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4 Stock(ing) Stuffers
The Motley Fool
Alyce Lomax
November 25, 2005

Another year, and another Black Friday is upon us, when many of us work off the excesses of Thanksgiving dinner through extreme shopping. However, investors who aren't out doing what some of us call "retail research" (ahem) at the malls today might be taking some quiet time to sip a gingerbread latte and muse about their holiday wishes.

For a change of pace, let's forget toys, baubles, clothes, and gadgets (or even publicly traded companies—gasp!) and talk about a different kind of wish list—private companies that might make great stocking stuffers, if they were ever to decide to go public.

1. Trader Joe's (omitted for brevity)

2. Craigslist (omitted for brevity)

3. SNOCAP (omitted for brevity)

4. American Apparel
OK, so its founder's called by some, well, a bit risque (or so a few magazine articles have said), given sexy ad campaigns that feature real company employees instead of models. However, although in its infancy, here's another private company that really seems like it's firing on all cylinders.

American Apparel's first claim to fame was that it sold T-shirts—simple, unbranded, well-made, unembellished T-shirts. It's not just simplicity and fit that has helped this company excel: American Apparel boasts goods sewn, sweatshop-free, here in the U.S. (That's something many retailers like Gap (NYSE: GPS) can't boast.) According to the information I've been able to dig up, workers earn an average of $12.50 per hour and are given massages at work, paid time off, health-care benefits, company-subsidized lunches, and free parking and free ESL classes.

You guessed it—this is yet another company that's capitalizing off a decidedly anti-corporate, anti-mall sentiment that's popular with the young and urban hipsters. And it appears to be working. There were no American Apparel retail stores until October 2003—now there are 57 stores, with 29 in the U.S. It plans to have 100 stores by the end of this year and 1,000 stores by 2008. Sales thus far have nearly doubled or tripled every year since 2002 and are expected to exceed $250 million in 2005.

American Apparel may be the longest shot when it comes to filing to go public—if you check its website, you'll see it's got a real independent, anti-establishment bent. Still, it's hard to ignore a company that mixes social consciousness with stunning sales, expansion, and operational efficiencies. American Apparel might just belong under the mistletoe.

'Tis the season ...
Investors always have a few private companies near and dear to their hearts that they wish would go public so they could have a piece of that action. Granted, a lot of times it never happens; many companies simply never need the cash (and that's exactly what a public offering entails, the means to generate cash by selling off stakes in its business).

But hey, it's the holidays, right? Dare to dream ... all of the companies mentioned here did.