Week's Winners, Losers: Amazon On Fire, Walmart Fired On

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There were plenty of winners and losers this week, with a payment platform taking on some criticism and the country's leading online retailer announcing a new gadget that will provide cheap video streaming. Here's a rundown of the week's smartest moves and biggest blunders.

Walmart (WMT) -- Loser

Halloween is big business, and falling on a Friday this year should result in a big spike in costume sales for next year once the trick-or-treating and parties are done. One company that blew it this year is Walmart. The world's largest retailer got busted for referring to plus-size outfits in its online store as "Fat Girl Costumes" until it was called out on Monday in a Jezebel article.

Walmart eventually took down the insulting and insensitive product category description, but it's still something likely to alienate customers.

Trex (TREX) -- Winner

Home improvement projects were hot during the early days of the housing market's turnaround, but arming homeowners with ways to make their digs more enjoyable has bee tougher these days. We saw that a week earlier when shares of Lumber Liquidators (LL) took a hit after the hardwood flooring discounter posted disappointing quarterly results.

Trex kicked off this week by posting better-than-expected results. Net sales soared 32 percent, and the wood-alternative decking leader's profit of 28 cents a share smoked the 24 cents a share that Wall Street was forecasting. It may seem odd that folks are spending on patio deck projects but flooring.

Apple Pay -- Loser

The market was buzzing about Apple's (AAPL) push into processing merchant transactions when it was announced a few weeks ago, but things have gotten off to a rough start since last week's debut. This week began with two major drugstore chains bowing out of the fledgling platform.

The market was curious as to why CVS (CVS) and Rite Aid (RAD) would stop accepting Apple Pay at the register just days after backing the platform. Later in the week, reports indicated that CVS and Rite Aid are part of a retailer consortium looking to launch a new merchant exchange early next year. Terms of that platform reportedly include a commitment to exclusivity.

Apple can still win. It came out on top with iTunes when record labels wanted to give their own musical distribution exchange a chance to work. There are already some calls among Apple fans to boycott the chains turning their back on Apple Pay. For now, Apple Pay is the one doing the backpedalling.

Fire TV Stick -- Winner

Amazon.com (AMZN) was labeled a loser last time out with its Fire Phone flopping. Amazon took a $170 million charge to write down excess inventory of its struggling smartphone last week. This week it bounced back with a smaller and cheaper gadget.

Amazon's Fire TV Stick is a streaming stick that plugs into a television, providing Wi-Fi streaming functionality. It's a scaled-down version of the $99 Fire TV that Amazon released earlier this year to critical praise.

The reason that the Fire TV Stick is a winner is that it's at a reasonable $39, and Amazon made it available for just $19 to its Amazon Prime customers during its first two days on the market earlier this week. That's a great way to get early adopters to buy in, and hopefully it brings back some of the sizzle to the Fire brand as Amazon tries to get its smartphone back on track.

AT&T (T) -- Loser

There's unlimited and then there's AT&T's version of unlimited. The Federal Trade Commission is suing AT&T, alleging that the wireless carrier is throttling some of its bigger bandwidth hogs.

Throttling in the realm of online connectivity is the unsavory practice of slowing down a customer's Internet speed if the user exceeds a certain amount of monthly bandwidth. That flies in the face of the unlimited data plans that many were promised.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com, Apple, CVS Health, Lumber Liquidators and Trex. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com, Apple, Lumber Liquidators and Trex. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free report on the Apple Watch to learn where the real money is to be made for early investors.
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