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Five takeaways about the consumer from Walmart, other retailers after a big week of earnings


A Target department store on May 17, 2023 in North Miami Beach, Florida.Joe Raedle | Getty ImagesMore grocery purchases. Fewer ambitious do-it-yourself projects. And last-minute splurges at the store.This week, some of the biggest retailers in the country reported earnings and described how their customers are shopping. As Home Depot, Target and Walmart reported their quarterly sales and shared full-year outlooks, the companies offered up the latest clues about the health of the American consumer — and previewed what could be ahead for the economy.related investing news 20 hours ago Some smaller retailers also offered warnings signs for the current quarter and this year.Next week will give even more insight into the retail industry and economy. Best Buy, Lowe’s, Costco, Dollar Tree and Kohl’s are among the earnings on tap. Some mall retailers are also reporting, including Gap, American Eagle and Abercrombie & Fitch.Here are some of the emerging themes:Sales trends have weakened.So far, at least five retailers – Target, Walmart, Tapestry, Bath and Body Works and Foot Locker – have spoken about sales trends across the country getting worse.As the three-month period went on, shoppers spent less — especially on discretionary merchandise, Target CEO Brian Cornell said on a call with investors. Walmart noticed the same pattern.Both of the big-box retailers reported a sharp sales drop after February.Walmart Chief Financial Office John David Rainey attributed that decline, in part, to the end of pandemic-related SNAP benefits and a decrease in tax refunds. Cornell said headline-grabbing events could have shaken consumer confidence, too. He pointed to the March banking crisis. Silicon Valley Bank collapsed that month, sparking fears of broader economic woes.Bath & Body Works saw sales fall off in March. Yet they recovered in April as the retailer turned to a common playbook: Promotions. It got a boost as customers spent money at sales events toward the end of the quarter, Chief Financial Officer Wendy Arlin said on a Thursday earnings call.Foot Locker also said it may have to motivate shoppers with markdowns for the rest of the year. The company cut its full-year forecast on Friday, as it reported earnings that missed expectations. CEO Mary Dillon said in a statement that “sales have since softened meaningfully given the tough macroeconomic backdrop.”On a call with investors Friday, Dillon said the sneaker seller’s sales got hurt by lower tax refunds and high inflation as customers spent more on food and services. While she said sales rebounded in April, “they did not improve nearly to the extent we expected and that weakness has continued into May.” A few other retailers that reported earnings had specific factors working in their favor.When Tapestry, the parent company of Coach and Kate Spade, reported earnings last week, the company said sales softened as the quarter progressed and into April as consumers became more cautious.But it has a factor going for it that some other retailers don’t: A growing business in China and other international markets …

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