As the holiday shopping season ramps up we're seeing a merger between the worlds of online and offline shopping.
The big winner, to my mind, should be FedEx (FDX), which is feeding the strategies of both sides.
Online brands like Microsoft (MSFT) are planning "pop-up stores" in major malls. Meanwhile JC Penney (JCP) is talking about ditching the traditional check-out counter in favor of terminals in clerks' hands linked via WiFi and RFID tags on the merchandise.
Macy's (M) is launching a host of new brands aimed at Web-raised young shoppers, which tell stories rather than just offer merchandise, and Amazon (AMZN) is doing Lightning Deals on popular toys that remind me of the old Kmart "blue light specials" from back in the day.
So just as stores try to replicate the easy comfort of the online world, replacing big stores with smaller showroom spaces as Best Buy (BBY) has, online stores are trying to replicate the instant gratification of the offline world, linking with UPS (UPS) and FedEx for same day deliveries.
This was an inevitable end-point of trends that have been building for almost 20 years now, ever since the Web was spun and I was asked to be an "e-commerce" reporter for NetGuide. Both online and offline shopping have their advantages, they can be complementary, and investors would be wise this year to bet on merchants who can get the balance right.
Who will be the big winner? I wouldn't be surprised if it's FedEx. With a PE under 15, and lots of delivery contracts from both offline and online merchants like Wal-Mart (WMT), it seems well-positioned to be a happy Santa this holiday season, no matter how people choose to shop.
Disclosure: I am long MSFT.