Toy makers fearful of not getting paid by Sears (SHLD) may be re-thinking how much they ship to the beleaguered retailer for the holiday season amid reports of a possible post-holiday bankruptcy filing.
"The mood in the toy industry is upbeat after two strong years of growth and a good start to 2016. The only concerns in the toy industry are minor ones: whether to ship to a troubled Sears/Kmart organization and if Hanjin shipping containers will be unloaded on time," wrote BMO Capital Markets analyst Gerrick Johnson in a note out on Monday. Johnson's analysis arrives after a visit to the Dallas Fall Toy Preview last week, where he met with management teams from private toy companies. He then traveled to Los Angeles to meet with larger toy makers Jakks Pacific (JAKK) - Get Report and Mattel (MAT) - Get Report . Johnson notes that Sears likely represents about 2% of the U.S. toy industry at retail.
Spokespeople at Hasbro (HAS) - Get Report , Mattel and Disney (DIS) - Get Report didn't immediately return a request for comment on whether they have reduced holiday shipments to Sears. Sears spokesman Howard Riefs didn't return immediately return a request seeking comment.
It would be hard to blame toy makers for approaching Sears with caution right now.
Sears has "significant default risk" within the next 12 to 24 months, triggered by years of weak store traffic and high levels of debt, Fitch Ratings said in a report recently.
"Default risk means most likely a bankruptcy, or a Chapter 11 filing," said one of the report's authors, Sharon Bonelli, in a phone interview, meaning that the company will either have to liquidate to pay back its creditors, or reorganize in bankruptcy court and hope to stay alive by emerging as a smaller entity. At issue for Sears, which is battling declining cash flow amid a prolonged stretch of losses, is repaying some $2.8 billion in high yield bonds and institutional term loans coming due in the next few years.
Sears' "restructuring risk is high over the next twelve months, as our 'CC' rating would suggest," said Monica Aggarwal, managing director of Fitch's retail team. Aggarwal's team estimates Sears will burn through an eye-popping $1.6 billion to $1.8 billion in cash this year. The result would make it eight straight years of cash burn for Sears, according to Bloomberg data.
Sears' cash and equivalents declined to $276 million from $1.8 billion a year ago.
Fitch joined Moody's Investors Service in sounding the alarm bell on Sears. Moody's recently slashed its speculative-grade liquidity rating on Sears one notch to SGL-3 from SGL-2. The new rating reflects the likelihood that Sears will continue to need outside financing to stay in business, and that it may require covenant relief to maintain orderly access to funding lines.
Sears was forced to accept $300 million in financing from CEO Edward Lampert's investment vehicle ESL Investments in August.
"We recognize the risks associated with relying on these sources and continued shareholder support to finance its negative operating cash flow which is estimated by Moody's to be approximately $1.5 billion this year," said Christina Boni, a Moody's vice president.
Meanwhile, the sell-off in Sears shares has accelerated since the company released its disastrous second quarter results on Aug. 25 -- shares are down about 20% -- as investors question the chain's viability.
Second quarter same-store sales at its discount unit Kmart fell 3.3%, representing the seventh straight quarterly decline. Sales were pressed in some of Kmart's most important categories, including pharmacy, groceries and consumer electronics.
As for Sears, it notched its eighth consecutive same-store sales decline as sales fell by 7%. Weakness was felt across the board for Sears, with home appliances, apparel, cosmetics and footwear all showing declines in sales.