Retail Executives Foresee Lengthy Economic Slump

While many believe the financial crisis will extend into 2012 or beyond, they also see their own firm’s future sales will increase.

In the third annual Retail Finance Outlook 2011 study by CIT Group Inc. and Forbes Insights, the majority of middle-market retail executives expect the financial crisis to extend into 2012 or beyond, even though many believe their own firm’s future sales will increase.

This story first appeared in the October 19, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Burt Feinberg, group head of CIT Commercial & Industrial, a part of CIT’s corporate finance group, said, “The executives are looking at their own results and see that comparable-store sales aren’t bad across the board. Their companies are performing OK, but they are skeptical about the [economic recovery] and are being defensive.”

Of the 100 c-level executives or owners surveyed in September, 30 percent were from the apparel and accessories industry.

The key takeaways from the apparel and accessories executives surveyed:

• 70 percent said the financial crisis will extend into 2012 or beyond before it bottoms out;

• 43 percent don’t see growth resuming in the financial markets until 2013 or later;

• 64 percent said they expect their firm’s revenues to grow or grow significantly over the next 12 months;

• 60 percent said over the next year, they expect the availability of financing to be the same, while 33 percent expect it to improve;

• 17 percent said they expect holiday sales and notable shopping days this year to be the same as in 2010, while 53 percent expect business to be up slightly and 13 percent expect it to be up 10 percent or more;

• 43 percent said inventory levels will be about the same compared with 2010;

• 60 percent said they are passing increased commodity costs on to consumers; 27 percent are absorbing the cost; 20 percent are changing the product specifications, and for 30 percent, the costs are being pushed down to vendors/suppliers.

According to Feinberg, executives know that consumer spending is still OK, even though consumer sentiment is turning slightly negative.

The one thing executives don’t want is to “see another 2008 and get caught with bloated inventories,” he noted.