"In our view, the high-end consumer appears firmly in recession, and we don't expect this to change given ongoing stock market volatility, rising macroeconomic uncertainty and the looming political election," wrote Morgan Stanley analyst Kimberly Greenberger in a new note to clients. She added, "Such a backdrop elevates top-line risk, which coupled with Nordstrom's limited expense flexibility, likely sets up for further negative earnings per share revisions."
The analyst is one of more bearish on how Nordstrom fared during the quarter, thanks to tepid spending by its wealthy clientele.
Greenberger estimates Nordstrom will deliver a 3.5% same-store sales decline vs. Wall Street estimates for a 3% drop when the company reports on Aug. 11 after the market close. She sees earnings coming in at 49 cents a share, 6 cents below the estimates of her Wall Street peers.
Added Greenberger, "Many of Nordstrom's apparel and accessory vendors have called for the U.S. wholesale environment to remain soft, potentially worsening in the back half of the year."
For Nordstrom, a quarter along the lines of what Greenberger projects -- in the face of rising stock prices no less -- would mark a second straight major disappointment that may continue to unnerve investors.
In the first quarter, the high-end department store delivered a stunning earnings miss and ugly guidance reduction, reporting earnings of 26 cents a share vs. forecasts for 46 cents a share. Sales tallied $3.19 billion compared to estimates for $3.28 billion. Comparable-store sales fell 1.7%. Nordstrom slashed its full-year earnings guidance to $2.50 to $2.70 cents a share, down from $3.10 to $3.65 a share previously.
Shares have plunged 15.8% year to date to $42, lagging the S&P 500's 5.9% gain.
While the wealthy may be saying no thank you to another pricey Gucci (GUCG) handbag or Hugo Boss (BOSSY) suit at Nordstrom, they haven't exactly gone into hibernation despite headlines about fresh terror attacks and controversial comments from Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump. Instead, the financially well-off seem to be investing in experiences such as upscale vacations and top-of-the-line appliances for kitchen remodels.
Cruise line operator Royal Caribbean (RCL) - Get Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Report said Tuesday that its bookings for the next 12 months are "strong" and are up on both rate and volume vs. the prior year. Executives also highlighted "continued strength" in North America, which is helping to counteract weakness in the Eastern Mediterranean and China markets.
"There are a lot of distractions going on [in North America], but I think people are simply looking forward to their vacations. They continue to see it as an important part of their lifestyle," Royal Caribbean Chairman and CEO Richard Fain told TheStreet in a phone interview.
Fain's comments echo those made by one of his peers in the industry. "We are seeing very steady demand. This has not been an easy year compared to 2015. We have had our fair share of terrorism incidences, which is never good for travel or vacations, " said Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) - Get Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Report CEO Frank Del Rio to TheStreet in a July 13 interview.
He continued, "But it's a very resilient industry, and we are marching through these difficult periods -- but fundamentally, I see the American consumer, even the European consumer, being strong."
Choice Hotels (CHH) - Get Choice Hotels International, Inc. Report -- the operator of upscale brands such as Cambria -- saw second-quarter earnings, adjusted for one-time items, rise a solid 15% from the prior year to 71 cents a share. Wall Street expected 67 cents a share. RevPar -- a key industry metric that measures revenue per available room and is used gauge a hotel's health -- rose 4.3% year over year, above guidance for a 3% to 4% increase. Average daily rates were up in all of Choice's brands except for Mainstay. Occupancy levels rose 80 basis points from a year ago.
"We are having a big summer. Our folks are traveling," said Choice Hotels President and CEO Stephen Joyce to TheStreet in an interview.
Meanwhile, appliance maker Whirlpool's (WHR) - Get Whirlpool Corporation (WHR) Report second-quarter sales in North America rose 3.8% from the prior year. North America was the best-performing market for the company. Whirlpool expects the appliance industry to grow by about 5% to 6% this year.
Perhaps next year will the time to upgrade the handbag assortment. That would certainly be good news to beleaguered Nordstrom.