As 2014 draws to a close, many signs suggest it's been a great year for M&A. Confidence in the expanding U.S. economy certainly helped. U.S. gross domestic product grew 4.6 percent in the second quarter and 3.5 percent in the third quarter, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the strongest back-to-back monthly readings since the second half of 2003.

The recent data from Mergers & Acquisitions’ own monthly surveys also continues to be positive. The roughly 250 dealmakers who participate in our surveys each month reported that the high rate of growth in middle-market M&A seen in the spring resumed in October. (See this issue’s edition of the Mid-Market M&A Conditions Index, a barometer created by Mergers & Acquisitions and sponsored by PwC.) Looking to the holidays, retailers are optimistic. The National Retail Federation expects sales in November and December to increase 4.1 percent to $616.9 billion, which would be the best performance for the period since 2011. Dealmakers, however, don’t seem to think that consumer sales will translate into growth in M&A in the consumer goods and retail sector. (See the current installment of the Mid-Market Pulse, a forward-looking sentiment indicator created by Mergers & Acquisitions and published in partnership with McGladrey LLP.)

The big opportunity for M&A in the consumer goods and retail sector lies in e-commerce, as reporter Allison Collins explores in this issue's cover story, Retail Reboot. It's been 20 years since Jeff Bezos introduced the world to online shopping with the launch of Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN), but most retailers are still struggling to leverage the Internet and, more recently, mobile devices. In the meantime, consumers are embracing online and mobile innovations enthusiastically. Rather than fearing the transformation, savvy investors, such as Sterling Partners' Rick Elfman, are snatching up e-commerce service companies. Technology also continues to transform the real estate industry, as assistant managing editor Anthony Noto writes about in The Buyside column. And technology, especially social networking, is among the latest developments in the M&A adviser business, as contributing editor Danielle Fugazy reports in our buyer's guide, 5 Innovative Service Providers.

Looking ahead, we're looking forward to a busy first quarter, when we'll be choosing among the many active companies and individuals to select the winners of our 2014 M&A Mid-Market Awards. Happy Holidays!

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