It’s become a trend: Some retailers have seen a slowdown in sales of discretionary items in October that has carried over into November.
On Thursday, department-store chain Kohl’s Corp.
reported fiscal third-quarter results that beat expectations, but the company withdrew its full-year guidance due in part to “significant” macroeconomic headwinds.
On the post-earnings conference call with analysts, Chief Financial Officer Jill Timm said it was prudent to withdraw guidance because the retail environment has become “more unpredictable” in recent weeks.
“Following fairly stable trends in August and September, sales decelerated in late October, with softness continuing into November as compared to last year,” Timm said, according to a FactSet transcript.
She said discretionary categories, including apparel and home goods, are facing “disproportionate pressure,” as persistently high inflation continues to dampen consumer spending.
That follows similar comments from Target Corp.
CFO Michael Fiddelke on Wednesday. He said that consumers, who were facing “an increasing level of stress” from inflation and higher interest rates and were becoming “increasingly price sensitive,” were concentrating discretionary spending on discounted items, “most notably in the latter weeks of the quarter.”
He added that the pace of same-store sales took a sharp turn toward the end of the quarter.
“More specifically, within the quarter, comparable sales grew 2.8% in August, rose to 4% in September and decelerated to 0.9% in October,” Fiddelke said. “Also notable, even within the October period, there was a dramatic change in the pace of our sales.”
That deceleration has continued into November, he said.
Two might be a coincidence, but on Thursday, department-store retailer Macy’s Inc.
made it a trend.
While Macy’s stock shot up 15% on Thursday, after the company reported better-than-expected earnings and raised its full-year guidance, Chief Executive Jeff Gennette noted that trend in the post-earnings conference call. “In the middle of October, there was an unexpected [slow]down in sales, which continued into November,” he said.
Cowen analyst Oliver Chen said the comments about deceleration in discretionary spending have “broad implications” for a higher promotional environment, making a “consumer discretionary recession” likely.
The companies’ comments seem to contradict the government’s retail sales report for October, which showed a bigger-than-expected month-over-month increase. But a closer look at the report showed that sales in some discretionary categories, such as clothing and general merchandise, declined in October after rising in September and August.
The SPDR Consumer Discretionary Select Sector exchange-traded fund
has tumbled 17.7% over the past three months, while the the SPDR Consumer Staples Select Sector ETF
has slipped 4.2% and the S&P 500 index
has lost 7.9%.