At the close of trading Tuesday, Europe’s markets were still in negative territory as Greece asked for a new bailout deal.
Meanwhile, analysts say consumer spending could be hampered by a pending financial crisis in that country.
At the close of the market, the CAC 40 in Paris closed down 1.6 percent to 4,790, while the FTSE 100 in London finished down 1.5 percent to 6,520. The DAX in Frankfurt lost 1.3 percent to 10,944 and the FTSE MIB in Milan fell 0.5 percent to 22,460. U.S. equity markets ended Tuesday’s trading day on an up note. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.1 percent to 17,619.51, while the S&P Retailing Industry Group rose 0.6 percent to 1,137.35.
As of 6 p.m. Tuesday in London, the Greek government had requested a new $29.1 billion euro, or $32.3 billion two-year bailout deal from the euro-zone countries, hours ahead of its deadline at midnight CET Tuesday to repay its 1.6 billion euro, or $1.8 billion, debt to the IMF. Come July 5, Greece is set to hold a referendum, when the country’s electorate will vote on the terms of the debt deal Greece’s creditors are offering.
For George Wallace, chief executive officer of London-based retail consultancy MHE Retail, the real impact of a potential Greek default and exit from the euro is “confidence and sentiment rather than real economics.”
“If [a default and exit] happens, it is going to create negative sentiment in the markets, particularly on currency, but I think the danger for Europe is it will mean higher interest rates for Italy, Portugal and Spain – the countries that are thought to be in a weaker economic position,” Wallace said.
Wallace said this could result in interest rates rising in other European countries, such as France and Germany, which in turn could hamper economic growth and reduce consumers’ disposable income. “It basically has a depressing effect ultimately on consumer expenditure and also on economic growth,” said Wallace. “Once this confidence in the euro is dented, that has a knock-on effect for interest rates and that’s where the problems come.”
But Wallace added that the weakening euro could have both a positive and negative effect on tourist spending in the U.K. and Europe. Europeans, he noted, would likely be put off from coming to the U.K. if the euro weakened further against the pound, but conversely, Asian visitors would find visiting European countries more reasonable.
While Wallace underlined that the Greek debt crisis was far from having such a “catastrophic” effect on markets as the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the subsequent credit crisis in 2008, he characterized the situation as “very unwelcome.”
In terms of U.K. consumer spending, Sophie Michaels, head of retail and wholesale at the London-based business advisory firm BDO, said the Greek crisis could lead to “uncertainty” in the British economy. “The economic recovery on the high street is fragile — we’ve certainly seen tentative shopper behavior in the recent months,” said Michaels. “The situation in Greece is likely to lead to uncertainty in the U.K. economy and the subsequent tremors may have an impact on the retail sector as consumers hold on to their cash while they await stability.”
And at the upper end of the market, the news of the referendum has put the kibosh on what has been brisk business for European luxury goods firms in Greece. According to one executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity, sales in the country catapulted by high double digits last week as Greeks converted their euros into tangible assets, citing similar bumps for white goods such as TV and appliances. But the crisis will put a crimp on shipments of fall and winter merchandise, which have ceased, as vendors are no longer able to get paid with banks closed.
Meanwhile, Andrea Buccellati, president and creative director of Buccellati, which is controlled by private equity fund Clessidra SGR, said that he believes a Greek exit from the European monetary union would have a “strong effect in the short term … but in the long term, the European economy can absorb a problem like Greece.”
Buccellati added that he does not expect the crisis to impact luxury spending, aside from any potential spending by Greek clients. He expects that high-net-worth individuals who spend on luxury would have already “taken some action” to protect their stock portfolios from exposure to Greece, noting that the country’s debt crisis has been a long-term issue.
Among European clothing retailers, the exposure to Greece is estimated to be relatively low. According to Jamie Merriman, an analyst at Bernstein Research in London, Inditex has around 2.5 percent of its sales in Greece, while H&M has less than 1 percent and Marks & Spencer is estimated to count between 1 and 2 percent of its sales in the country.
Merriman expects that if Greece does leave the euro, there will be “some disruption” to those retailers’ business in Greece. “I think it’s still too early to say how prolonged that will be or to what extent, but if Greece does leave the euro, there will be at least a short-term negative impact for those businesses,” said Merriman, adding that the impact on the Greek economy will also depend on how a potential exit is handled.
In terms of the further weakening euro, Merriman said that for a number of clothing retailers a weaker euro puts pressure on their cost structures, as they tend to source from Asia in dollars. “I think the question is if Greece defaults, does the relative strength of the dollar increase further and put more pressure on the cost structure for clothing retailers?” said Merriman.
But in contrast for Inditex, for example, the weaker euro has been a positive for the firm, due to its European cost base. “They’re sourcing to a large extent in Spain and Portugal and Turkey, with euro-denominated contracts,” said Merriman.