Trouble For Retailers May Be on the Horizon

The Lempert Report
April 08, 2019

Deloitte is out with a new study to prepare retailers entitled “The next consumer recession: Preparing now.”

Only 43% of those most recently surveyed by IPSOS believe that 2019 will be a good year for the U.S. economy. This compares with 56% the previous year who said 2018 would be a good one.

Deloitte is out with a new study to prepare retailers entitled “The next consumer recession: Preparing now.”  The report takes an in-depth look at our two most recent recessions, the bust and the Great Recession, to see what led up to each, how they impacted the consumer economy and how the next one might impact consumer businesses, most especially retailers.

One finding stood out among all the rest, which should come to no surprise to our followers – we have been reporting on store shutdowns, profit losses and the decline of customer counts. Topline, according to Deloitte is that American retailers are in the weakest position since 1999 to withstand another recessionary downturn

Deloitte analyzed the financial performance of 100 U.S. retailers taking into account sales growth, profitability and efficiency over the past 20 years. Measuring the return on assets, it found that from 1999 to 2012 retail performance rose during bull market periods and declined during bear markets.  2012 marked a turning point when ROAs declined from 9.3% in FY 2012 to 6.1% in FY 2017. “ 

Deloitte’s analysis identified slower revenue growth, compressed margins, increased SG&A expenses and slower turnover of inventory levels as the main contributors to the weakening ROAs. 

It points to the fact that retailers have already cut costs to the bone and for the most part, not invested in new strategies including the rise of e-commerce, the rapid entrance of new competitors more in tune with the cultural and economic climate, and the rise of discount players serving the 80% of U.S. households since the last downturn to grow, according to the report.

In 2019 weakened retailers are facing a weak middle-class consumer base and the potential for a rapid withdrawal of the affluent heavy-spenders if they feel the least threatened in their economic status. Deloitte says that it could add up to perfect storm at retail this year. Not good.