Kohl's Shares Cut to Sell at UBS on Coronavirus Concern

Kohl's shares are lower on Wednesday after UBS downgraded the retailer to sell from neutral.
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Department store chain Kohl's  (KSS) - Get Report was downgraded to sell from neutral Wednesday by a UBS analyst who says the market does not fully appreciate how much the coronavirus will permanently disrupt the retail landscape.

Shares of the Menomonee Falls, Wis., company at last check were 6.5% lower at $20.88.

Analyst Jay Sole, who also cut his price target to $14 from $17.50, said in a note to clients that "covid-19 is accelerating the shift to online shopping and UBS Evidence Lab data suggests the effect will persist after the pandemic ends."

"Widespread store closures are likely a consequence, leading to many third-party brick-and-mortar platforms disappearing," Sole said. 

"To deliver steady long-term growth, we believe brands can no longer rely on malls or department stores to drive traffic. Brands have to generate their own audiences and become destinations."

Sole added that "the market does not fully appreciate how much covid-19 will permanently disrupt the retail landscape."

The analyst also downgraded Macy's  (M) - Get Report to sell from neutral and halved his price target to $3.

"Last year our view was department stores would struggle, but only lose share slowly," the analyst said. "However, covid-19 has caused 2020 to be a big setback year for department stores. We think this setback has cost department stores resources and balance sheet capacity needed to reshape their businesses."

Sole added that "even if department stores are able to replace a large piece of lost brick-and-mortar sales with online revenue, we doubt this mix shift will help margins."

"Our conversations with investors suggest many are already bearish on department stores," he said. 

"However, most think fiscal 2021 will be a rebound year as the pandemic ends. While we agree the pandemic ending will help, we don't think it will get department store earnings close to fiscal 2019 levels."

In May, Kohl's reported a fiscal-first-quarter loss that was wider than analysts’ forecasts as the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown took an even deeper toll than expected.