Off-pricers such as T.J. Maxx are the projected beneficiaries when other stores close their doors.
Shutterstock / Roman Tiraspolsky
Dislocation from closures of Sears and Kmart stores should bode well for the off-price channel and, to a lesser extent, J.C. Penney.That’s the prediction from analysts at Cowen & Co.When Sears Holdings Corp. posted first-quarter results last Thursday, chief financial officer Robert Riecker said the company has sold $28 million in real estate, and is evaluating another $700 million in non-overlapping bids. He also didn’t rule out the possibility of closing more stores. That’s on top of the 180 Sears and Kmart stores the retailer is already closing: the company said in January it would shutter 150 stores, and subsequently added another 28 to the list.Cowen’s credit analyst Kirk Ludtke last week said while Sears’ operating cash flow is likely to remain negative, “We believe that Sears has access to enough liquidity to meet the $1.6 billion of debt scheduled to mature in 2017 and 2018.”Cowen’s equity analyst Oliver Chen said Monday his firm’s proprietary research indicates that off-price retailers would benefit from Sears shrinking due to similar average household income and average age dynamics of their consumers. Average household income is $56,500 at Kmart, and $62,200 at Sears. That compares with $61,700 at Burlington, $63,300 at Ross Stores Inc. and $64,000 at J.C. Penney Co. Inc. Further, the average age of Sears’ shoppers is 43.4 years, which compares with 43.2 years at Penney's and 43.9 years at Kohl’s Department Stores.Chen said the proprietary research also shows a growing overlap between Sears and Kmart shoppers with the off-price retailers. Visitors to Sears — both store and online — have declined by 1.5 percentage points over the last two years, while those stopping by Kmart have fallen by 1.6 percentage points. These shoppers have instead increased their visits to the off-price competitors.By nameplate, Sears customers are already at Home Goods, up 10.9 percentage points; Marshall’s, up 8.3 percentage points, and T.J. Maxx, up 7 percentage points. Penney’s has added appliances to its home department offerings — the retailer has also said its best-performing stores are ones located in malls shared with Sears. Kmart shoppers were up 10.6 percentage points at Home Goods, up 8.6 percentage points at Marshall’s and up 7.1 percentage points at T.J. Maxx.“In our view, we remain in the early stages of a department store closure cycle and anticipate [the] majority of closures will come at the mall,” Chen said. He expects Macy’s will need to trim its store base to 550 or 600 from its current 668 doors, while Penney's will need to right-size to between 700 to 800 stores from 875. He also expects Kohl’s will need to trim about 9 percent of its fleet, down to 1,000 doors from 1,100.
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