By: Rich Yamarone
March 11, 2014
“US retail as we have known it for hundreds of years is in sharp
decline,” warns Bloomberg Brief’s Rich
Yamarone, adding that “market participants should take note of the
fallout in a sputtering US economy.” The retail
apocalypse, as we discussed here, is dominated by mass layoffs, weak
traffic, and poor wage growth and, as Yamarone highlights, it’s not hard to see
The 13-week moving average pace of retail spending shown by the ICSC-Goldman Sachs Retail Chain Store Index is below that which traditionally signals a slowdown.
Of course this most recent dive will all be blamed on the weather but another look at the chart shows the trend was well in place long before this winter and will continue well into the future unless something changes. As Yamorone goes to note, this has significant implications – as the shift from bricks-and-mortar to online echoes up through the retail infrastructure of America…
That a lot of the cash not being spent on the high street will show up in online sales is scant consolation for operators of existing infrastructure. There are ripple effects for the towns that surround it, and awful consequences for retail associates and their families.
The need for retail employees is essentially limited to clothing and footwear stores since apparel and shoes are not standard items with varying sizes, colors, and fabrics. For the more ubiquitous items like electronics or sporting goods, the need for a dedicated store or staff is diminished. During February, the number of employees at electronics and appliance stores fell by 12,000 to 503,700, while sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores furloughed 8,600 workers.
Ordering online means reduced foot traffic at malls. The year-over-year change in the ShopperTrak’s month-to-day Retail Traffic Index contracted by 5.2 percent in February – a weak trend that has been lingering for the last 12 months.
Economically speaking however, the bottom line remains fewer jobs, the ultimate determinant of income and spending. The broader decline of bricks and mortar retail, have to be factored into any serious forecasting of the direction of the U.S. economy.
Gold Goliath is not your typical gold dealer.