Retail stocks are lower on a mix of news that includes the sharp drop in durable goods orders, soft earnings reports (Bed Bath & Beyond), cautious analyst notes and perhaps the biggest drag of all - talk of an import tax.
A new Trump wildcard also emerged when Carl Icahn was named as a special advisor to the new administration. Icahn is a critic of the trading of biofuel Renewable Identification Numbers (known as RINs). Retail chains that sell gas sometimes benefit from the RIN program.
Casey's General Stores (CASY -2%), Alimentation Touche Card (OTCPK:ANCUF -1.5%), Murphy USA (MUSA -4.6%), Kroger (KR -0.5%), Sprouts Farmers Market (SFM -3.3%), Supervalu (SVU -3.5%), Ingles Markets (IMKTA -2.9%) and Weis Markets (WMK -1.5%) are all notably lower off the mix of news.
Wal-Mart (WMT -2.2%), Target (TGT -3.4%) and Dollar General (DG -3.7%) are also trading off.
Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) sees an opportunity in the U.S. to open up as many as 2K Amazon Fresh grocery stores in the next ten years, according to Business Insider.
A 20-store pilot program is expected to be up and running by the end of 2018, with a mix of traditional-style grocery stores and online pickup locations.
Internal documents reviewed by BI indicate that Amazon is still deciding if the stores will be tied to Amazon Prime memberships.
Amazon's determination with a large-scale store roll-out could have significance for grocery stores and other retail chains (WMK, SVU, WFM, IMKTA, CASY, KR, SFS, WBA, CASY, WMT, TGT, RAD) as they consider their own future models.
As the new threat of Amazon tiptoes into the $575B convenience store industry, GasBuddy puts it into perspective.
CEO Walt Doyle tells Seeking Alpha that 80% of U.S convenience store sell gasoline. Those 124,374 stores have a clear advantage over a brick-and-mortar play by Amazon.
"Gas station convenience stores have evolved to providing more amenities and products like groceries and food, to fit the growing needs of the consumer," he notes.
Major c-store operators in the U.S. include Kroger (NYSE:KR), Casey's General Stores (NASDAQ:CASY), CST Brands (NYSE:CST), Alimentation Couche-Tard (OTCPK:ANCUF), Murphy USA (NYSE:MUSA), Marathon Petroleum (NYSE:MPC), 7-Eleven, Kum & Go, QuikTrip and Sunoco (NYSE:SUN).
A large part of the retail sector will need to keep a watchful eye on Project Como at Amazon. The plan from the Seattle company to sell perishables out of small brick-and-mortar stores could be a disrupter if it were to be built out at scale.
Convenience store chains such as Casey's General Stores (NASDAQ:CASY), Murphy's USA (NYSE:MUSA), and CST Brands (NYSE:CST) are already being targeted by 7-Eleven's aggressive expansion goals in the U.S. A store roll-out by Amazon could also impact drug store chains Walgreens (NASDAQ:WBA) and Rite Aid (NYSE:RAD) - as well as apply pricing pressure to the sensitive grocery store sector (KR, SVU, SPTN, IMKTA).
Retailers want the U.S. election over and quick. The negative tone has created a degree of uncertainty with consumers that has impacted spending and traffic patterns, according to a host of top execs.
"There is just great uncertainty as to what is going to happen in the U.S. in particular as a result of the outcome of the election," noted Yum Brands (NYSE:YUM) CEO Greg Creed recently. "People may be hunkering down a little bit," he added.
Expect the topic to be raised on a large number of Q3 earnings calls over the next month to explain away revenue misses.
It's not an excuse that everyone is buying into. Retail Metrics president Ken Perkins doubts that daily shopping needs are cut short by election fascination and notes consumer confidence is measuring high. Then there's Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) which seems to be rolling right along without any Clinton-Trump fatigue.
Beyond the election wildcard, two underestimated factors impacting some retailers in a more concrete way are the lower level of SNAP (food stamps) benefits being paid out by the government and the elevated cost of health care. There is also the massive challenge with a millennial generation that shuns chains. Just ask anyone in the restaurant sector (NASDAQ:BITE).
Add it all up and it makes for a challenging period for a mix of retailers that includes Dollar General (NYSE:DG), Dollar Tree (NASDAQ:DLTR), Fred's (NASDAQ:FRED), Ross Stores (NASDAQ:ROST), Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), Target (NYSE:TGT), Staples (NASDAQ:SPLS), McDonald's (NYSE:MCD), Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen (NASDAQ:PLKI), Wendy's (NYSE:WEN), Supervalu (NYSE:SVU), Kroger (NYSE:KR), SIgnet (NYSE:SIG), TJX Companies (NYSE:TJX), and Casey's General Stores (NASDAQ:CASY).
All eyes in the retail sector will be on the Department of Commerce's report on August sales tomorrow. Economists will be looking for confirmation that the dip into negative territory in July was only transitory. The impact of the recent slowdown in auto sales has been debated, with some analysts saying it's indicative of tight consumer spending, while others feel it reverses the "crowding out" effect of auto purchases.
The consensus estimate is for a 0.4% M/M gain after backing out the gas and auto categories. The direction of U.S. retail sales will also give Fed watchers their latest talking point.
If there's a wildcard in the mix, it could be price deflation in the grocery store category (KR, SFM, WFM, SVU, WMK, IMKTA). That pricing weakness could also spill over to affect general merchandise stores (WMT, TGT), drug store chains (WBA, RAD), and even nip at chains like Casey's General Stores (NASDAQ:CASY) and CST Brands (NYSE:CST).
Execs in the grocery sector have painted a bleak picture this week on current sales trends during their presentations at various retail conferences.
Weak pricing has been a major talking point, while some companies say a lower level of government benefits have also come into play.
While the down trend was tipped off a few weeks ago when the Commerce Department reported a drop in grocery store sales for July, the new twist is that companies such as Supervalu (NYSE:SVU) and Sprouts Farmers Market (NASDAQ:SFM) are now talking about the pressure extending through the end of the year.