Stocks rising for payday lenders, pawnshops, rental stores

Monday, July 18, 2011

Investing in businesses that cater to those who have fallen on hard times might not seem palatable. But in this economy, it's becoming increasingly profitable.

Stocks in payday lenders, pawnshops and rental centers are all up, while others continue to fall.

Discount stores like Dollar General are seeing stocks surge, too.

Stock in payday lender Advance America, Cash Advance Centers has doubled from a year ago, The Associated Press reported. Cash America International's stock is up 64 percent. Payday loan companies provide short-term, high-interest loans, charging an average annual interest rate in Missouri of 444 percent last year, according to the Missouri Division of Finance. They do serve a purpose for those in a pinch -- they help pay for car repairs, utility bills, even rent.

When times are tough, those who can't afford to buy will rent. Companies like Rent-A-Center are thriving in this economy, leasing televisions, appliances, computers and furniture. Rent-A-Center's stock is up more than 57 percent from a year ago.

Profits at pawnshops are going up too as the cash-strapped opt to trade in their grandmother's jewelry or their beloved guitar. Stock in the Texas-based pawn chain Ezcorp Inc. has gone up 46 percent annually for the past five years.

Americans are looking for a bargain, and even those who could afford to shop elsewhere seem to be choosing discount stores. Stocks at Dollar General are up 50 percent since 2009.

The success these businesses are seeing seems likely to continue as unemployment remains high, at 9.2 percent nationally. One in seven Americans now lives below the poverty line, a 17-year high.

Consumer confidence also continues to decline, even though this is technically the second year of post-recession economic recovery.

No one likes to think about profiting from someone else's misfortune, but for those who have money to invest, these "down and out" stocks seem smart.

* Chick-fil-A opening date: Chick-fil-A, now under construction at 333 Gordonville Road in Cape Girardeau, will open Aug. 25, according to a business license application filed at city hall.

Chick-fil-A's restaurant-opening campouts have become well known across the country with scores of people waiting in line. The first 100 customers to camp out in the parking lot for 24 hours before its new Cape Girardeau restaurant opens will receive free Chick-fil-A for a year, said a company spokeswoman.

Construction on the 4,596-square-foot restaurant began in April. It will have 138 seats inside and a drive-thru window. The nearly one-acre site will have nearly 50 parking spaces.

n First Missouri State Bank opens new location: A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at First Missouri State Bank's new bank location, 800 N. Kingshighway, at 10:15 a.m. Tuesday. The building, most recently home to a Bank of America branch, has been extensively remodeled.

* Brix Oven opens: Brix Oven, 2148A William St., opened Friday. It offers pizza and sandwiches for carryout and delivery. The restaurant is owned by Nizar E. Shahwan of Cape Girardeau and managed by Sam A. Massarweh of Cape Girardeau, according to a business license application filed at city hall.

Southeast Missourian business reporter Melissa Miller may be contacted at 388-3646 or mmiller@semissourian.com.

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