How the Wealth Gap Became an Abyss

This evening, legendary investor Louis Navellier and I are sitting down together for The Tech Supercycle Summit.

Image of a man standing on a stack of coins with other below him with less coins.
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(If you haven’t yet signed up for that free event yet — TONIGHT, at 7 p.m. Eastern — you’ve got one last chance to do so, by clicking here.)

But before we get to the big event, I want to give you all one last bit of background about the powerful investment trend we’ve been calling the “Technochasm.”

On the winning side of this chasm we find thriving technology-powered businesses and professions.

On the other side we find everything else.

And the Covid-19 pandemic drove an even bigger wedge between these two sides to force them further apart than they’ve ever been.

Think back to earlier in 2020, when the S&P 500 Software Index hit a new all-time high, while U.S. employment plummeted from an all-time high to a 24-year low. The chart below tells the tale…

And the true employment picture was even uglier than the one above. As the chart below shows, the percentage of the U.S. labor force that was then employed tumbled to its lowest level in at least 70 years.

Of course, employment has recovered from the depths of the pandemic… and it will continue to recover as vaccines are developed and distributed.

But generally speaking, Covid-19 showed us that some 42 million Americans possess no techno-centric safety net. They cannot simply convert their bartending job, for example, into telecommute mode and serve virtual drinks until cyber-closing time.

Once the Covid-19 epidemic struck, nearly every industry or profession that involved direct human interaction found itself face to face with a shutdown order… and zero revenues.

Meanwhile, every individual who could shift to some sort of work-from-home lifestyle did so. Quite obviously, the types of businesses and professions that can operate out of a home office tend to be more technology-based than those that can’t.

Our economy will always feature a wide array of enterprises — some of which require intense human interaction, and some of which require no interaction whatsoever.

A restaurant will always be a restaurant. It can’t ever be a video game. A music festival will always be a music festival — never an iPhone app.

In other words, the Technochasm phenomenon does not imply that any one profession or industry is better than another.

It merely highlights the vulnerability of non-tech-based professions and industries, relative to their tech-enabled counterparts.

And the reason why so much of the “smart money” invests in those tech-based industries…

The Technology Advantage

As a group, low-tech professions and industries are not as adaptable to economic shocks. Additionally, they cannot establish and fortify their competitive advantages as quickly or efficiently as their high-tech counterparts.

A low-tech company operating in the midst of rapid technologic innovation is like a human being swimming in the open ocean.

No matter how well that human might be able to muscle through the giant swells, a cruise ship can do it better… and faster… and more securely — while also serving up chardonnay and sushi.

The “cruise ships” of this metaphor are the companies that either develop new technologies or effectively integrate those technologies into their existing processes.

But integrating new technology is hard work, especially if you’re a fat, happy U.S. corporation that has enjoyed decades of success. Often, the stewards of such corporations fail to recognize the competitive perils they face… and, therefore, fail to adapt quickly enough to save themselves.

Many great success stories later become infamous failure stories because they failed to innovate. That ignominious list of companies would include names like:

Blockbuster Video, the titan of home movie and video game rental services, is one of the most spectacular — and ironic — of American success-to-failure stories. At its peak in 2004, Blockbuster employed 84,300 people worldwide and operated more than 9,000 stores.

Just four years prior to this peak of prosperity, an up-and-coming company called Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) offered to sell itself to Blockbuster for $50 million. But then-CEO of Blockbuster John Antioco dismissed Netflix as a “very small niche business” and rejected the offer.

Two decades later, Blockbuster is an extinct B-school case study in corporate hubris and managerial myopia. Netflix is a $230 billion+ juggernaut.

Since Blockbuster’s demise in 2010, the retailing landscape has become even more treacherous for brick-and-mortar retailers. In 2019 alone, real estate firm CoStar Group estimates that 10,000 retail stores closed. A record 12,200 closed in 2020, CoStar says.

And the tally of store closures continues growing by the day. Investment bank UBS estimates retailers will shutter another 75,000 physical stores across the United States by 2026.

Yet, even while thousands of U.S. retailers are pushing up daisies, a few tech-savvy retailers are growing like redwood trees.

And their share prices are performing even better than many of the stock market’s leading tech stocks.

Brick and Byte Retail

For example, even though the coronavirus pandemic dealt a setback to the physical retail operations of Nike Inc. (NYSE:NKE), Lowe’s Cos. Inc. (NYSE:LOW) and Lululemon Athletica Inc. (NASDAQ:LULU), the shares of all three retailers are now trading at or near all-time highs.

That’s because each of these companies has developed robust direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales channels that generated strong sales through the worst of the Covid-19 crisis.

Nike’s DTC division, Nike Direct, produced a third of the company’s global sales in 2020. And Nike expects to boost DTC sales by at least 50% over the next two years. Its stock has soared 88% over the last two years and reached a new all-time high just a few days ago.

Lowe’s is another DTC success story. Although the company was late to the game of developing a strong DTC channel, that channel is now flourishing and contributing a rapidly growing percentage of the company’s overall sales.

Lowe’s stock is up 91% over the last 24 months.

Lululemon may be the poster child of DTC know-how. It was one of the first major retailers to emphasize online sales in conjunction with a network of physical stores. The company has created a vibrant DTC sales and is reaping the rewards of that forward-looking strategy.

DTC sales account for more than one-quarter of the company’s revenue and more than one-third of its operating income. Its stock is up 110% over the past two years and is currently trading near a new all-time high.

You see, no matter how “old school” an industry might be, companies within that industry can still put themselves on the winning side of the Technochasm, simply by applying technology intelligently. The copper mining giant Freeport-McMoRan Inc. (NYSE:FCX) is just one example.

No industry is more old-school than copper mining. And yet, Freeport-McMoRan has been developing a sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI), or “machine learning,” process at its Bagdad copper mine in Arizona.

This machine learning model uses data from sensors around the mine to “tailor” the ore processing method to each of the seven distinct types of ore that come from the Bagdad mine.

This innovation has been “a remarkable success,” Freeport CEO Richard Adkerson says. So the company is now planning to roll out this new technology across all of its operations in the Americas.

By doing so, Freeport expects to increase its annual copper production by 5%. That number might not seem significant, but in an industry where a few cents per pound in the change of copper prices can mean the difference between profits and losses, 5% is a big number.

Freeport’s new AI technology could not shield its stock from the Covid-triggered plunge in copper prices. But this new tech will help the company maintain its competitive edge as one of the world’s lowest cost copper producers.

The stock has skyrocketed nearly 160% over the last 12 months.

We are seeing firsthand just how essential technological prowess has become for most companies. The Technochasm is gaining strength, and as it sweeps through the global economy, it will continue to reward technologically savvy companies.

And it will visit destruction on those that are slow to adapt.

That’s why Louis and I have put together this evening’s free Tech Supercycle Summit (reserve your spot here)… to highlight a select group of small, fast-growing tech companies with exceptional growth potential.

One of the most important things you must remember is that disruptions almost always happen from the outside. It’s rarely the big, established companies that disrupt entire industries — and make people rich, in a very short amount of time.

That’s why we’re featuring small, disruptive companies that are operating in a variety of industries.

To join us later today for this important free event, at 7 p.m. Eastern, save a spot for yourself here.


Eric Fry

P.S. NOW OPEN: Register for the 2021 Tech Supercycle Summit

Later today, Louis Navellier and Eric Fry have to close registration to their first-ever 2021 Tech Supercycle Summit. TONIGHT, at 7 p.m. ET, they’re going to reveal how you could make at least $100K over the next 12 months as a new supercycle gets underway.

Reserve your spot by clicking here.

NOTE: On the date of publication, Eric Fry did not own either directly or indirectly any positions in the securities mentioned in this article.

Eric Fry is an award-winning stock picker with numerous “10-bagger” calls —in good markets AND bad. How? By finding potent global megatrends… before they take off. In fact, Eric has recommended 41 different 1,000%+ stock market winners in his career. Plus, he beat 650 of the world’s most famous investors (including Bill Ackman and David Einhorn) in a contest. And today he’s revealing his next potential 1,000% winner for free, right here.

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