There is no hiding the fact that the first half of 2011 has been a massive economic disappointment. The outlook hasn’t improved either, with second quarter GDP limping in at 1.3%, unemployment expected to increase from 9.2%, consumer confidence in the gutter, and today’s ISM manufacturing data at the lowest mark since 2008. Most companies are welting under the pressure of the lousy economy and uncertain regulatory environment. Throw in a largely incompetent block of leaders in Washington and you have yourself a copacetic explanation for why the national economy is headed nowhere fast.
The private sector, however, has turned out some stalwart names that continue to command loyalty, and record sales, among customers who are increasingly choosy about where they spend. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is one tech leader that continues to thrive in spite of the poor business climate. Several weeks ago the company reported its best quarter ever, and today holds more cash reserves than the US treasury. Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is another tech company that continues to thrive, reporting an outstanding second quarter and continuing to invest in expansion, innovation, and branching out its business.
Time Magazine writes about three companies who have also been notable standouts. Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) is one. “Amazon reported a revenue increase of 51%, to just shy of $10 billion, which was its fastest growth in a decade. Think about that: 51% growth for a consumer goods online retailer during a quarter in which overall U.S. consumer spending was flat.” The sales surge at the biggest name in eCommerce can be attributed to the company’s thriving Kindle product, its success in online media divisions, and its confidence in its ability to continue to steal market share from traditional retail and wholesale stores.
The second is Expedia (NASDAQ:EXPE). The online travel company “showed revenue growth of nearly 25%, surpassing $1 billion, with hotel bookings especially brisk. It also maintained very healthy margins, unlike Amazon, which has spent considerably to maintain growth. Part of Expedia’s strength is business travel, and it stands to reason that as businesses have been thriving their travel budgets have been increasing.” Especially impressive is the fact that Expedia has had this much success amidst an airline industry that has been raising ticket prices all year long, and lower numbers of travel volume among commercial passangers. Imagine what they could do in a healthy economy.
Last but not least we hit Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX). The coffee king continues to lure customers in spite of its questionably high prices. “Starbucks has proven that people will only cut affordable luxuries if they absolutely must — and that unless you have lost your job, you probably can still buy those $4 lattes. Starbucks has also been aggressively expanding internationally (and saw its international business grow 20% in the spring) and that has been a ballast. The company has also been able to manage rising commodity costs (coffee especially) and unlike most companies has been able to pass some of the costs on by raising prices. Juxtapose these results with the just-released second quarter GDP report showing that overall consumer spending contracted by 0.1%”