Chain-Store Stock Carnage Continues (Despite Biggest Jump In Retail Sales Since 2016)

Oh the irony - as bulls celebrate the best jump in retail sales since 2016, the scene for retailer stocks is an utter bloodbath...

Earlier today, US Retail Sales in July rebounded dramatically to a 0.6% MoM gain - the most since Dec 2016 - driven a surge in motor vehicles (record incentives) and department stores (more inventives?). Year-over-year saw upward revisions and a rebound to a 4.2% rise in July.

The last two month's declines in Retail Sales have been revised away magically and we have now gone 5 months without a decline...

 

But one glimpse at the carnage in chain-store stocks tells a very different story... Following a week of disappointing earnings from J.C. Penney Co. and Macy’s Inc., the drumbeat resumed Tuesday as results from Advance Auto Parts Inc., Coach Inc. and Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. sent their shares crashing...

 

As Bloomberg notes, at this rate, the group is poised for the worst annual decline in share prices since the financial crisis.

“Everybody is being burned in retail and people are just questioning, ‘Is there any place that’s Amazon-free?’” Gary Bradshaw, a Dallas-based fund manager for Hodges Capital Management Inc., said by phone.

 

“There will be some winners in retail but boy, it’s just a land mine."

However, Vitaliy Katsenelson more accurately states It’s not just Amazon’s fault. Changing consumer habits are killing old retail biz...

Retail stocks have been annihilated recently, despite the economy eking out growth. The fundamentals of the retail business look horrible: Sales are stagnating and profitability is getting worse with every passing quarter.

 

Jeff Bezos and Amazon get most of the credit, but this credit is misplaced. Today, online sales represent only 8.5 percent of total retail sales. Amazon, at $80 billion in sales, accounts only for 1.5 percent of total U.S. retail sales, which at the end of 2016 were around $5.5 trillion. Though it is human nature to look for the simplest explanation, in truth, the confluence of a half-dozen unrelated developments is responsible for weak retail sales.

 

Our consumption needs and preferences have changed significantly. Ten years ago we spent a pittance on cellphones. Today Apple sells roughly $100 billion worth of i-goods in the U.S., and about two-thirds of those sales are iPhones.

 

Consumer income has not changed much since 2006, thus over the last 10 years $190 billion in consumer spending was diverted toward mobile phones. Between phones and their services, this is $340 billion that will not be spent on T-shirts and shoes.

 

But we are not done. The combination of mid-single-digit health-care inflation and the proliferation of high-deductible plans has increased consumer direct health-care costs and further chipped away at our discretionary dollars. Health-care spending in the U.S. is $3.3 trillion, and just 3 percent of that figure is almost $100 billion.

 

Then there are soft, hard-to-quantify factors. Millennials and millennial-want-to-be generations (speaking for myself here) don’t really care about clothes as much as we may have 10 years ago.

 

All this brings us to a hard and sad reality: The U.S. is over-retailed. We simply have too many stores. Americans have four or five times more square footage per capita than other developed countries. This bloated square footage was created for a different consumer, the one who in in the ’90s and ’00s was borrowing money against her house and spending it at her local shopping mall.

But the bottom line, as we noted previously, is that America's malls, retail stores, and fast-food restaurants are hugely overbuilt.