Winners and Losers of the Week: Cheap Chic, Cruises, Coffee and More

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Companies can make brilliant moves, but there are also times when things don't work out quite as planned. From a theme park operator making a big splash with its first quarterly report as a public company to a cruise ship operator hosing down its navigation skills, here's a rundown of this week's smartest moves and worst performers in the business world.

Microsoft (MSFT) -- Winner

The world's largest software company showed off its new game face this week. Microsoft unveiled Xbox One, the heir to the Xbox 360 when it rolls out next week. Gamers won't know how much they will have to shell out to buy one of these consoles, but it probably won't be cheap given the impressive specs.

Microsoft spent the first half of its media event discussing all of the non-gaming things that the new system will do. From Skype group video calls to voice-based controls of live television, Xbox One really does want to be the cornerstone of every home theater. After three years of sluggish video game sales, the industry could use a hero.

Target (TGT) -- Loser

It was a bad sign when Walmart (WMT) reported disappointing quarterly results last week on a surprising decline in same-store sales, but Target investors probably thought they would be immune from the apathy at the world's largest retailer.

"We're cheap chic," they may have said. "We're Tar-zhay!"

Well, apparently Target wasn't "cheap chic" enough. Shares of the trendy discounter slipped after posting a dip in same-store sales itself. Target is also lowering its earnings outlook for the entire year. Target and Walmart blamed the lingering winter weather and the hiccup in early tax return refunds on the stagnancy, but other retailers have been holding up just fine.

SeaWorld Entertainment (SEAS) -- Winner

It's always important to look good in your first quarter as a public company, and SeaWorld Entertainment lived up to the billing. The theme park operator behind the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens gated attractions posted a respectable 12 percent increase in revenue during the quarter.

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This is impressive because we're not talking about a 12 percent spike in turnstile clicks. Actual attendance climbed just 2 percent during the quarter. The real growth came from consumers willing to spend more to visit its parks and an increase in guest spending inside the park. That's a lot of "I survived" T-shirts and killer whale stuffed animals.

Carnival (CCL) -- Loser

SeaWorld had no problem getting more people to pay up for its engaging experience, but the same didn't hold true for Carnival. The world's largest cruise line warned that it will fall short of its earlier profit targets for the year.

As you can imagine, Carnival's reputation isn't at its best these days. It's had too many mishaps on its vessels since last year, and that makes it hard to get passengers to pay up for a cabin. Discounting and heavy marketing expenses are eating into profitability. Carnival now expects to earn $1.45 a share to $1.65 a share this year, well off its original outlook that modeled as much as $2.10 a share in profitability.

What can Carnival do to improve its image? How about moving up the midnight buffets by a half hour? Hey. At least that's something.

Starbucks (SBUX) -- Winner

No one would be surprised to hear that Starbucks opened 10 stores this week, but this time it was 10 Seattle's Best Coffee stores. Starbucks introduced 10 Seattle's Best Coffee standalone locations in Dallas this week, and they're different. They don't have any indoor seating or counters. Customers order coffee and a small selection of food items through the drive-thru or walk-up windows.

These coffee houses are also located in parking lots, and eight of them happen to be in Walmart parking lots. Yes, Walmart.

This may not seem like the Euro-style ambience that Starbucks cultivates at its namesake stores, but that's the point. Starbucks is going after the McCafes of the world that are gunning for the value-minded java sipper.

It's a smart move for Starbucks, tossing a brand that has stumbled at the retail level since Borders liquidated its stores two years ago.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Starbucks. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft and Starbucks. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


Originally published