So far he appears to be doing only one of those.
Wall Street traders, who were already enjoying solid economic growth, licked their chops over Trump’s promises to spend heavily to rebuild bridges and highways and to lower corporate taxes. Markets soared as investors welcomed the new administration’s business-friendly focus.
But the getting things done part hasn’t turned out well so far. New spending on infrastructure has yet to begin as the bill required to fund the investment hasn’t even been introduced. And the push to cut corporate taxes is also just getting started, having been delayed by the failed effort to scuttle Obamacare and general political chaos as Trump lurches from Twitter fight to Twitter fight. (Some of the bluster, such as threats to ditch the North American Free Trade Agreement, has morphed into relatively straight forward negotiating positions.)
Through it all, the stock market has rallied. The Dow Jones Industrial set an all-time peak of 22,179.11 this month and closed Monday up 0.13 percent at 21,703.75. And the consumer’s held up pretty well, too, although they’re spending more on food and travel and other experiences than apparel retailers would prefer.
Bruce Rockowitz, chief executive officer of Global Brands Group, said in June: “It’s actually quite a strong market. It’s just a question of where you are in the U.S. The only wild card, and everyone has the same issue — or if you’re a Trump supporter, it’s not an issue — but most people are nervous about the things that Trump may or may not do.
“The one thing we can see is a lot of the things that we felt were risks to the business that President Trump actually talked about before the election, don’t seem like they’re either imminent or will happen,” he said.
Setting aside the general law of fiscal gravity stating markets cannot go up forever and will at some point correct, the economic picture is relatively bright and growing brighter.
Economist Chris Christopher, executive director of IHS Markit, said “consumers came out swinging in July after taking a breather in May and June.”
“We expect consumer spending to be the primary driving force of GDP growth in the back half of 2017, supported by rising employment, real disposable incomes and household wealth,” Christopher said. “Income tax cuts in 2018 will likely fuel an acceleration in spending growth and a hike in the personal saving rate.”
Perhaps the biggest threat on the horizon comes from Wall Street, which might prove to be on something of a sugar high and ready for a crash that could also hurt spending.
Frank Badillo, director of research at MacroSavvy, said it’s the Baby Boomer generation that has logged the biggest gains in spending confidence during Trump’s tenure and will likely take their lead from the stock market.
“The general public is not following what’s going on [in Washington] closely and are listening more to the rhetoric of things getting done and aren’t paying as close attention to the fact that things aren’t actually getting done,” Badillo said. “It’s the market that will have that kind of impact and correct and consumers will follow. It’s not going to be a consumer-led fall out. It will have to be market led and that is the big risk to the retail economy in the short run.”
Fashion retailers could be somewhat insulated from such a crash, but not for the best of reasons — they’ve had a horrible year already anyway and don’t have so far to fall.
Already thousands of stores have been tagged for closure and some chains have gone bankrupt, including BCBG, The Wet Seal Inc. and The Limited.
Richard Hayne, ceo of Urban Outfitters Inc., noted: “Our industry, not unlike the housing industry, saw too much square footage capacity added in the Nineties and early Aughts. Thousands of doors opened…and created a bubble and like housing, that bubble has now burst. We are seeing the results, doors shuttering and rents retreating. This trend will continue for the foreseeable future and may even accelerate.”
Hayne noted that America has six times the retail space per capita as either Europe or Japan. “The U.S. market is oversaturated with retail space and far too much of that space is occupied by stores selling apparel.”
That overcrowding of stores and its unwinding might just be the biggest trend to watch in retail, the rest of this year and beyond.
More from WWD: