Now that the Christmas rush is over, it’s up to the accountants to give the final verdict on the season.
Expect some hand-wringing.
While sales overall were seen as strong over the holidays, the revenue wealth was not shared evenly, with consumers spending much more online and prioritizing experiences, gadgets, their Netflix subscriptions and so on.
Every January there’s a reckoning — whether from bankruptcies for stores hoping the holidays would save them, or sweeping store closures or some retrenchment that has retailers moving toward a more protective stance.
This month, it should start to become more clear who came out of the holidays with a little more momentum and hope and who’s hunkered down. Many public companies will release holiday updates — and the private players will just be whispered about — as they plan ahead to 2020.
One the watch list:
• Ascena Retail Group Inc. has 3,400 stores — including Ann Taylor and Lane Bryant — and sales of $5.5 billion, but investors give the company little credit for that reach. They’re focused more on debt, which according to S&P Capital IQ stands at $2.3 billion, or 9.8 times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $239.1 million.
• Tailored Brands Inc. has a debt of $2.1 billion and is looking for ways to work that down. A stronger business would help, but the trend hasn’t been great with total sales for the third quarter, falling 3 percent to $729.5 million. That leaves the retailer, home to Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank, with the alternatives. The company has suspended its dividend and according to sources is looking to sell its Joseph Abboud brand.
• Neiman Marcus Group is also wrestling with some serious obligations, a leftover from two consecutive private equity buyouts. The company has a debt load of $4.9 billion and — while there are no immediate payments due — the business needs more growth to help right its balance sheet. Adjusted EBITDA fell to $117 million in the quarter ended Nov. 1. Comparable sales, however, increased 0.2 percent.
• J. Crew Group Inc. is another private equity backed retailer looking for a way to right its books. The company is in the process of separating out its Madewell business for a potential initial public offering. But just where that split leaves the J. Crew business remains to be seen. Third-quarter sales fell 4 percent to $415.8 million with flat comparable sales.