Shares of Macy’s Inc. and Kohl’s Corp. fell sharply at the opening bell this morning after both retailers reported weak holiday traffic Wednesday, which sent shares plunging into the double-digits in after-market trading.
In early trading this morning, Macy’s shares dropped 13.5 percent to $31.01 while Kohl’s fell 18 percent to $42.67.
Macy’s said it was closing stores and slashing staff while Kohl’s 2.1 percent holiday sales decline is forcing it to cut its full-year earnings per share estimate. As a result, Telsey Advisory Group downgraded shares of Kohl’s to a “market perform” from “outperform.” An analyst at Moody’s said in a separate report that the lean inventories maintained by both retailers during the fourth quarter was not enough to bolster profits.
Macy’s and Kohl’s declines this morning pushed down the overall retail sector with the S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group Index dropping 0.1 percent to 1,363 while the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 opened flat. Some of the other retail stocks impacted included: Nordstrom Inc. with an 8 percent decrease to $45.02; Cato Corp. with an 8.1 percent decline to $28.64; L Brands Inc. with a 6.1 percent drop to $63.23, and J.C. Penney Co. Inc. with a 5.9 percent decline to $7.97.
Moody’s vice president and senior analyst Christina Boni said today that weak holiday sales results for Macy’s and Kohl’s “reflect the continued secular challenges that plague the department store industry.”
“We expect the shift of purchases to alternative channels such as online and the off-price channel to continue in 2017,” Boni said. “Lean inventories entering fourth quarter were not enough to support profitability targets at either Macy’s or Kohl’s given the disappointing sales performance.”
Analysts at Telsey Advisory Group had a different take on Kohl’s even as they lowered their price target to $47 from $58. “However, the silver lining is that inventories were well managed, and planned down low to mid-single digits on a per store basis at quarter-end,” the analysts said. “Going forward, we do not anticipate a change in the weak traffic levels witnessed across the retail industry and as the shift to online purchasing intensifies as we only expect it to continue.”
The TAG analysts also said while Kohl’s digital business remains strong, “the increased SG&A expense associated with efficiently managing the business is weighing heavily on margins. Further, although men’s, and select footwear and home categories are performing well, the missy department which represents just over 20 percent of the women’s apparel business is in need of a makeover and has been a primary drag on comp performance.”
Retail Next said in its monthly report that average transaction values in physical stores were up in December, but “sales and traffic had their largest declines over the last six months at 10.7 percent and 13.4 percent, respectively.”