2017 U.S. Holiday Retail Forecast
Dear Santa, I Really Tried To Be a Good Retailer This Year...
Archaeologists in Turkey recently announced they may have discovered the body of St. Nicholas in a crypt beneath his eponymously named church in southern Turkey. The tomb was found using scanning technology and its contents are believed to be intact. Experts are now figuring how to reach the tomb without damaging the church. The story received a fair amount of media coverage, but the Evening Standard announced it most irreverently with its “Santa Claus is dead” headline. Many retailers can relate to that sentiment following several years of subdued holiday sales and eroding profits. Santa just hasn’t delivered for most well-behaved retailers, though this upcoming season looks more promising.
The Folly of Holiday Sales Forecasting
The annual ritual of forecasting holiday sales has become nearly as traditional as the holiday itself. But if ever there was a year that exposed the folly of overemphasizing the significance of a single top-line forecast for the entirety of the retail sector, it is certainly this one. Retail sales growth (YOY) in 2017 continues to be mostly range-bound around 3.5%, a mediocre clip where it has been stuck for more than two years. Yet this has been a dreadful year for most retailers with respect to performance metrics and market valuations.
While the S&P 500 has soared 16% since September 2016, our group of large-cap retailers is down 17% in that same period — representing huge underperformance that anyone owning retail stocks is painfully aware of.