Department Store Results Imploding

By: The Burning Platform | Sun, Aug 16, 2015
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The government issued their monthly retail sales this past week and four of the biggest department store chains in the country announced their quarterly results. The year over year retail sales increase of 2.4% is pitifully low in an economy that is supposedly in its sixth year of economic growth with a reported unemployment rate of only 5.3%. If all of these jobs have been created, why aren't retail sales booming?

The year to date numbers are even worse than the year over year numbers. With consumer spending accounting for 70% of our GDP and real inflation running north of 5%, it's pretty clear most Americans are experiencing a recession, despite the propaganda data circulated by the government and Fed. The only people not experiencing a recession are corporate executives enriching themselves through stock buybacks, Wall Street bankers using free Fed Bucks while rigging the the markets in their favor, politicians and government bureaucrats reaping their bribes from billionaire oligarchs, and the media toadies who dispense the Deep State approved propaganda to keep the ignorant masses dazed, confused, and endlessly distracted by Cecil the Lion, Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner, Ferguson, and blood coming out of whatever.

You won't hear CNBC, Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal or any corporate mainstream media outlet reference the fact retail sales growth is at the exact same levels as when recession hit in 2008 and 2001. Their job is to regurgitate the message of economic recovery and confidence in the future, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Retail Sales YoY

Retail sales are actually far worse than the 2.4% reported number. Excluding the subprime debt fueled auto sales, retail sales only grew by 1.3% in the last year. The automakers are practically giving vehicles away as their lots are stuffed with inventory. The length of auto loans and the average amount of auto loans are now at all-time highs. The percentage of subprime auto loans is surging to record levels, as defaults begin to rise. The percentage of vehicles being leased is also at an all-time high. To call these "auto sales" strains credibility. These people are either perpetually renting their vehicles or just driving them until the repo man shows up.

Type of Business percent change

The relatively strong year over year furniture sales is also driven by the fact that you can finance the purchase at 0% interest for seven years. All is well for the Ally Financial, GE Capital and the myriad of fly by night subprime lenders until the recession arrives, unemployment soars, and defaults skyrocket. Then their bloated debt ridden balance sheets will explode in an avalanche of defaults. That's when they insist on another taxpayer bailout to "save the financial system".

The year over year crash in oil prices was supposed to result in a huge spending splurge by the masses, according to the media talking heads. You don't hear much about that storyline anymore. The talking heads are now worried that oil prices are too low. I guess the tens of thousands of layoffs in the oil industry and the obliteration of the Wall Street financed shale oil fraud storyline is offsetting the $10 per week in gasoline savings for the average driver.

At least restaurant and bar sales remain strong. It seems Americans have decided to eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow they die. I do believe there is some truth to that saying in today's world. I think people are drowning their sorrows by drinking and eating. They've drastically reduced buying stuff they don't need with money they don't have. Spending their gas savings at a restaurant or bar is still doable.

With real median household income at 1989 levels, real unemployment north of 15%, a massive level of under-employment, young people unable to buy a home - saddled with $1 trillion of student loan debt, middle aged parents struggling to take care of their aging parents and struggling children, and Boomers who never saved for their retirement, the mood of the country is decidedly dark and getting darker by the day. The rise of Trump and Sanders in the polls is an indication of this dissatisfaction with the existing social order.

The part of the retail report flashing red is the sales of General Merchandise stores, and particularly department stores. This category includes the likes of Wal-Mart, Target, Costco, Sears, Macy's, Kohls, and JC Penney. General merchandise sales fell 0.5% in July, with Department store sales dropping by 0.8%. Sales at these behemoth retailers have barely budged in the last year, with overall sales up a dreadful 0.3%. The dying department stores have seen their sales plummet by 2.7%. The talk of a retail revival is dead on arrival. Wal-Mart and Target muddle on with lackluster results, while JC Penney and Sears continue their Bataan Death March towards the retail graveyard.

The false narrative of economic recovery can be blown to smithereens by the historical data on the Census Bureau website. Their time series data goes back to 1992. GDP has supposedly risen by 22% since 2007. General merchandise sales were $48.4 billion in July 2007. They were $56.1 billion in July 2015. That's a 15.9% increase in eight years. Even the manipulated and massaged BLS CPI figure has increased 14.5% over this same time frame. That means that REAL retail sales at the nation's biggest retailers has been virtually flat for the last eight years. Does that happen during an economic recovery?

The department store data is almost beyond comprehension. July department store sales were the lowest in the history of the data series. Sales of $13.8 billion were 22% below the July 2007 level of $17.6 billion. They were 28% below the peak level of $19.2 billion in 1999. Real department store sales are 36.5% BELOW where they were in 2007, and Wall Street shysters have had buy ratings on these stocks the whole way down. These worthless hucksters remove the buy rating the day before these dinosaur department stores declare bankruptcy. Excluding the debt driven auto sales, real retail sales are flat with 2008 levels.

The data from the Census Bureau has been more than confirmed by the absolutely atrocious financial results reported by Macy's, Kohls, Sears and J.C. Penney. Retailers do not report results this poor during economic recoveries. The results clearly point to an ongoing recession for the middle and lower classes who do the majority of working and spending in this country. The rich continue to spend their stock market winnings at exclusive boutiques and high end retailers like Nordstrom, but the average American is being sucked into the abyss by rising food prices, rent, home prices, tuition, and the Obamacare driven health insurance and medical costs. With declining real wages, they have less and less disposable income to spend buying cheap Chinese crap at their local mall department stores.

Here is a glimpse into the results of department store dinosaurs headed towards extinction:


Macy's


Kohl's


Sears


J.C. Penney

The truly disturbing revelation from the Census Bureau data and the terrible financial results being reported by some of the biggest retailers in the world is that it is occurring with unemployment at 5.3%, the economy in the sixth year of a recovery, and a Fed who has pumped $3 trillion into the banking system while still keeping interest rates at 0%. What happens when we roll back into the next official recession, unemployment soars, and consumers really stop spending?

What is revealed when you look under the hood of this economic recovery is that it is a complete and utter fraud. The recovery is nothing but smoke and mirrors, buoyed by subprime auto debt, really subprime student loan debt, corporate stock buybacks, and Fed financed bubbles in stocks, real estate, and bonds. The four retailers listed above are nothing but zombies, kept alive by the Fed's ZIRP and QE, as they stumble towards their ultimate deaths. The coming recession will be the knife through their skulls, putting them out of their misery.

Economic Recovery Cartoon

"Retail chains are a fundamentally implausible economic structure if there's a viable alternative. You combine the fixed cost of real estate with inventory, and it puts every retailer in a highly leveraged position. Few can survive a decline of 20 to 30 percent in revenues. It just doesn't make any sense for all this stuff to sit on shelves." ~ Marc Andreessen

 


 

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