Very Weak Retailer Performance In November Highlights Tapped Out Consumer

Major negative surprises by virtually all retailers with two exceptions, indicate that the consumer is becoming increasingly tapped out into the holiday season. Black Friday sales which were not too bad are likely merely another unsubsidized (yet) Cash For Clothing program with substantial demand being pulled forward: at this rate December sales will likely be an even greater negative surprise.

Retailer commentary from Goldman Sachs:

Retailers reported weaker November same-store sales results, with Kohl’s and Limited Brands being the only companies to beat expectations. Unseasonably warm weather in the first part of the month offset mostly strong holiday weekend sales around Black Friday. Most retailers posted positive same-store sales growth, with Macy’s, J.C. Penney, and Target being the outliers to the downside. However, a focus on inventory as well as cost-control initiatives are expected to continue to help margins, with Gap specifically pointing to stronger margins versus last year.

J.C. Penney pointed out that although it had strong online sales for the post-Thanksgiving period through Cyber-Monday, those sales will be recognized when merchandise is shipped and thus reflected in December sales figures. Macy’s and TJX both reaffirmed guidance for the fourth quarter, although this guidance is below current consensus estimates for both companies. The best relative performers on November SSS were Kohl’s and Limited Brands, with both exceeding expectations by 2.4% and 5.5%, respectively. For Limited, the beat was driven by better-than expected sales in the Victoria’s Secret segment, which was up 3% compared with consensus estimates of down 5.3%. Macy’s had the weakest performance on a relative basis, missing consensus estimates by 3%.