February 26, 2013

A harbinger of coming economic troubles

A two-fer. First from Yahoo Finance:
Eight Retailers That Will Close the Most Stores
It is the time of year again, when America�s largest retailers release those critical holiday season figures and disclose their annual sales. A review of these numbers tells us a great deal about how most of the companies will do in the upcoming year. And while successful retailers in 2012 may add stores this year, those that have performed very poorly may have to cut locations during 2013 to improve margins or reverse losses.

For many retailers, the sales situation is so bad that it is not a question of whether they will cut stores, but when and how many. Most recently, Barnes & Noble Inc. (BKS) decided it had too many stores to maintain profits. Its CEO recently said he plans to close as many as a third of the company�s locations.
Best Buy (people go to compare products and then buy online), Sears (the Bellingham location closed recently), J.C. Penny (too many equivalent retail stores), Office Depot (sorry Rachel), Barnes and Noble (Amazon), Gamestop (the internet), Office Max (online shopping) and Radio Shack (lost it relevance twenty years ago). Next up is a troubling indicator -- from Tyler Durden at Zero Hedge:
Freight Shipment Volumes Plunge To Lowest In Two Years
Freight shipment volumes are rather obviously seasonal, but as Bloomberg Brief notes, the Cass Freight index shows shipment volumes have slumped for four consecutive months and are back to their worst levels in two years. This is the first year-over-year contraction since the 2007-2009 Great Recession - and places the reality of the dismal Q4 GDP print in context. If that wasn't enough good news about the real economy, the cyclicality of the shipments are losing momentum (i.e. each seasonal rebound in the last three years has been weaker - just as we saw in the lead up to 2008) and freight expenditures fell in January leading to a 1.6% drop over the last year - compared to a 27.2% rise in January 2011, and 22.2% rise in January 2012. As Cass noted, these volumes will not be enough to "have a significant impact on the unemployment numbers."
People aren't buying stuff like they used to. Thanks Barry -- your superb people in D.C. have made sure that the economy will take another ten years to recover... Posted by DaveH at February 26, 2013 8:42 PM