Disappointing. Challenging. Uncertain. Short of expectations. Those are the words most heard from companies in this morning's December same store sales report. Large companies like Macy's, Gap,Abercrombie, and Ann Taylor reported sales below expectations.
Earnings were lowered at Ann Taylor, Men's Warehouse,Bon Ton,Stage Stores,Chico's, Hot Topic, and American Eagle.Limited Brands said earnings would be at the low end of guidance.
It wasn't all bad. Wal-Mart and Costco beat expectations. TJX, Aeropostale, Gymboree and Guess raised guidance; Aeropostale said they were "thrilled with our performance" in December.
But the trend is definitely down. Seventy-three percent missed already lowered expectations, according to RetailMetrics. The gift card surge appears not to have materialized, which is strange considering that sales were supposedly quite strong in that category. Perhaps they are still holding onto them.
This will play into the hands of bears, who will argue this is further proof that the middle income consumer is feeling the squeeze on multiple fronts, from oil and natural gas prices to job issues to simply being tapped out of their home.
The only good news is that the Street seems to have priced in much of this disappointment.
1) Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) have been hit hard in the past couple months, particularly since the start of the year. Predictably, analysts have been slow to react. Today they got the memo. Goldman, JP Morgan, and Bear Stearns all lowered shopping mall REITs today.
Goldman summed it up neatly: "We believe 2008 will be another challenging year for US commercial real estate and REITs, marked by slowing/declining property fundamentals, rising cap rates, limited liquidity due to current credit market conditions, and consequent negative total returns for the second consecutive year."
2) Capital One down 8 percent pre-open; they cut fourth quarter guidance due to higher provisions and additional legal reserves.
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