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Retail Earnings Reports: Winners and Losers


The recent wave of earnings reports in the retail industry has caused a considerable stir, with some stocks taking a significant hit while others experienced soaring success.

The Factors Behind the Divergence

Unquestionably, the current macroeconomic climate and how companies are maneuvering through it play a significant role. Several retailers, such as Lowe’s, Kohl’s, and Best Buy, saw a decline in their sales during the third quarter as consumers tightened their discretionary spending. Consequently, Kohl’s shares closed 9% lower, Lowe’s dipped by 3%, and Best Buy experienced a 0.7% drop.

Lowe’s CEO, Marvin Ellison, acknowledged this decrease, stating, “Our results were driven by a greater than expected pullback in DIY discretionary spending, especially in higher-priced categories. While we’ve noticed a more cautious consumer for some time now, this quarter revealed an increasing preference among these consumers to prioritize experiences over material goods, such as travel and entertainment.”

On the other hand, off-price retailer Burlington Stores saw a remarkable 21% surge in its stock price—the largest single-day increase ever recorded. Burlington announced that its revenue had jumped 12% from the same period last year, indicating that Americans are actively seeking value amidst an economic slowdown. Additionally, investors are drawn to the company’s improved profit margins, demonstrating their willingness to reward strong performance.

Michael O’Sullivan, CEO of Burlington, commented on this trend, saying, “Our expectation for this year was that the economy would slow down, leading shoppers to become more value-conscious. As a result, we have witnessed an increase in customers gravitating towards our stores.”

These earnings reports serve as a testament to the shifting consumer preferences and the importance of companies effectively navigating through economic uncertainty.

High Expectations and Market Reactions

The recent performance of Burlington, American Eagle Outfitters (AEO), and Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) in the market has raised questions about the role of expectations in driving share prices. While macro factors may play a part, they do not fully explain the market reactions.

One possible explanation is that some companies had higher expectations to meet than others. Abercrombie, for example, has consistently exceeded expectations, leading to positive market sentiment and an increased share price. According to Citi analyst Paul Lejuez, this strong performance may have made it difficult for the stock to move even higher.

A similar situation occurred with American Eagle, which also beat expectations but experienced a 16% drop in share price. Heading into earnings, both Abercrombie and American Eagle had seen significant gains in their stock prices – 215% and 41% respectively – compared to an 18% gain for the S&P 500.

Burlington, on the other hand, has faced some challenges in recent quarters. Any improvement in their financials was therefore well received by the market. Similarly, low expectations for Dick’s Sporting Goods allowed for a positive market reaction when the company posted better-than-expected results.

The influence of expectations on share prices is not exclusive to these companies. Last week, Target and Walmart experienced contrasting market reactions following their earnings reports. Investors had low expectations for Target, leading to a positive market response, while Walmart’s already high expectations limited its upward movement.

In conclusion, while macro factors are important, it is clear that expectations play a significant role in shaping market reactions. Understanding the dynamics of these expectations is crucial for investors and analysts alike.


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