June 5, 2009
Macy’s Inc., Dillard’s Inc. and Saks Inc. reported steeper May sales declines than analysts estimated as rising unemployment prompted U.S. consumers to save instead of spend.
Sales at U.S. stores open at least a year fell 9.1 percent at Macy’s, the second-biggest U.S. department-store chain, compared with the 8.8 percent average of analysts’ estimates compiled by Retail Metrics Inc. Sales at Dillard’s department stores dropped 12 percent, a bigger decline than the 7 percent analyst projection. Luxury retailer Saks’s sales plunged 26.6 percent; analysts had predicted 14.5 percent, on average.
Consumers are still limiting purchases and allocating leftover funds to necessities rather than discretionary items, according to Brian Sozzi, an analyst at research firm Wall Street Strategies in New York. Sales at higher-end department stores slumped as shoppers cut purchases of handbags, shoes and clothes, forcing the chains to offer more and deeper discounts.
“Diminished job prospects, wealth evaporation and weak wage growth continues to be at the forefront of consumer psyche, meaning fewer dollars sloshing around the world of retail and lack of visibility into the back half of 2009,” Sozzi said in a June 1 note.
Macy’s fell 44 cents, or 3.3 percent, to $12.88 at 4:05 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Dillard’s declined 71 cents, or 6.9 percent, to $9.65. Saks fell 1 cent to $4.04. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Retailing Index declined 1.2 percent today, and has climbed 20 percent this year.
Saks, based in New York, has cut 1,100 jobs in recent months and said it would reduce merchandise orders 20 percent this year. Cincinnati-based Macy’s has slashed prices to clear inventories.
Retailers that managed to attract some consumer dollars included Aeropostale Inc., Gap Inc.’s Old Navy division and TJX Cos. Their May sales beat analysts’ estimates, helped by lower prices and a focus on value. Kohl’s Corp. and J.C. Penney Co. also exceeded predictions as the budget-conscious opted to shop at lower-priced department stores.
“Kohl’s and Penney’s may be pulling share from both the traditional department stores and from discounters,” Jeffrey Klinefelter, an analyst at Piper Jaffray Cos. in Minneapolis, said today in a telephone interview.
Retail Metrics said today that U.S. comparable-store sales in May dropped 4.4 percent, worse than its projected 3.6 percent decline. Yesterday, the Swampscott, Massachusetts-based researcher said that while housing, construction spending and new factory orders are coming in “less worse” than expected, retailers and consumers remain under pressure as job cuts continue.
May accounts for the smallest portion of retailers’ second-quarter sales, according to Betty Chen, an analyst at Wedbush Morgan Securities in San Francisco.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, said on May 14 that sales at U.S. stores and its Sam’s Club membership warehouse division may rise as much as 3 percent in the 13 weeks through July 31. The chain stopped reporting monthly same-store sales as of May 1, citing the difficulty of predicting shoppers’ behavior.
U.S. consumer spending fell for a second straight month in April as concern over rising unemployment and record wealth destruction prompted households to boost savings rates to the highest level in 14 years, according to the Commerce Department. The 0.1 percent drop followed a 0.3 percent decrease in March, Commerce Department figures showed. The savings rate rose to 5.7 percent, spurred by an unexpected jump in incomes linked to the fiscal stimulus.
“Until people feel confident in their employment and feel confident in their ability to maintain their housing situation, they’re going to continue to rebuild their rainy-day fund to the extent that they possibly can, and that translates to higher savings rates,” said Bryan Eshelman, managing director in the retail practice at Alix Partners LP, a consulting firm.
Retailers continue to cut prices. Aeropostale was offering 20 percent off women’s dresses. American Eagle Outfitters Inc. was giving 50 percent off the purchase of a second graphic t- shirt.
Companies in the U.S. cut an estimated 532,000 workers from payrolls in May, according to yesterday’s ADP Employer Services report. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg predict the U.S. unemployment rate for May will rise to 9.2 percent from 8.9 percent in April.
Still, confidence among U.S. consumers jumped in May by the most in six years. The Conference Board’s index surged more than forecast to 54.9, the New York-based research group said May 26.
“There is a bit of unfounded optimism out there,” Eshelman said yesterday in a telephone interview. “Once this economy turns the corner, I think it will turn the corner rather quickly, but the conditions have just not aligned to get to that point.”
The International Council of Shopping Centers said that May same-store sales dropped 4.6 percent, more than its forecast of a 2 percent decline. The New York-based trade group’s figure is based on results at 32 chains.
The comparison to a year ago was difficult because federal tax rebate checks spurred more spending last May, Michael Niemira, chief economist at the ICSC, said today in a telephone interview. June sales may drop as much as 4 percent, he said.
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