One month ago, we presented a stunning fact from Credit Suisse: barely a quarter into 2017, [annualized] year-to-date retail store closings have already surpassed those of 2008.
According to the Swiss bank’s calculations, on a unit basis, approximately 2,880 store closings were announced YTD, more than twice as many closings as the 1,153 announced during the same period last year. Historically, roughly 60% of store closure announcements occur in the first five months of the year. By extrapolating the year-to-date announcements, CS estimates that there could be more than 8,640 store closings this year, which will be higher than the historical 2008 peak of approximately 6,200 store closings, which suggests that for brick-and-mortar stores stores the current transition period is far worse than the depth of the credit crisis depression.
Another striking fact: on a square footage basis, approximately 49 million square feet of retail space has closed YTD. Should this pace persist by the end of the year, total square footage reductions could reach 147M square feet – or just over 5 square miles – another all time high, and surpassing the historical peak of 115M in 2001.
Furthermore, according to a recent WSJ analysis, at least 10 retailers, including Payless ShoeSource, hhgregg, The Limited, RadioShack, BCBG, Wet Seal, Gormans, Eastern Outfitters, and Gander Mountain had filed for bankruptcy protection through the end of April, which compares with nine retailers that declared bankruptcy for all of 2016. All of the companies in bankruptcy have announced plans to shutter some if not most of their stores.
Then after taking a brief one month hiatus retailer bankruptcies resumed last Monday, when struggling teen clothing retailer Rue21 became the last to filed a prepackaged Chapter 11 petition in Pennsylvania bankruptcy court, listing both prepetition assets and liabilities between $1 and $10 billion.
Rue21’s bankruptcy filing lifted Fitch’s U.S. retail LTM institutional leveraged loan default rate to 1.7% from 0.9%. An impending bankruptcy from Gymboree would further lift the retail TTM to 2.7%, Fitch said. Unfortunately for the US retail industry, and despite such upbeat pieces as “Why the Rout in Retail Shouldn’t Be a Big Worry for U.S. Economy” written by Bloomberg’s in-house US economic cheerleader, the rating agency expects a flood of future defaults, and forecasts the retail loan default rate at 9% on roughly $6 billion of defaults, though it concedes that “the fate of Sears Holdings and the resolution of J. Crew Group’s bond exchange could materially alter the projection.”
It also noted that the high yield retail default rate is also expected to finish 2017 at 9%, with more than $4 billion of likely defaults.
More improtantly, Fitch has also revised its “retail concern list” which compiles issuers with a significant risk of default within the next 12 months, and which now lists nite retailers, up from eight the last time we showed the list in April, including:
- Sears Holdings
- Nine West Holdings
- 99 Cents Only Stores
- True Religion Apparel
- Charlotte Russe
- Charming Charlie
- NYDJ Apparel
- Claire’s Stores
- Chinos Intermediate Holdings (J Crew Group)
We expect his list to grow over the coming months, as some names fail only to be replaced with even more near-death retailers in a country where as the Fed reported earlier, 23% of Americans cant pay their monthly bils while 44% of Americans have less than $400 in cash.
Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos is wondering how he is still not the world’s richest man yet. As a reminder, the market cap of Amazon is more than 8 times the value of the entire US department store index…