The potential contagion impact of Greece on global economies is still too early to predict, but already there’s been currency pressures on sales of fashion goods.
Currency fluctuations — think of a rising U.S. dollar — have been a sore point for American apparel firms that do business overseas, and that was evident in the first-quarter results that have already been posted. It’s also one component of a firm’s business that could get worse before it gets better as the situation overseas deteriorates, at least over the short-term.
Essentially, a strong dollar versus a weak euro has made it difficult for American firms to sell their goods into a euro zone country. That’s because it costs consumers more to purchase an American brand, and with the euro weaker, shoppers are more likely to choose a competing European brand because it costs less to buy.
Gary Wassner, co-chief executive officer of factoring firm Hilldun Corp. said, “Our prices are so much higher than a year ago, or even two years ago. It’s not because of a change in fabrication or improved production quality. I see in the short-term the euro becoming more pressured and the U.S. dollar going higher. That will make it that much harder for American brands to sell into European Union member countries.”
Wassner said American prices are about 30 percent than they were a year ago. The flip side is that it costs less for European brands to sell into the U.S., and that could spur sales of European brands here both from American buyers and tourists from Asia and South America, he said. But that too would add further pressure on American firms — particularly American contemporary brands — trying to grab market share as they compete on price with the European luxury brands.
For Wassner, that means American firms will need to figure out how to add real value to its products both to differentiate the goods and to justify the higher prices.
Aside from Greece, there are also problems in Puerto Rico, which said it can’t pay its debt to the U.S., and in China where there are concerns about its real estate market. Ben Garber, an economist at Moody’s Analytics, said it’s likely too soon to tell how these issues will all shake out, but noted that a “bigger disruption in the euro zone gives rise to the broader concern,” which then “feeds into the global financial turmoil, making it difficult for companies to borrow.”
So far he doesn’t see any major impact yet on the U.S. markets. While Puerto Rican debt is held across a wide range of U.S. investment funds, there will likely be some assistance from Congress to restructure the debt. And as for China, there hasn’t been any “massive blowback” even though there’s been a slowdown in growth.
“We need to see a greater conflagration of the [Greek] situation before it impedes the U.S. economy,” Garber said. Volatile stock markets would be one example, while a shut down in the credit markets could be another.
For now, Garber still expects that a rate hike from the Fed is still likely. “Potential disruptions to the financial markets could give the Fed pause to raise rates. There’s still some time till September to see how things play out in the U.S. economy. The rate hike is by no means off the table,” he said.