By Bill Peters
Earnings Watch: Best Buy, Costco, Gap and many more retailers set to report after Walmart warns that higher grocery prices are hurting customer purchases in the rest of the store, with big-name tech companies joining the parade
Last week, retailers Walmart Inc., Target Corp. and Home Depot Inc. provided broad strokes on how rising prices for essentials have reshaped consumer habits.
Now come the finer points, with a whole lot of other retailers -- including Dollar Tree Inc.(DLTR), Costco Wholesale Corp.(COST), Best Buy Co. Inc.(BBY), Gap Inc. (GPS)and Ulta Beauty Inc. (ULTA)-- reporting results this week.
Those results will offer more context on low-income and middle-income shoppers, who have struggled more under the weight of food-price increases, and the broader hunt for discounts. They'll also color the gaps on demand for clothing, which has suffered as those food prices have risen, and electronics, which have seen a similar exodus after customer maxed out during the pandemic. Health and beauty products, meanwhile, have held up, as people get back out into the world.
The retail earnings dump for the quarter begins on Tuesday, with Lowe's Cos. (LOW), BJ's Wholesale Club Holdings Inc. (BJ), AutoZone Inc. (AZO), Dick's Sporting Goods Inc. (DKS), Urban Outfitters Inc. (URBN) and Williams-Sonoma Inc. (WSM) reporting results. Results from Express Inc. (EXPR), Kohl's Corp. (KSS), Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (ANF) and American Eagle Outfitters Inc. (AEO) arrive Wednesday.
Burlington Stores Inc. (BURL), Build-A-Bear Workshop Inc. (BBW), Best Buy, Dollar Tree, Ulta, Costco and Gap are expected to report Thursday. Big Lots Inc. (BIG) rounds out the week on Friday.
Retailers' fortunes over the past year have largely hinged on groceries, as higher prices have boosted sales. But as stores keep those prices high, and raise questions about whether those higher prices are profit-driven at this point, consumers have struggled to keep up. Demand for clothing, electronics and home goods and other purchases -- which can deliver greater margins, but aren't things people have to buy every week -- have also suffered in the process.
Don't miss: Walmart CEO on higher costs for basics -- 'We all need those prices to come down'
Executives at Walmart (WMT), which sells a bunch of groceries and a bit of everything else, said last week that more wealthy shoppers, seeking cheaper purchases, were trickling in to their stores. But they said rising prices for some groceries and other essentials had become a more trenchant problem for customers living paycheck to paycheck, who are in year No. 3 of trying to find ways to make ends meet amid stubborn inflation.
"The persistently high rates of inflation in these categories lasting for such a long period of time are weighing on some of the families we serve," Walmart Chief Executive Doug McMillon said.
"This stubborn inflation in dry grocery and consumables is one of the key factors creating uncertainty for us in the back half of the year because of the cumulative impact on discretionary spending in other categories, specifically, general merchandise," he continued.
That problem is even bigger for Target (TGT)and other retailers that depend on sales of more discretionary goods, such as furniture, clothes and electronics. Target executives are dealing with an unstable margin profile that could be an issue for many other retail executives, with Target's leaders deciding to point their fingers at organized theft.
In-depth: Retailers say theft cost nearly $100 billion last year. But are stores using crime stats to cover up other problems?
Still, as with signs of easing anxiety over inflation, a FactSet analysis of first-quarter earnings calls found that the word "recession" came up less frequently, and that the number of S&P 500 companies talking about one has fallen for the third straight quarter.
This week in earnings
Thirteen S&P 500 companies are set to report earnings this week, according to FactSet. Retailers aside, cybersecurity firm Palo Alto Networks Inc. (PANW) reports during the week. So do workplace-management software provider Workday Inc. (WDAY) and Splunk Inc. (SPLK). Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.T) also reports.
The call to put on your calendar
Nvidia and the AI fervor: Last year, a dimmer sales outlook and China sales restrictions weighed on Nvidia Corp. (NVDA)But shares of the chip maker, which reports Wednesday, reached their highest price since 2021 last week, as it prepares to roll out new, cheaper gaming cards and its big-tech counterparts prepare for an AI-investing onslaught. For Nvidia, some analysts say, that spending on AI will be a windfall. "ChatGPT has sparked a sense of urgency some are calling 'AI's iPhone moment.' AI models continue to grow and proliferate. NVDA's full stack hardware/software platform remains the cornerstone to an expanding AI ecosystem," Oppenheimer analysts said in a research note last week. The call could put more specifics behind the upbeat speculation.
The number to watch:
Zoom sales and the remote-work fight: Last week, Tesla Inc. (TSLA) Chief Executive Elon Musk said that it was "morally wrong" for office workers to work from home while everyone else making the products people consume weren't able to. When video-call platform Zoom Video Communications Inc. (ZM)reports results on Monday, Wall Street will get a clearer sense of the battle between bosses trying to wrangle employees back into the office and employees looking to spare themselves long commutes and other sources of office dread. As pandemic emergency measures fade into the past, Zoom -- once the primary medium for work meetings --- has tried to become more than a videoconferencing site. But the company has gone through some steep layoffs following what its chief executive described as aggressive growth. And investors still need convincing -- shares are down 23.7% over the past 12 months.
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May 22, 2023 08:16 ET (12:16 GMT)
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