVo also is bringing you exclusive content as well, like, program shows?

Shull: I think that's something we want to avoid, and the reason why I say that is because I think our value in this new world is not shows, right? NBC and Fox and CBS are always going to be able to outproduce us. And our value is, if we have the best user interface, the best content recommendations, the easiest way to find new shows, then we provide value to the consumer, of course, but we actually provide value to the show producers, as well.

Hill: Our email address is Radio@Fool.com. We got a question from Nick in Canada, who writes, "I can't begin to thank you, and the rest of the analysts at The Motley Fool, for everything you've taught me. My financial life has been completely changed by you. I'm a very dedicated listener to many of The Motley Fool podcasts." Thank you, Nick, we appreciate that. He goes on, "I had a question about spend allocation between ETFs and individual stocks. I've heard a few different analysts at The Motley Fool mention they think it's a good idea to be buying, both, shares of an ETF and individual stocks, so my question is, what would be the appropriate split between these two?"

Ron, for those unfamiliar with ETFs.

Gross: Exchange Traded Funds, traded just like stocks, but they are baskets of stocks so you can buy the S&P 500, the Russell 2000 technology ETFs, commodity ETFs, any strategy you want to pursue, there is a basket of stocks waiting for you to buy, and it's just like buying or selling a stock, unlike a mutual fund, which only trades once-a-day at the close of the market at 4:00 PM.

I think it's a great question. I'm a big fan of ETFs. And when I tell people that about 50% of my personal portfolio is in ETFs, they're often surprised. Now, that's a little bit skewed because my 401(k) is primarily in an ETFs, so if you strip that out, I'm about 25% ETF; 75% individual stocks. I don't think there necessarily is the right number, I think a person could have 100% of their portfolio in ETFs if they wanted to, if they were not the type of person that liked to pick stocks and follow stocks, so. I also don't think it depends, necessarily, on age either, I think, either way is fine to go, depending on how much attention you want to give to your portfolio.

Hill: Emily?

Flippen: I would generally agree. I've also been open about the fact that a lot of my assets, virtually all of my retirement funds are in index funds, not necessarily ETFs, but funds that track the market. It's because I don't like the volatility in a lot of the funds that I know I'm going to need to retire with, for instance, but everything else that I invest in is in Individual stocks. And that's a totally personal preference, mostly because I know that if I have my individual assets that are, you know, volatile on a daily basis, invested in Chinese companies, cannabis companies, whatever you put into it, I know that if that money goes away, I still have my retirement fund.

So, without digressing too much into my personal finances, I don't think there is a right answer, I think it depends on you and your personal risk tolerance.

Hill: Alright. Let's get to the stocks on our radar. Our man, Dan Boyd is going to hit you with a question. Ron Gross, you're up first, what are you looking at this week?

Gross: Speaking of discount retailers earlier in the show, I'm going to go with TJX Companies (NYSE: TJX), ticker symbol TJX. Retailer best known for TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods, focused on a wide assortment at very competitive prices for its customers. Obviously, this last Q1 was a mess, sales down 52%, stores were closed. As of May 2nd, stores have started to reopen, 1,600 opened so far out of about 4,500. Importantly, the company is seeing sales above last year's for those reopened stores. So, all things being equal, we may be back to a growth mode.

Balance sheet is strong, thanks to a $4 billion float of notes. They did suspend their first quarter dividend and probably their second quarter, but before that, they had 23 years of consecutive dividend increases with a compound growth rate of 22%.

Hill: Dan, question about TJX?

Dan Boyd: Certainly. Ron, so when I was a kid, my mom would take me and my brother on shopping trips to the TJ Maxx in Springfield, Virginia. And I remember it as being a very boring time. What can be done to make shopping at TJ Maxx more exciting for children?

Gross: Well, it's commonly thought of as, kind of, this treasure hunt experience. You walk in, it's almost like looking at a tornado of clothes, they're everywhere. And you got to find exactly what's right for you at the right price. So, think of it as a little bit of a treasure hunt.

Hill: Emily Flippen, what are you looking at?

Flippen: I'm looking at a Chinese company called Pinduoduo (NASDAQ: PDD), the ticker is PDD. They reported this week and had really impressive sales, especially as compared to Alibaba, which didn't quite meet expectations. They had a 42% year-over-year increase in active buyers on their e-commerce platform. And impressively, they had nearly as many active buyers as Alibaba. So, they've scaled up really quickly in China.

Hill: Dan?

Boyd: Yeah, Emily, the Senate bill doesn't give you any pause with a company like this?

Flippen: It may in the future, but right now, no.

Hill: Two very different businesses, Dan, you got one you want to add to your watchlist?

Boyd: You know what, as much as I remember those times in TJ Maxx and I didn't really enjoy myself, I got to go with the discount retailers on this one. So, Ron, you're the winner.

Gross: Nice. Finally.

Hill: Alright. Ron Gross, Emily Flippen, thanks for being here.

Gross: Thanks, Chris.

Flippen: Thanks for having.

Hill: That's going to do it for this week's edition of Motley Fool Money. Our engineer is Dan Boyd, our producer is Mac Greer. I'm Chris Hill, thanks for listening, we will see you next week.

Randi Zuckerberg, a former director of market development and spokeswoman for Facebook and sister to its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Chris Hill has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Daniel B. Kline owns shares of Facebook. Emily Flippen owns shares of Chewy, Inc., Home Depot, and Pinduoduo Inc. Ron Gross owns shares of Costco Wholesale, Facebook, Mastercard, Target, and The TJX Companies. Tim Beyers owns shares of Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., Facebook, Home Depot, Idexx Laboratories, Luckin Coffee Inc., Mastercard, Netflix, Roku, Spotify Technology, and Take-Two Interactive. The Motley Fool recommends Costco Wholesale, Lowe's, and The TJX Companies and recommends the following options: long January 2021 $120 calls on Home Depot and short January 2021 $210 calls on Home Depot. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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