Friday, January 11, 2019 1:00 am
Holiday sales not helpful for all
Department stores report poor sales
ANNE D'INNOCENZIO and MICHELLE CHAPMAN | Associated Press
NEW YORK – Many investors had expected department stores to enjoy robust sales over the holidays in light of a U.S. economy buoyed by low unemployment, higher wages, strong consumer confidence and cheap gas.
So when Macy's and Kohl's reported lackluster numbers on Thursday, they were taken aback, sending retail stocks into a tailspin and calling into question whether such mall-based chains can compete in a changing landscape where shoppers are shifting more of their spending online.
Macy's saw only a slight increase of 1.1 percent in sales during November-December at stores opened at least year. And while sales were strong during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the company said sales fell off noticeably until the week of Christmas.
Meanwhile, Kohl's reported a small sales growth that showed a dramatic slowdown from a year ago.
Comparable sales rose 1.2 percent, versus 6.9 percent in the previous year.
Shares of Macy's plummeted more than 19 percent, on track for the worst day ever.
Kohl's stock was down nearly 7 percent. Even Target's stock took a hit, falling nearly 4 percent despite showing strong holiday sales.
Earlier this week, J.C. Penney, one of the stragglers in the department store sector, reported a drop in comparable store sales of 3.5 percent for November and December.
But because Macy's is considered a barometer of spending, particularly for the middle class and for mall spending, investors may be looking for deeper meaning in its performance.
“Macy's report spooked investors because investors expected it to be a great holiday season across the board,” said Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData Retail, a retail research firm.
“Now, they're questioning how good the holiday season was. There is a lot of uncertainty out there.”
Adding to the uncertainty is that investors will not be getting December's monthly retail sales data next week from the Commerce Department if the government shutdown is still in effect, as most observers expect.
Saunders said investors are also worried that a recovery among traditional stores like Macy's is losing momentum, raising concerns that they might have to ramp up investments even more to increase sales.