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Sandy and the Retail Blame Game

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It's the Storm of the Century! Again?

Here we go again, the hurricane retail trade ideas are swirling around just like the gusts of Sandy's wind. But here's the reality check: storms do not help retailers with bad business models.

At best, storms give retailers a short-term boost that in the end will probably only pull sales forward and hurt next month's or next quarter's results. (Read More: How Will Retailers' Cope With a 'Billion Dollar' Storm)

Storms, however, do come in handy when retailers are looking to point blame outside of the retail box. Remember Irene? Gap, JCPenney, TJX all pointed a finger as August same-store sales came in light last year.

While Macy's put up a strong 5 percent same-store sales gain last August, the company suggested sales would have been better by 1.5 percent if not for Irene.

Saks said the same. (It is difficult to walk in stilettos during 80-mile-per-hour wind gusts, I will tell you.)

Darden said consumers lost their appetite for 20 to 30 basis points of business during the quarter.

On the positive side, the obvious names benefited from consumer panic that led to a buying frenzy of food, batteries, plywood and gas.

Costco same stores sales in the U.S. last August increased 9 percent. Target said business was helped by 50 basis points.

While Home Depot, Lowe's and Wal-Mart do not report monthly sales, you only need to observe the current panic at these retail locations to come to the conclusion that Christmas has come early this year and Santa has changed his name to Sandy. The problem is next month we will be talking the effect of "sales pull forward."

And funny enough there are retailers that do not blame the weather. Last August, Limited same-store sales rose 11 percent. I'm trying, but not coming up with a hurricane connection there.

Unfortunately, all this rain will not grow a money tree for consumers. In fact, all this stockpiling may just pull away dollars from later discretionary purchases.

Stacey Widlitz is the President of SW Retail Advisors Inc. She has worked at UBS, SG Cowen, Fulcrum Partners and in 2005 was one of three analysts to launch the Research Department at Pali Capital, where she covered Retail and Home Video for 5 years. Follow Stacey on Twitter @StaceyRetail.

Disclosure: Widlitz owns shares of Limited.

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