Revlon Inc. (REV - Get Report) , which posted a loss of 38 cents a share when analysts were expecting profits of 13 cents a share, may be a bellwether for a troubled holiday shopping seasons for retailers amid one of the worst downturns for the industry since the great recession.
As Revlon's report drove down the prices of its senior bonds, raising questions about the makeup company's liquidity, investors will be watching whether retailers ranging from shoe-sellers and sporting goods to watchmakers and women's clothing manufacturers can overcome an industry trend toward online shopping and specialty beauty counters during the fourth quarter.
Traditionally, the holiday season is key for retailers, as kids hope to find the hottest toy under the tree and adults treat each other with the new electronics or the latest fashions. As such, most retailers look to the fourth quarter to meet their annual sales targets.
But 2017 has been an apocalyptic year for retailers, and sales in the fourth quarter are expected to lag at many compared to last year.
Generally, "the Street is looking for a meager 1.1% comp gain on top of just 0.6% growth in 4Q16," analyst Ken Perkins of Retail Metrics said in a Nov. 1 report. "Personal care, home improvement, and discounters have been pegged to generate the strongest Q4 same store sales growth while department stores, office, and entertainment (sports) are projected to post the softest Q4 comps."
Shoe sellers like Foot Locker Inc. (FL - Get Report) and Finish Line Inc. (FINL) -- each estimated to have same stores sales of negative 3.7% for the fourth quarter -- and sporting goods stores like Dick's Sporting Goods (DKS - Get Report) , Sportsman's Warehouse Holdings Inc. (SPWH - Get Report) and Hibbett Sports Inc. (HIBB - Get Report) -- with, respectively, negative 2.6%, negative 1%, and negative 5.8% same store sales numbers expected -- are all segments that could be light on traffic this holiday season.
However, clothing and accessory sellers are likely to have the toughest holiday season and with Christmas eve falling on a Sunday this year, there will be strains on retailer's ability to fulfill last-minute e-commerce orders.
Setting aside Sears Holdings Inc. (SHLD) as it's no surprise that the ailing giant is expected to post negative same-store sales growth in the fourth quarter (estimated at negative 7.4% according to FactSet Research Systems Inc.), there are several other companies that are looking at lower sales in stores operating for more than a year, compared to last year. Same-store sales figures track, as a percent, the sales growth or decline in existing retail locations.
Watchmaker Fossil Group Inc. (FOSL - Get Report) could be looking at declining same-store sales of 7%, according to FactSet estimates, and has been dealing with some balance sheet issues. It's expected to post earnings of 14 cents a share on sales of $2.8 billion for the year. But having posted losses in the first three quarters, the company's going to need to post $953 million in sales for the quarter; last year sales were $959 million in the fourth quarter.
In September, S&P Global Ratings said that the company's debt covenants leave it "no room for any additional performance shortfalls during the upcoming Christmas/holiday season." Fossil will also need to address May 2019 debt maturities next year, S&P said.Same-store sales for Chico's FAS Inc. (CHS - Get Report) , a 35-and-older women's retail chain with more than 1,400 locations, are expected to decline 7.1%, according to FactSet estimates.
Since 2014, Chico's has closed 124 stores and sold its Boston Proper brand. The publicly-traded company faced a proxy fight last summer from an activist investor that argued for lowering overhead and advertising costs while giving each of Chico's brands - Chico's, Soma and White House Black Market - greater autonomy. However, the effort was ultimately dropped by the investor, after major proxy advisory firms came out against it.
In the last year, Chico's has posted declining sales numbers-$578.6 million in sales during the second quarter versus $635.7 million during the same period of the previous year. For the fourth quarter, FactSet estimates sales of $566.6 million, bringing the total for the fiscal year to $2.28 billion. During the fourth quarter last year, Chico's did $600.8 million in sales, bringing its yearly total to $2.48 billion.
"To be clear, while we're generating encouraging signs throughout the business...we also believe that it isn't appropriate to set expectations in line with first half trends until we see a sustained improvement in performance," Chico's chief financial officer, Todd E. Vogensen, said during the company's recent earnings call.
The clothing and accessory seller last year did $1.89 billion of its $2.2 billion in sales in stores, versus just $92.5 million online. And it's posted declining same store sales each year since 2012. However, the company has shown revenue increases this year, according to its recent earnings statement, and has responded to weak domestic sales by focusing overseas.
The company beat expectations in the second quarter and CEO Victor Herrero said that the company has increased revenues for four consecutive quarters.
"We are accelerating the reduction of our footprint in the U.S., which currently represents less than 36% of our global sales. And finally we are significantly increasing the adjusted guidance for fiscal 2018 and are now expecting to grow top-line, adjusted operating margin and adjusted earnings per share compared to last year," he said when Guess? released its second quarter earnings.
Finally, Michael Kors (KORS) , which recently acquired luxury shoe designer Jimmy Choo for $1.2 billion and posted better than expected sales in the third quarter, is also expected to show slumping end-of-year same store sales of negative 4.2%.
Of Kors, Moody's Investors Service Inc. said in October that it expects "that near term performance will remain challenged while the company implements its business transformation initiatives, which include intentional sales reductions related to reduced promotional activities and closing 100-125 retail stores, as well as weak overall retail traffic and handbag sales."
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Editors' pick: Originally published Nov. 8.