Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Daily Note - Is Priceline Priceless?

We've all seen the ads for Master Card, but this is not about $MA this is about Priceline or PCLN for traders.

It has been nothing short of miraculous in its rise in price and as I've mentioned at times, my skepticism had to be erased quickly in order for me to get on its right side back around the $150 price. My skepticism was based on the history of Travelzoo or TZOO in 2004/2005 but PCLN is not Travelzoo either.

Having a background in the travel business I had to analyze from experience what it meant. After all, in my days bargain hunters were college students wanting to have a final fling at "pot spots" around the world before donning business suits. I also had to look at Travelocity and it's evolution from the days of SABRE. It was the first to offer multiple bargain searches for best fares, but Priceline took it a step further and the world liked what they got.

Priceline was not the first bidding site for travel either, there were some others, most of which I've forgotten about but also most of which modeled their sites after eBay. This was different, here you had the choice albeit a blind one. It was all blind bidding at first and it was like buying a pig-in-a-poke. I was doing eBay then and was fascinated, but did not think it would fly. There was Cheap Tickets and other sites that were consolidated sellers of available airline seats and you knew what you were getting. But Priceline continued its "hide and seek" style that paid off enough customers to make it worth while for those willing to risk. Soon enough, however, Priceline realized that not everyone was going to bid for a bargain and introduced it's tier style selling. Bid for less or pay more for sure. Which, along with the expansion into hotels and rental cars was enough for notice.

Many think that the reason Priceline made it big was because of William Shatner. Actually Shatner was on with Priceline in its early days, but after the .com bubble burst, Priceline had to hang in, shed some baggage to become solely a travel site, and it was due to that along with bringing back Shatner and a new campaign that propelled Priceline into the stratosphere.

Priceline first turned the corner in 2007/2008 hitting $145 but markets turned then, and it too suffered the hit once again, yet, with the recession comes another dilemma: People still want to travel and the travel industry still wants to sell. The harder the economy the more travel bargains are to be found. It was perfect for Priceline; inventory increased and so did the travel bargain hunters. For the travel industry it was a match made in heaven and the rest is history, until we look at it yet again today.

Priceline has been running for two years now and with each peak it surprises us again. So, looking ahead, with new recession and world problems brewing I say the advantage will still be in the corner of bargain travel sellers until the population will be forced to stay at home due to a war or world economic collapse. And even then, people will want to travel.

Happy Trading, Living and Dancing

The Daily Pick - PCLN

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