US Retailers Blame “Election Preoccupation” For Slumping Sales
While record food-stamps, sinking real wages, and soaring healthcare and shelter costs are all in the realm of peddled fiction; US Retailers are never shy of alternative excuses for their underperformance. It’s too-hot, it’s too-cold; it’s too-low gas prices; it’s too-high gas prices; but now, as Bloomberg reports, US retailers and restaurants are floating another excuse to explain their lackluster performance – it’s the election, stupid!
To hear retail executives tell it, the battle for the presidency between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton is causing Americans to put off buying everything from romance novels at Barnes & Noble and jeans from the Gap to burritos at Yum! Brand Inc.’s Taco Bell. They might even be delaying wedding engagements, not good news for companies like Signet Jewelers Ltd.
“The preoccupation with this election is keeping them at home, glued to their TVs and at their desktops,” said Len Riggio, the founder and chief executive officer of Barnes & Noble Inc. This election is “unprecedented in terms of the fear, anger and frustration being experienced by the public.”
Retailers and restaurants have used a handful of well-worn excuses over the years with varying levels of legitimacy. There’s the usual culprit, the weather, and shifts in the calendar, such as Easter coming early. Now they’ve added presidential politics.
Interestingly, the relative underperformance of retail stocks has tracked rather closely with Clinton’s lead over Trump…
Here’s a sampling of executives blaming Clinton and Trump for their woes.
Wendy’s CEO Todd Penegor (Aug. 10) “There is a lot of uncertainty in the consumer’ s mind as we work through the election.”
Signet CEO Mark Light (Aug. 25): “There’s a presidential election, which is unique this year, and I think has some very unique characteristics that could be affecting the mindset of Middle America consumers until we get through this.”
Richard Ausick, president of retail for Caleres Inc., which operates Famous Footwear and Dr. Scholl’s (Aug. 30): The election “has an impact on the customer, particularly what we’re talking about — it being as intense and negatively toned as it has been. It’s probably only going to get worse. That just leaves people concerned about what’s going on.”
Gap CEO Art Peck (Sept. 7): “The election here in the United States is a level of uncertainty that’s probably unsettling consumers right now.”
Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen Inc. Chief Financial Officer Will Matt (Sept. 13): “We see gas prices being lower. You see unemployment being lower. But what we also see is that there is more uncertainty with the consumer. We’re not too sure what’s causing that, but our speculation would be — we think — there is a rather unusual election going on and we think the unusual election is causing some uncertainty.”
Yum CEO Greg Creed (Oct. 6): “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. It goes without saying that people are sort of trying to decide who to choose, and what the impact will be on the economy. People may be hunkering down a little bit.”
As always, “it’s not our fault” is the mantra of the day.
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