Cold harsh retail reality has set in on Wall Street.
Investors gave up any vestige of hope that Christmas would signal better times ahead for the rapidly changing fashion retail world and hit the sell button — and hard.
Kohl’s Corp. and Macy’s Inc. got the worst of it as overly optimistic projections came back to bite them and the accessories category lagged. Both companies logged comparable sales declines of more than 2 percent for November and December combined and cut their earnings outlook for the year.
Shares of Kohl’s tanked 19 percent to $42.01 as Macy’s gave up 13.9 percent to $30.86.
Kevin Mansell, Kohl’s chairman, chief executive officer and president, said “sales were volatile throughout the holiday season.” Accessories was the weakest category. And Terry J. Lundgren, Macy’s chairman and ceo, said he had been looking for stronger sales and called out weakness in handbags and watches. (Macy’s fix is a bitter pill: The company plans to lay off more than 10,000 workers, including 17 percent of its executive ranks.)
The market took the department store sales direction to heart and sent most fashion-related retailers lower.
Gap Inc. was initially painted with the same brush, but managed to redeem itself by boosting its profit estimate to above an adjusted $1.92 a share and reporting that combined November and December comps rose 2 percent. That pushed the company’s stock ahead 7.5 percent to $25 in after-hours trading.
But most retailers ended on a down note.
Among the decliners were Dillard’s Inc., off 10.2 percent to $56.49; Signet Jewelers Ltd., 8 percent to $87.97; J.C. Penney Co. Inc., 7.2 percent to $7.86; Nordstrom Inc., 6.9 percent to $45.56, and Urban Outfitters Inc., 5.3 percent to $27.56.
(Bucking the trend was retail/wholesale hybrid PVH Corp., which rose 1.1 percent to $92.96 after saying its full-year earnings would be “at least at the top end of its guidance.”)
Cowen analyst Oliver Chen said each retailer was feeling its own particular pain, with Macy’s rejiggering its store base and Kohl’s working through fashion problems, but everyone struggling with the sagging handbag market.
“Underlying all of this is this fight for store traffic,” Chen said. “These companies, specifically Macy’s and Kohl’s, were all too optimistic in their prior guidance.”
In a note to clients, Chen said, “If you aren’t special enough, customers won’t visit your stores. Holiday sales misses from Kohl’s and Macy’s demonstrate a rough road for mid-tier retailers as we think off-price retail, Amazon, specific luxury brands, or better curated stores are gaining share.”
Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, noted, “The decline in mall-centric apparel and department store sales should not be confused with the overall growth of retail this year — and this holiday. Traditional department stores continue to shrink in both absolute terms and as a percent of the overall retail market. Department stores, for 2016, will account for only 1.6 percent of total retail [excluding auto/gas/restaurant].”
That’s off from 1.7 percent in 2015, but down dramatically from 5.2 percent in 2000 and 10 percent in the mid-Eighties.
Brick-and-mortar stores still make up more than 90 percent of retail sales, but the lion’s share of the growth and traffic is going to e-commerce.
ComScore said Thursday that online sales via desktops rose 12 percent to $63.1 billion in November and December combined.
“The American consumer kicked into high gear once Thanksgiving rolled around and the season saw consistent, healthy growth rates all the way through Free Shipping Day on Dec. 16, highlighted by a streak of 22 consecutive billion-dollar spending days on desktop,” said comScore ceo Gian Fulgoni. “Looking back on the season as a whole, 2016 marked another year where digital and, in particular, mobile grew its spending share and influence relative to traditional brick-and-mortar retail.”
Also showing market declines after updates were:
• G-III Apparel Group, which saw its stock fall 4.5 percent in regular trading and slip another 7.5 percent, to $26.50, in after-hours trading as investors reacted to a profit warning. G-III said it would post net income of $57 million to $62 million for the full year, down from the $67 million to $72 million previously projected.
• L Brands Inc., which suffered a 7.9 percent stock decline to $62.04, after noting that December comps fell 1 percent. The company has been refocusing its Victoria’s Secret business, working to cut back on promotions and build up its bralette sales.