What Walmart, Target, Home Depot, and Lowe’s Tell Us About the Economy

Target, Walmart, Lowe’s and Home Depot group stores.

Reuters

To what extent can the American consumer bear a rise in inflation rates? This depends on who you ask.

Four major retailers – WalmartAnd GoalAnd Home Depot And Louie They announced their quarterly financial results this week, and each offered a different view of where and how people spend their money.

Walmart said some of its more price-sensitive customers have started turning to private brands, while Home Depot has emphasized flexibility among its customer base, a large percentage of whom are professional home builders and contractors.

Then the reports came Amazon in late April Flashing warning signs for the retail industry When it posted the slowest revenue growth of any quarter since the Internet crash in 2001, it made a grim forecast.

However, expectations on Wall Street were higher this week for both Walmart and Target. Analysts and investors didn’t expect big retailers to take such a massive hit to their profits in the recent period as supply chain costs impacted sales and junk inventory, such as televisions and kitchen appliances, that piled up. Walmart closed Tuesday 11.4%, marking its worst day since October 1987. On Wednesday, Walmart fell another 7%, while the target was His worst day in 35 years.

Despite this, Home Depot and Lowe’s have seen more traction among shoppers in recent weeks.

“Our customers are resilient. We don’t see the sensitivity to this level of inflation that we initially expected,” Home Depot CEO Ted Decker said Tuesday on the company’s earnings call. (Shares of both home improvement chains closed Wednesday down about 5% amid Sell ​​a wider market.)

The mixed comment from these retailers is due in large part to the fact that Americans experience different economic fluctuations, depending on their income levels. Businesses and consumers are going through an unknown transition period after months of Covid-related lockdown measures that encouraged buying of canned goods, toilet paper and peloton bikes to fly. Multiple rounds of stimulus dollars fueled spending on new sneakers and electronics.

But with that money drying up, retailers must navigate their new normal. includes inflation At its highest level in 40 yearsAnd the Russian war in Ukraine and the global supply chain that remains paralyzed.

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said Tuesday on an earnings conference call.

This week’s results may portend problems for a number of retailers, including MessiAnd kohlAnd Nordstrom And the differenceThe results of the first quarter of 2022 have not yet been announced. Those companies that rely on consumers coming to their stores to flaunt new clothes or shoes can come under special pressure, with Walmart hinting that shoppers are starting to fall back on discretionary budget items and make more money toward groceries.

At the same time, retailers report increased demand for items such as luggage, dresses and makeup as more Americans plan vacations and attend weddings. But the concern is that consumers will have to make trade-offs, somewhere, in order to afford these things. Or they will look for discounted items at stores like TJ Max.

Here’s what Walmart, Target, Home Depot and Lowe’s are telling us about the state of the American consumer.

Walmart

Walmart sees a mixed picture, shaped by consumers’ household income and how they feel about the future. But last quarter, the country’s largest retailer said shoppers are showing they are budget-conscious.

Customers walked out of stores and left the retailer’s website with fewer items purchased. More of them skipped over new clothes and other general merchandise as they saw gas and groceries go up in price. Some were traded using cheaper brands or smaller items, including a half-gallon of milk and lunch meat store brand name instead of the more expensive brand name, Chief Financial Officer Brett Biggs told CNBC.

On the other hand, he said, some customers have turned to new patio furniture or eagerly chased after the flashy new gaming console.

“If you looked at the demographics of the United States and mapped our customers over it, we would be very close to the same thing,” Biggs said. “And so you have some people who are going to feel more pressure than others and I think that’s what we’re seeing.”

Goal

Target said it sees a resilient consumer with new priorities as the pandemic becomes more than an afterthought.

“They’re moving from buying TVs to buying baggage,” CEO Brian Cornell said in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” He later added, “They’re still shopping, but they’re starting to spend the dollars differently.”

He said that this change appeared with the purchases in the first quarter of the fiscal year. Customers bought decorations and gifts to celebrate Easter and Mother’s Day. They threw and attended bigger birthday parties for kids – which led to a jump in toy sales. They also bought fewer items such as bicycles and small kitchen utensils Booked trips and planned trips.

Cornell pointed to the high spending levels that Target rose against in the first quarter of last year, as Americans got money from their stimulus checks and had fewer places to spend it.

He noted that comparative sales are still growing, despite that difficult comparison. Additionally, Target store traffic and website traffic were up about 4% year over year. However, the sales growth numbers will include the effects of inflation that makes everything from shipping costs to groceries more expensive.

The last target quarter also saw a higher level of write-offs, a staple in the retail industry that has disappeared somewhat during the pandemic as shoppers had a high appetite to buy and retailers had less merchandise to put on shelves.

Home Depot

Louie

Lowe echoed similar sentiments during his conference call on Wednesday. CEO Marvin Ellison said rising home prices, aging home stocks and The constant shortage of housing are the main economic drivers of Lowe’s business.

“It’s one of the reasons I think home improvement is a unique retail sector and can have this macro environment where there are so many questions about consumer health,” he told analysts.

Consumers working on DIY projects account for about three-quarters of Lowe’s sales, a higher percentage than its competitor Home Depot. So far, the company does not see a decrease in any physical trade from these consumers yet.

However, consumers are starting to get annoyed with the rise in energy prices. Ellison told CNBC that Lowe’s customers are trading battery-powered landscaping tools, lawn mowers and washing machines more energy-efficient.

“Do I think it has to do with fuel prices? The answer is absolute,” he said.

Louie It did not live up to Wall Street expectations for its quarterly salesbut executives adjusted the retailer’s disappointing performance on the weather.

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