Canary in the Coal Mine:James Quinn
by James Quinn
Tue, 14 Dec 2010
Some people have contested my statement that there are thousands more retail stores in the US today than there were in 2007. Yes, many mom and pop stores have gone out of business, but the big boys continued to expand in the face of reality. The mall based mega-retailers dominate the retail landscape in this country. Here is a partial list of the biggest retailers in the US and their store counts.
Just these nine well known retailers alone, have added 6,435 stores since 2007. Some of the stores were international, but the vast majority were opened in the U.S. This increase in store counts in the face of reality is the ultimate in CEO hubris. Inflation adjusted retail sales since 2007 in the U.S. are down 19%. This is a recipe for disaster. Americans must deleverage over the next decade. They have no choice. Their retirement savings levels are pitiful. They will be forced to stop buying crap. The boomers are leaving their high spending years and entering the forced saving phase of their lives, whether they like it or not. Every retail CEO in the country should recognize these facts. But still, they relentlessly expand. A fool and his company are soon parted.
The lifeblood of retail expansion is same store sales. If same store sales do not increase, any store count expansion becomes a death march. Below is a chart of the same store sales increases/(decreases) for November of each of the years listed for six of the largest well known retailers in America. With a base year of 2006, I’ve shown what the sales level for comparable stores is today versus 2006. This includes the outstanding growth year of 2007, before the financial crisis. Even a CNBC anchor should be able to realize that the “Best” retailers in America have lower sales today than they did in 2006.