Published on The Economic Collapse on March 8, 2017
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A Third Of All U.S. Shopping Malls Are Projected To Close As ‘Space Available’ Signs Go Up All Over America
If you didn’t know better, you might be tempted to think that “Space Available” was the hottest new retail chain in the entire country. As you will see below, it is being projected that about a third of all shopping malls in the United States will soon close, and we just recently learned that the number of “distressed retailers” is the highest that it has been since the last recession. Honestly, I don’t know how anyone can possibly believe that the U.S. economy is in “good shape” after looking at the retail industry. In my recent article about the ongoing “retail apocalypse“, I discussed the fact that Sears, J.C. Penney and Macy’s have all announced that they are closing dozens of stores in 2017, and you can find a pretty comprehensive list of 19 U.S. retailers that are “on the brink of bankruptcy” right here. Needless to say, quite a bloodbath is going on out there right now.
But I didn’t realize how truly horrific things were for the retail industry until I came across an article about mall closings on Time Magazine’s website…
About one-third of malls in the U.S. will shut their doors in the coming years, retail analyst Jan Kniffen told CNBC Thursday. His prediction comes in the wake of Macy’s reporting its worst consecutive same-store sales decline since the financial crisis.
Macy’s and its fellow retailers in American malls are challenged by an oversupply of retail space as customers migrate toward online shopping, as well as fast fashion retailers like H&M and off-price stores such as T.J. Maxx. As a result, about 400 of the country’s 1,100 enclosed malls will fail in the upcoming years. Of those that remain, he predicts that about 250 will thrive and the rest will continue to struggle.
Can you imagine what this country is going to look like if that actually happens?
Shopping malls all over the United States are literally becoming “ghost towns”, and many that have already closed have stayed empty for years and years.
The process usually starts when a shopping mall starts losing anchor stores. That is why it is so alarming that Sears, J.C. Penney and Macy’s are planning to shut down so many locations in 2017. According to one recent report, 310 shopping malls in America are in imminent danger of losing an anchor store…
Dozens of malls have closed in the last 10 years, and many more are at risk of shutting down as retailers like Macy’s, JCPenney, and Sears — also known as anchor stores — shutter hundreds of stores to staunch the bleeding from falling sales.
The commercial-real-estate firm CoStar estimates that nearly a quarter of malls in the US, or roughly 310 of the nation’s 1,300 shopping malls, are at high risk of losing an anchor store.
Once the anchor stores start going, traffic falls off dramatically for the other stores and they start leaving too.
Four years ago in “The Beginning Of The End” I warned that empty storefronts would soon litter the national landscape, and now that is precisely what is happening.
Now that the Christmas season is over, some retailers that have been around for decades have suddenly decided that it is time to file for bankruptcy. Sadly, one of those retailers is HHGregg…
HHGregg Inc., the 61-year-old seller of appliances and electronics, is moving closer to Chapter 11 after announcing a store-closing plan, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
The filing may come as soon as next week, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter isn’t public. Bloomberg previously reported that HHGregg might file for bankruptcy in March if it couldn’t reach an out-of-court solution.
Another retailer that was once riding high but is now dealing with bankruptcy is BCBG…
BCBG, the California-based fashion retailer that had acquired fashion design firm Herve Leger in 1998, and that once had more than 570 boutiques globally, including 175 in the US, and whose cocktail dresses and handbags were shown off by celebrities, filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday.
It is buckling under $459 million of debt. It has 4,800 employees. Layoffs have already started. More layoffs and other cost cuts are planned, according to court documents, cited by Bloomberg. It started closing 120 of its stores in January. It wants to sell itself at a court-supervised auction. If that fails, it wants to negotiate a debt-for-equity swap with junior lenders owed $289 million.
If the U.S. economy was actually doing as well as the stock market says that it should be doing, all of these retail chains would not be closing stores and going bankrupt.
But of course the truth is that the stock market has become completely disconnected from economic reality.
We live at a time when middle class consumers are tapped out. According to one recent survey, 57 percent of all Americans do not even have enough money in the bank to write a $500 check for an unexpected expense.
And people are falling out of the middle class at a staggering pace. The number of homeless people in New York City recently set a brand new record high, and city authorities plan to construct 90 new homeless shelters within the next five years.
On the west coast we are also seeing a dramatic rise in homelessness. The following comes from an article by Dan Lyman…
Citizen journalists have captured stunning images and video of homeless encampments that are spiraling out of control in the shadows of Disneyland and Anaheim Stadium in California.
The tent city has recently sprung up along the Santa Ana riverbed, near a busy convergence of three major California highways known as the “Orange Crush,” at the border of Anaheim and Santa Ana, the latter a “sanctuary city.”
Homeless activists estimate that as many as 1,000 people are camped in the region.
You can see some video footage of this homeless encampment on YouTube right here…
Incredibly, the Federal Reserve is almost certainly going to raise interest rates at their next meeting even though the U.S. economy is faltering so badly. That only makes sense if they are trying to make Donald Trump look as bad as possible.
Even though this giant bubble of false economic stability that we are currently enjoying has lasted far longer than it should have, the truth is that nothing has changed about the long-term economic outlook at all.
America is still heading for “economic Armageddon”, and the retail industry is a huge red flag that is warning us that our day of reckoning is approaching more rapidly than many had anticipated.
Published originally in The Anti-Empire Report October 3, 2016
“Russia suspected of election scheme. U.S. probes plan to sow voter distrust.”
That’s the Washington Post page-one lead headline of September 6. Think about it. The election that Americans are suffering through, cringing in embarrassment, making them think of moving abroad, renouncing their citizenship; an election causing the Founding Fathers to throw up as they turn in their graves … this is because the Russian Devils are sowing voter distrust! Who knew?
But of course, that’s the way Commies are – Oh wait, I forgot, they’re no longer Commies. So what are they? Ah yes, they still have that awful old hangup so worthy of condemnation by decent people everywhere – They want to stand in the way of American world domination. The nerve!
The first Cold War performed a lobotomy on Americans, replacing brain matter with anti-communist viral matter, producing more than 70 years of functional national stupidity.
For all of you who missed this fun event there’s good news: Cold War Two is here, as big and as stupid as ever. Russia and Vladimir Putin are repeatedly, and automatically, blamed for all manner of bad things. The story which follows the above Washington Post headline does not even bother to make up something that could pass for evidence of the claim. The newspaper just makes the claim, at the same time pointing out that “the intelligence community is not saying it has ‘definitive proof’ of such tampering, or any Russian plans to do so.” But the page-one headline has already served its purpose.
Hillary Clinton in her debate with Donald Trump likewise accused Russia of all kinds of computer hacking. Even Trump, not usually a stickler for accuracy, challenged her to offer something along the lines of evidence. She had nothing to offer.
In any event, this is all a diversion. It’s not hacking per se that bothers the establishment; it’s the revelations of their lies that drives them up the wall. The hack of the Democratic National Committee on the eve of the party’s convention disclosed a number of embarrassing internal emails, forcing the resignation of DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
On September 12 we could read in the Post that a well-known physician had called for Clinton to be checked for possible poisons afer her collapse in New York. Said the good doctor: “I do not trust Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump. With those two all things are possible.”
Numerous other examples could be given here of the Post’s near-juvenile anti-Russian bias. One of the most common subjects has been Crimea. Moscow’s “invasion” of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine in February 2014 is repeatedly cited as proof of Moscow’s belligerent and expansionist foreign policy and the need for Washington to once again feed the defense-budget monster. But we’re never reminded that Russia was reacting to a US-supported coup that overthrew the democratically-elected government of Ukraine on Russia’s border and replaced it with a regime in which neo-Nazis, complete with swastikas, feel very much at home. Russia “invaded” to assist Eastern Ukrainians in their resistance to this government, and did not even cross the border inasmuch as Russia already had a military base in Ukraine.
NATO (= USA) has been surrounding Russia for decades. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov captured the exquisite shamelessness of this with his remark of September 27, 2014: “Excuse us for our existence in the middle of your bases.”
By contrast here is US Secretary of State, John Kerry: “NATO is not a threat to anyone. It is a defensive alliance. It is simply meant to provide security. It is not focused on Russia or anyone else.”
NATO war games in these areas are frequent, almost constant. The encirclement of Russia is about complete except for Georgia and Ukraine. In June, Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, shockingly accused NATO of “war-mongering” against Russia. How would the United States react to a Russian coup in Mexico or Canada followed by Russian military exercises in the same area?
Since the end of Cold War One, NATO has been feverishly searching for a reason to justify its existence. Their problem can be summed up with this question: If NATO had never existed what argument could be given now to create it?
The unmitigated arrogance of US policy in Ukraine was best epitomized by the now-famous remark of Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary at the State Department, reacting to possible European Union objection to Washington’s role in Ukraine: “Fuck the EU”, she charmingly declared.
Unlike the United States, Russia does not seek world domination, nor even domination of Ukraine, which Moscow could easily accomplish if it wished. Neither did the Soviet Union set out to dominate Eastern Europe post-World War II. It must be remembered that Eastern Europe became communist because Hitler, with the approval of the West, used it as a highway to reach the Soviet Union to wipe out Bolshevism forever; and that the Russians in World Wars I and II lost about 40 million people because the West had twice used this highway to invade Russia. It should not be surprising that after World War II the Soviets were determined to close down the highway.
The Washington Post’s campaign to depict Russia as the enemy is unrelenting. Again, on the 19th, we could read in the paper the following: “U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies are investigating what they see as a broad covert Russian operation in the United States to sow public distrust in the upcoming presidential election and in U.S. political institutions, intelligence and congressional officials said.”
Nothing, however, compares with President Obama’s speech to the UN General Assembly (September 24, 2014) where he classified Russia to be one of the three threats to the world along with the Islamic State and ebola.
A war between nuclear-powered United States and nuclear- powered Russia is “unthinkable”. Except that American military men think about it, like Cold-War US General Thomas Power, speaking about nuclear war or a first strike by the US: “The whole idea is to kill the bastards! At the end of the war, if there are two Americans and one Russian, we win!” The response from one of those present was: “Well, you’d better make sure that they’re a man and a woman.”
Responses from the Left to my attacks on radical Islam
It’s not my intention here to resume the heated discussion about my recent articles calling for the destruction of ISIS, which led numerous of my readers to criticize me, some 50 of whom asked to be removed from my mailing list, but I hope that many will find the following summary of their stated or implied objections of interest:
They are religious enough to resent what they detect as my less-than-fervent religious bent.
They refuse to acknowledge any Islamic motivation or context for ISIS, labeling ISIS as no more than US/Israeli/Saudi mercenaries – end of discussion. Or Salafi or Wahhabi sects – not really Islamic, they insist. Islam is thus spared from any contamination.
They resent my not making a clear enough distinction between ISIS and Islam in general, being particularly annoyed by my use of the term “radical Islam” or “Islamic terrorism”. (I pointed out that the West commonly, and correctly, associated Stern/Irgun terrorism with Jews and IRA terrorism with Catholics.)
For the record I am condemning those Muslims who engage in suicide bombings, stabbings and other acts of murderous jihad, those who extol and teach the glory and heavenly rewards for such acts, and those who preach that all non-Muslims are infidels and the enemy. In this context it’s no excuse to cite the various acts of horror carried out by the US or the West, particularly when the jihadists’ targets (restaurants, theatres, stores, passersby, etc.) usually have nothing at all to do with Western imperialism.
They are annoyed that I don’t mention the usual list of US atrocities in the Middle East as being responsible for all of radical Islam’s horrors, which are seen as simple retaliation. (See part 3 above.)
They hate US foreign policy even more than I do, a sentiment I hadn’t known was so common, or even possible.
I supported the use of US military force against ISIS and their ilk, a terrible black mark against me inasmuch as such force is regarded by leftists as the original sin and cannot conceivably be used for a good end. But the US “accidental” bombing of Syrian troops September 16, killing and wounding about 160, clearly lends credence to my critics.
The US election
On more than one occasion during the recent US primary campaign, Senator Bernie Sanders was asked if he would run on a third-party ticket if he failed to win the Democratic nomination. His reply was a form of the following: “If it happens that I do not win that process, would I run outside of the system? No, I made the promise that I would not, and I’ll keep that promise. And let me add to that: And the reason for that is I do not want to be responsible for electing some right-wing Republican to be president of the United States of America.”
So instead he’s going to be responsible for electing some right-wing Democrat to be president of the United States of America. It’s certainly debatable who’s more right wing, Clinton or Trump. Clinton surely earns that honor on foreign policy. Think of Syria, Iraq, Honduras, Yugoslavia, Libya … et al.
The revelation that the Democratic Party was secretly favoring Clinton over Sanders is reason enough for Sanders to have broken his promise and accepted the offer of the Green Party to be their candidate.
“Qualified” is a word one hears often in this campaign. Hillary, we’re told, is eminently so, Donald is outstandingly un-. But what does the word mean in this context? If a candidate doesn’t share your opinion on most of the crucial issues, who cares if she or he is “qualified”? Conversely, if a candidate shares your opinion on most of the crucial issues, should you be concerned that she or he is “unqualified”?
Reason number 39,457 to give up on capitalism
Macy’s, one of the leading department stores in the United States, has announced it is closing 100 of its stores. Just think of all that was involved in creating each of those stores, from design and building to filling it with staff and goods; all soon to be gone, leaving empty shells of buildings, eyesores for the neighborhoods, thousands of lost jobs … all because a certain net-profit goal was not met.
Such a waste. So many empty stores, and at the same time so many unemployed people.
Not far from so many empty houses, and at the same time so many homeless people.
Can it be imagined that an American president would openly implore the nation’s young people to fight a foreign war to defend “capitalism”?
- Washington Post, December 3, 2015
- Various online sources, see for example Thomas Power’s wikipedia entry
- Democracy Now!, June 9, 2016
Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.
William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others.
Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.
Off the Keyboard of Jim Quinn
Published on The Burning Platform on October 25, 2014
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The desperation of retailers grows by the day. I head to Wal-Mart and Giant in Harleysville every Sunday morning at 7:00 am. to do my weekly grocery shopping. I go to Wal-Mart at opening to avoid the freaks we see weekly on the People of Wal-Mart post. The workers at Wal-Mart are only a small step above the customers. They can barely communicate, rarely look you in the eye, and generally act like they are prisoners in an asylum.
I’m in winter/bad times ahead prep mode. I had a load of fire wood delivered yesterday which I wheelbarrowed to the back yard and stacked with my already decent sized stack. Last week I took an empty propane canister back to Wal-Mart to replace it with a full canister. That would give me three full propane tanks. I left the empty tank outside next to the propane cage and went in to pay. The old lady cashier with the gravelly smoker voice told me she would call for someone to get me a new tank.
I went over the cage and patiently waited for a Wal-Mart drone to come out, unlock the propane cage and give me a full tank. Two minutes, five minutes, and eventually ten minutes go by with no one coming out to help me. The cashier pokes her head out the door and shrugs her shoulders and says no one is responding to her calls. What a well oiled machine they have at Wal-Mart. Eventually the old lady abandoned her cashier post and in a painstakingly slow manner proceeded to unlock one bin after another until she found a full tank. I’m sure a line of unhappy customers were piling up at the only register in the garden center while she spent ten minutes getting me my propane tank.
A transaction that should have taken five minutes from start to finish ended up taking closer to twenty five minutes, with another five or six customers also dissatisfied with their extra long wait. This is a perfect example of how not to do business. Maybe Wal-Mart’s problems are bigger than households having less to spend. They are attempting to maintain their profit margins by reducing staff hours, hiring low quality people, and paying them shit wages. In the short run it may keep profits higher, but in the long-run customers will go elsewhere. Except most of the elsewhere stores closed up years ago when Wal-Mart arrived and underpriced them into bankruptcy.
My shopping experience at Giant is generally pleasant. The staff are nice, competent, and have been there for years. They know what they are doing and serve you with a smile. But their store is part of a worldwide conglomerate, so things have changed for the worse over the last four months. They renovated the entire store, creating bigger aisles and moving stuff around. That’s annoying, but after a while you figure out where they moved the stuff you want. The real negative change was the dreaded “Everyday Low Pricing”. This weasel phrase means you will be paying more. This is what the Apple idiot CEO – Ron Johnson – did at JC Penney. It put them on a rapid path to bankruptcy.
The weekly sale items at Giant have virtually disappeared. This has coincided with the drastic increase in beef, pork and fresh produce prices. Since “Every Day Low Pricing” went into affect our weekly grocery bill has gone up 20%. And I am buying far less beef and more chicken. In the past I would stock up on sale items and put beef, pork and whatever was on sale in our storage area freezer. Now I am stuck buying what we need that week. No bargains, just fully priced food items. Be forewarned, whenever you see a store announce “Everyday Low Pricing” you are getting screwed.
The Boos Begin in August & Bells Start Jingling in October
The desperation of Wal-Mart and most of the other mega-retail chains is no more clearly evident than in their relentlessly ridiculous acceleration of holiday marketing displays. I was flabbergasted when I saw Halloween candy, decorations and costumes in row after row BEFORE Labor Day at my local Wal-Mart. Selling Halloween candy two months before Halloween is idiotic and a sure sign of desperation. Retailers have run out of merchandising ideas. I wouldn’t even consider buying Halloween candy until the week before Halloween. Do Wal-Mart freaks of the week actually buy Halloween merchandise in September?
Holidays used to be special occasions that lent a sense of sales urgency for retailers for a week or two, to pump up sales. Now Wal-Mart and the rest of the dying retailers have Christmas, Easter, Fourth of July, and Halloween displays up for 80% of the year. There is no sense of urgency to buy. From September 1 though October 31 there are rows and rows of bags of corporate produced chemicals disguised as candy. I suppose the obese masses buy this crap in anticipation of Halloween, tell themselves they’ll only take one, and then shovel the entire bag down their gullets.
So last week, still a full two weeks before Halloween, Wal-Mart had already converted their entire garden center into a Christmas wonderland of cheap mass produced Chinese cookie cutter Christmas decorations and lights that will blow out after three hours of use. They had also converted aisles at the front of the store to Christmas displays. Who the hell shops for Christmas crap in October? There is nothing like having cheap Chinese Christmas crap available for over two months to create a sense of urgency to buy. Wal-Mart and the rest of the mega-retailers have got nothin. They have no original merchandising ideas. They don’t even try anymore. They source low quality goods from China and compete solely on price. I can’t wait for the Easter candy to appear on Wal-Mart’s shelves in late December.
Black Friday is dead. Long live Black Thanksgiving. The riots and stampedes by the ignorant masses for toasters and HDTVs on Black Friday are now being replaced by retailers and malls across America opening at 6:00 pm on Thanksgiving. It actually seems fitting. How better to give thanks for our mass consumption, debt financed, materialistic, iGadget addicted society than to open stores on Thanksgiving. Spending time with family is overrated anyway. If you had to spend six hours with cousin Eddie and aunt Bethany, you’d be looking forward to an early opening at Macy’s.
The bullshit message from the mega-retailers is: “We’re not opening on Thanksgiving out of desperation or greed. We’re doing it simply to satisfy the demands of our customers”. It’s a racist national holiday anyway. We should be going to an Indian run casino on Thanksgiving to make up for our past sins. Opening stores and forcing workers to work on Thanksgiving is pathetic, disgusting and a truly desperate measure in this consumer empire in decline. The law of diminishing returns has been invoked upon the mega-retailers that dominate our suburban sprawl paradise.
These retailers can start holiday merchandising three months before the actual holiday. They can open their doors on Thanksgiving, Easter and Christmas. It’s nothing more than shuffling the deck furniture on the Titanic. We’ve allowed bankers, politicians and corporate titans to financialize our economy, gutting the once thriving middle class, sending manufacturing jobs overseas, and convincing the clueless masses that consumer goods purchased with debt is equal to wealth. But, we’ve reached the point of no return. There are 248 million working age Americans and 102 million of them are not employed. Of the 146 million working Americans, 82 million of them make less than $30,000 per year.
While retailers have added billions of square feet since 1989, real median net worth is 5% lower over 24 years. Retailers are attempting to get blood from a stone. The stone is in debt, approaching retirement with no savings and dead broke.
We have one entity that deserves the most credit for destroying the American Dream. Real median household income is lower than it was in 1989. The 2008 collapse was caused by the easy money bubble machine at the Federal Reserve. We had the opportunity to hit the reset button, implement rational economic and monetary policies, take our lumps, and make the banking culprits pay for their crimes. Instead, the easily manipulated masses believed the Wall Street storyline and allowed the Federal Reserve and feckless politicians to save the banking cabal with extreme money printing and debt creation. This has pushed the middle class closer to the breaking point, while further enriching the oligarchs. The Federal Reserve saved their owners and lured the masses further into debt.
The Fed, Wall Street, and Washington DC have successfully driven consumer debt to an all-time high, blasting through the $3 trillion level. Declining real incomes and rising debt are a sure recipe for success.
Our entire economic paradigm is built upon desperate measures. Zero interest rates, $3 trillion of QE, systematic accounting fraud, fudged economic data, and doling out subprime loans to auto renters and University of Phoenix wannabes have failed to revive our moribund economy. Delusions don’t die easily. But they do die. We are reaching the limit of this delusionary dream built upon debt, denial, and deception. Make sure you wolf down that Thanksgiving feast before 5:00 pm. There are HDTV’s to fight for at 6:00 pm.
Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn
Published on The Burning Platform on May 25, 2014
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The definition of death rattle is a sound often produced by someone who is near death when fluids such as saliva and bronchial secretions accumulate in the throat and upper chest. The person can’t swallow and emits a deepening wheezing sound as they gasp for breath. This can go on for two or three days before death relieves them of their misery. The American retail industry is emitting an unmistakable wheezing sound as a long slow painful death approaches.
It was exactly four months ago when I wrote THE RETAIL DEATH RATTLE. Here are a few terse anecdotes from that article:
The absolute collapse in retail visitor counts is the warning siren that this country is about to collide with the reality Americans have run out of time, money, jobs, and illusions. The exponential growth model, built upon a never ending flow of consumer credit and an endless supply of cheap fuel, has reached its limit of growth. The titans of Wall Street and their puppets in Washington D.C. have wrung every drop of faux wealth from the dying middle class. There are nothing left but withering carcasses and bleached bones.
Once the Wall Street created fraud collapsed and the waves of delusion subsided, retailers have been revealed to be swimming naked. Their relentless expansion, based on exponential growth, cannibalized itself, new store construction ground to a halt, sales and profits have declined, and the inevitable closing of thousands of stores has begun.
The implications of this long and winding road to ruin are far reaching. Store closings so far have only been a ripple compared to the tsunami coming to right size the industry for a future of declining spending. Over the next five to ten years, tens of thousands of stores will be shuttered. Companies like JC Penney, Sears and Radio Shack will go bankrupt and become historical footnotes. Considering retail employment is lower today than it was in 2002 before the massive retail expansion, the future will see in excess of 1 million retail workers lose their jobs. Bernanke and the Feds have allowed real estate mall owners to roll over non-performing loans and pretend they are generating enough rental income to cover their loan obligations. As more stores go dark, this little game of extend and pretend will come to an end.
Retail store results for the 1st quarter of 2014 have been rolling in over the last week. It seems the hideous government reported retail sales results over the last six months are being confirmed by the dying bricks and mortar mega-chains. In case you missed the corporate mainstream media not reporting the facts and doing their usual positive spin, here are the absolutely dreadful headlines:
Wal-Mart Profit Plunges By $220 Million as US Store Traffic Declines by 1.4%
Target Profit Plunges by $80 Million, 16% Lower Than 2013, as Store Traffic Declines by 2.3%
Sears Loses $358 Million in First Quarter as Comparable Store Sales at Sears Plunge by 7.8% and Sales at Kmart Plunge by 5.1%
JC Penney Thrilled With Loss of Only $358 Million For the Quarter
Kohl’s Operating Income Plunges by 17% as Comparable Sales Decline by 3.4%
Costco Profit Declines by $84 Million as Comp Store Sales Only Increase by 2%
Staples Profit Plunges by 44% as Sales Collapse and Closing Hundreds of Stores
Gap Income Drops 22% as Same Store Sales Fall
American Eagle Profits Tumble 86%, Will Close 150 Stores
Aeropostale Losses $77 Million as Sales Collapse by 12%
Best Buy Sales Decline by $300 Million as Margins Decline and Comparable Store Sales Decline by 1.3%
Macy’s Profit Flat as Comparable Store Sales decline by 1.4%
Dollar General Profit Plummets by 40% as Comp Store Sales Decline by 3.8%
Urban Outfitters Earnings Collapse by 20% as Sales Stagnate
McDonalds Earnings Fall by $66 Million as US Comp Sales Fall by 1.7%
Darden Profit Collapses by 30% as Same Restaurant Sales Plunge by 5.6% and Company Selling Red Lobster
TJX Misses Earnings Expectations as Sales & Earnings Flat
Dick’s Misses Earnings Expectations as Golf Store Sales Plummet
Home Depot Misses Earnings Expectations as Customer Traffic Only Rises by 2.2%
Lowes Misses Earnings Expectations as Customer Traffic was Flat
Of course, those headlines were never reported. I went to each earnings report and gathered the info that should have been reported by the CNBC bimbos and hacks. Anything you heard surely had a Wall Street spin attached, like the standard BETTER THAN EXPECTED. I love that one. At the start of the quarter the Wall Street shysters post earnings expectations. As the quarter progresses, the company whispers the bad news to Wall Street and the earnings expectations are lowered. Then the company beats the lowered earnings expectation by a penny and the Wall Street scum hail it as a great achievement. The muppets must be sacrificed to sustain the Wall Street bonus pool. Wall Street investment bank geniuses rated JC Penney a buy from $85 per share in 2007 all the way down to $5 a share in 2013. No more needs to be said about Wall Street “analysis”.
It seems even the lowered expectation scam hasn’t worked this time. U.S. retailer profits have missed lowered expectations by the most in 13 years. They generally “beat” expectations by 3% when the game is being played properly. They’ve missed expectations in the 1st quarter by 3.2%, the worst miss since the fourth quarter of 2000. If my memory serves me right, I believe the economy entered recession shortly thereafter. The brilliant Ivy League trained Wall Street MBAs, earning high six digit salaries on Wall Street, predicted a 13% increase in retailer profits for the first quarter. A monkey with a magic 8 ball could do a better job than these Wall Street big swinging dicks.
The highly compensated flunkies who sit in the corner CEO office of the mega-retail chains trotted out the usual drivel about cold and snowy winter weather and looking forward to tremendous success over the remainder of the year. How do these excuse machine CEO’s explain the success of many high end retailers during the first quarter? Doesn’t weather impact stores that cater to the .01%? The continued unrelenting decline in profits of retailers, dependent upon the working class, couldn’t have anything to do with this chart? It seems only the oligarchs have made much progress over the last four decades.
Retail CEO gurus all think they have a master plan to revive sales. I’ll let you in on a secret. They don’t really have a plan. They have no idea why they experienced tremendous success from 2000 through 2007, and why their businesses have not revived since the 2008 financial collapse. Retail CEOs are not the sharpest tools in the shed. They were born on third base and thought they hit a triple. Now they are stranded there, with no hope of getting home. They should be figuring out how to position themselves for the multi-year contraction in sales, but their egos and hubris will keep them from taking the actions necessary to keep their companies afloat in the next decade. Bankruptcy awaits. The front line workers will be shit canned and the CEO will get a golden parachute. It’s the American way.
The secret to retail success before 2007 was: create or copy a successful concept; get Wall Street financing and go public ASAP; source all your inventory from Far East slave labor factories; hire thousands of minimum wage level workers to process transactions; build hundreds of new stores every year to cover up the fact the existing stores had deteriorating performance; convince millions of gullible dupes to buy cheap Chinese shit they didn’t need with money they didn’t have; and pretend this didn’t solely rely upon cheap easy debt pumped into the veins of American consumers by the Federal Reserve and their Wall Street bank owners. The financial crisis in 2008 revealed everyone was swimming naked, when the tide of easy credit subsided.
The pundits, politicians and delusional retail CEOs continue to await the revival of retail sales as if reality doesn’t exist. The 1 million retail stores, 109,000 shopping centers, and nearly 15 billion square feet of retail space for an aging, increasingly impoverished, and savings poor populace might be a tad too much and will require a slight downsizing – say 3 or 4 billion square feet. Considering the debt fueled frenzy from 2000 through 2008 added 2.7 billion square feet to our suburban sprawl concrete landscape, a divestiture of that foolish investment will be the floor. If you think there are a lot of SPACE AVAILABLE signs dotting the countryside, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The mega-chains have already halted all expansion. That was the first step. The weaker players like Radio Shack, Sears, Family Dollar, Coldwater Creek, Staples, Barnes & Noble, Blockbuster and dozens of others are already closing stores by the hundreds. Thousands more will follow.
This isn’t some doom and gloom prediction based on nothing but my opinion. This is the inevitable result of demographic certainties, unequivocal data, and the consequences of a retailer herd mentality and lemming like behavior of consumers. The open and shut case for further shuttering of 3 to 4 billion square feet of retail is as follows:
- There is 47 square feet of retail space per person in America. This is 8 times as much as any other country on earth. This is up from 38 square feet in 2005; 30 square feet in 2000; 19 square feet in 1990; and 4 square feet in 1960. If we just revert to 2005 levels, 3 billion square feet would need to go dark. Does that sound outrageous?
- Annual consumer expenditures by those over 65 years old drop by 40% from their highest spending years from 45 to 54 years old. The number of Americans turning 65 will increase by 10,000 per day for the next 16 years. There were 35 million Americans over 65 in 2000, accounting for 12% of the total population. By 2030 there will be 70 million Americans over 65, accounting for 20% of the total population. Do you think that bodes well for retailers?
- Half of Americans between the ages of 50 and 64 have no retirement savings. The other half has accumulated $52,000 or less. It seems the debt financed consumer product orgy of the last two decades has left most people nearly penniless. More than 50% of workers aged 25 to 44 report they have less than $10,000 of total savings.
- The lack of retirement and general savings is reflected in the historically low personal savings rate of a miniscule 3.8%. Before the materialistic frenzy of the last couple decades, rational Americans used to save 10% or more of their personal income. With virtually no savings as they approach their retirement years and an already extremely low savings rate, do retail CEOs really see a spending revival on the horizon?
- If you thought the savings rate was so low because consumers are flush with cash and so optimistic about their job prospects they are unconcerned about the need to save for a rainy day, you would be wrong. It has been raining for the last 14 years. Real median household income is 7.5% lower today than it was in 2001. Retailers added 2.7 billion square feet of retail space as real household income fell. Sounds rational.
- This decline in household income may have something to do with the labor participation rate plummeting to the lowest level since 1978. There are 247.4 million working age Americans and only 145.7 million of them employed (19 million part-time; 9 million self-employed; 20 million employed by the government). There are 92 million Americans, who according to the government have willingly left the workforce, up by 13.3 million since 2007 when over 146 million Americans were employed. You’d have to be a brainless twit to believe the unemployment rate is really 6.3% today. Retail sales would be booming if the unemployment rate was really that low.
- With a 16.5% increase in working age Americans since 2000 and only a 6.5% increase in employed Americans, along with declining real household income, an inquisitive person might wonder how retail sales were able to grow from $3.3 trillion in 2000 to $5.1 trillion in 2013 – a 55% increase. You need to look no further than your friendly Too Big To Trust Wall Street banks for the answer. In the olden days of the 1970s and early 1980s Americans put 10% to 20% down to buy a house and then systematically built up equity by making their monthly payments. The Ivy League financial engineers created “exotic” (toxic) mortgage products requiring no money down, no principal payments, and no proof you could make a payment, in their control fraud scheme to fleece the American sheeple. Their propaganda machine convinced millions more to use their homes as an ATM, because home prices never drop. Just ask Ben Bernanke. Even after the Bernanke/Blackrock fake housing recovery (actual mortgage originations now at 1978 levels) household real estate percent equity is barely above 50%, well below the 70% levels before the Wall Street induced debt debacle. With the housing market about to head south again, the home equity ATM will have an Out of Order sign on it.
- We hear the endless drivel from disingenuous Keynesian nitwits about government and consumer austerity being the cause of our stagnating economy. My definition of austerity would be an actual reduction in spending and debt accumulation. It seems during this time of austerity total credit market debt has RISEN from $53.5 trillion in 2009 to $59 trillion today. Not exactly austere, as the Federal government adds $2.2 billion PER DAY to the national debt, saddling future generations with the bill for our inability to confront reality. The American consumer has not retrenched, as the CNBC bimbos and bozos would have you believe. Consumer credit reached an all-time high of $3.14 trillion in March, up from $2.52 trillion in 2010. That doesn’t sound too austere to me. Of course, this increase is solely due to Obamanomics and Bernanke’s $3 trillion gift to his Wall Street owners. The doling out of $645 billion to subprime college “students” and subprime auto “buyers” since 2010 accounts for more than 100% of the increase. The losses on these asinine loans will be epic. Credit card debt has actually fallen as people realize it is their last lifeline. They are using credit cards to pay income taxes, real estate taxes, higher energy costs, higher food costs, and the other necessities of life.
The entire engineered “recovery” since 2009 has been nothing but a Federal Reserve/U.S. Treasury conceived, debt manufactured scam. These highly educated lackeys for the establishment have been tasked with keeping the U.S. Titanic afloat until the oligarchs can safely depart on the lifeboats with all the ship’s jewels safely stowed in their pockets. There has been no housing recovery. There has been no jobs recovery. There has been no auto sales recovery. Giving a vehicle to someone with a 580 credit score with a 0% seven year loan is not a sale. It’s a repossession in waiting. The government supplied student loans are going to functional illiterates who are majoring in texting, facebooking and twittering. Do you think these indebted University of Phoenix dropouts living in their parents’ basements are going to spur a housing and retail sales recovery? This Keynesian “solution” was designed to produce the appearance of recovery, convince the masses to resume their debt based consumption, and add more treasure into the vaults of the Wall Street banks.
The master plan has failed miserably in reviving the economy. Savings, capital investment, and debt reduction are the necessary ingredients for a sustained healthy economic system. Debt based personal consumption of cheap foreign produced baubles & gadgets, $1 trillion government deficits to sustain the warfare/welfare state, along with a corrupt political and rigged financial system are the explosive concoction which will blow our economic system sky high. Facts can be ignored. Media propaganda can convince the willfully ignorant to remain so. The Federal Reserve can buy every Treasury bond issued to fund an out of control government. But eventually reality will shatter the delusions of millions as the debt based Ponzi scheme will run out of dupes and collapse in a flaming heap.
The inevitable shuttering of at least 3 billion square feet of retail space is a certainty. The aging demographics of the U.S. population, dire economic situation of both young and old, and sheer lunacy of the retail expansion since 2000, guarantee a future of ghost malls, decaying weed infested empty parking lots, retailer bankruptcies, real estate developer bankruptcies, massive loan losses for the banking industry, and the loss of millions of retail jobs. Since I always look for a silver lining in a black cloud, I predict a bright future for the SPACE AVAILABLE and GOING OUT OF BUSINESS sign making companies.
Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn
Published on The Burning Platform on January 20, 2012
Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner
“I was part of that strange race of people aptly described as spending their lives doing things they detest, to make money they don’t want, to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like.” ― Emile Gauvreau
If ever a chart provided unequivocal proof the economic recovery storyline is a fraud, the one below is the smoking gun. November and December retail sales account for 20% to 40% of annual retail sales for most retailers. The number of visits to retail stores has plummeted by 50% since 2010. Please note this was during a supposed economic recovery. Also note consumer spending accounts for 70% of GDP. Also note credit card debt outstanding is 7% lower than its level in 2010 and 16% below its peak in 2008. Retailers like J.C. Penney, Best Buy, Sears, Radio Shack and Barnes & Noble continue to report appalling sales and profit results, along with listings of store closings. Even the heavyweights like Wal-Mart and Target continue to report negative comp store sales. How can the government and mainstream media be reporting an economic recovery when the industry that accounts for 70% of GDP is in free fall? The answer is that 99% of America has not had an economic recovery. Only Bernanke’s 1% owner class have benefited from his QE/ZIRP induced stock market levitation.
The entire economic recovery storyline is a sham built upon easy money funneled by the Fed to the Too Big To Trust Wall Street banks so they can use their HFT supercomputers to drive the stock market higher, buy up the millions of homes they foreclosed upon to artificially drive up home prices, and generate profits through rigging commodity, currency, and bond markets, while reducing loan loss reserves because they are free to value their toxic assets at anything they please – compliments of the spineless nerds at the FASB. GDP has been artificially propped up by the Federal government through the magic of EBT cards, SSDI for the depressed and downtrodden, never ending extensions of unemployment benefits, billions in student loans to University of Phoenix prodigies, and subprime auto loans to deadbeats from the Government Motors financing arm – Ally Financial (85% owned by you the taxpayer). The country is being kept afloat on an ocean of debt and delusional belief in the power of central bankers to steer this ship through a sea of icebergs just below the surface.
The absolute collapse in retail visitor counts is the warning siren that this country is about to collide with the reality Americans have run out of time, money, jobs, and illusions. The most amazingly delusional aspect to the chart above is retailers continued to add 44 million square feet in 2013 to the almost 15 billion existing square feet of retail space in the U.S. That is approximately 47 square feet of retail space for every person in America. Retail CEOs are not the brightest bulbs in the sale bin, as exhibited by the CEO of Target and his gross malfeasance in protecting his customers’ personal financial information. Of course, the 44 million square feet added in 2013 is down 85% from the annual increases from 2000 through 2008. The exponential growth model, built upon a never ending flow of consumer credit and an endless supply of cheap fuel, has reached its limit of growth. The titans of Wall Street and their puppets in Washington D.C. have wrung every drop of faux wealth from the dying middle class. There are nothing left but withering carcasses and bleached bones.
The impact of this retail death spiral will be vast and far reaching. A few factoids will help you understand the coming calamity:
- There are approximately 109,500 shopping centers in the United States ranging in size from the small convenience centers to the large super-regional malls.
- There are in excess of 1 million retail establishments in the United States occupying 15 billion square feet of space and generating over $4.4 trillion of annual sales. This includes 8,700 department stores, 160,000 clothing & accessory stores, and 8,600 game stores.
- U.S. shopping-center retail sales total more than $2.26 trillion, accounting for over half of all retail sales.
- The U.S. shopping-center industry directly employed over 12 million people in 2010 and indirectly generated another 5.6 million jobs in support industries. Collectively, the industry accounted for 12.7% of total U.S. employment.
- Total retail employment in 2012 totaled 14.9 million, lower than the 15.1 million employed in 2002.
- For every 100 individuals directly employed at a U.S. regional shopping center, an additional 20 to 30 jobs are supported in the community due to multiplier effects.
The collapse in foot traffic to the 109,500 shopping centers that crisscross our suburban sprawl paradise of plenty is irreversible. No amount of marketing propaganda, 50% off sales, or hot new iGadgets is going to spur a dramatic turnaround. Quarter after quarter there will be more announcements of store closings. Macys just announced the closing of 5 stores and firing of 2,500 retail workers. JC Penney just announced the closing of 33 stores and firing of 2,000 retail workers. Announcements are imminent from Sears, Radio Shack and a slew of other retailers who are beginning to see the writing on the wall. The vacancy rate will be rising in strip malls, power malls and regional malls, with the largest growing sector being ghost malls. Before long it will appear that SPACE AVAILABLE is the fastest growing retailer in America.
The reason this death spiral cannot be reversed is simply a matter of arithmetic and demographics. While arrogant hubristic retail CEOs of public big box mega-retailers added 2.7 billion retail square feet to our already over saturated market, real median household income flat lined. The advancement in retail spending was attributable solely to the $1.1 trillion increase (68%) in consumer debt and the trillion dollars of home equity extracted from castles in the sky, that later crashed down to earth. Once the Wall Street created fraud collapsed and the waves of delusion subsided, retailers have been revealed to be swimming naked. Their relentless expansion, based on exponential growth, cannibalized itself, new store construction ground to a halt, sales and profits have declined, and the inevitable closing of thousands of stores has begun. With real median household income 8% lower than it was in 2008, the collapse in retail traffic is a rational reaction by the impoverished 99%. Americans are using their credit cards to pay their real estate taxes, income taxes, and monthly utilities, since their income is lower, and their living expenses rise relentlessly, thanks to Bernanke and his Fed created inflation.
The media mouthpieces for the establishment gloss over the fact average gasoline prices in 2013 were the second highest in history. The highest average price was in 2012 and the 3rd highest average price was in 2011. These prices are 150% higher than prices in the early 2000′s. This might not matter to the likes of Jamie Dimon and Jon Corzine, but for a middle class family with two parents working and making 7.5% less than they made in 2000, it has a dramatic impact on discretionary income. The fact oil prices have risen from $25 per barrel in 2003 to $100 per barrel today has not only impacted gas prices, but utility costs, food costs, and the price of any product that needs to be transported to your local Wally World. The outrageous rise in tuition prices has been aided and abetted by the Federal government and their doling out of loans so diploma mills like the University of Phoenix can bilk clueless dupes into thinking they are on their way to an exciting new career, while leaving them jobless in their parents’ basement with a loan payment for life.
The laughable jobs recovery touted by Obama, his sycophantic minions, paid off economist shills, and the discredited corporate legacy media can be viewed appropriately in the following two charts, that reveal the false storyline being peddled to the techno-narcissistic iGadget distracted masses. There are 247 million working age Americans between the ages of 18 and 64. Only 145 million of these people are employed. Of these employed, 19 million are working part-time and 9 million are self- employed. Another 20 million are employed by the government, producing nothing and being sustained by the few remaining producers with their tax dollars. The labor participation rate is the lowest it has been since women entered the workforce in large numbers during the 1980′s. We are back to levels seen during the booming Carter years. Those peddling the drivel about retiring Baby Boomers causing the decline in the labor participation rate are either math challenged or willfully ignorant because they are being paid to be so. Once you turn 65 you are no longer counted in the work force. The percentage of those over 55 in the workforce has risen dramatically to an all-time high, as the Me Generation never saved for retirement or saw their retirement savings obliterated in the Wall Street created 2008 financial implosion.
To understand the absolute idiocy of retail CEOs across the land one must parse the employment data back to 2000. In the year 2000 the working age population of the U.S. was 213 million and 136.9 million of them were working, a record level of 64.4% of the population. There were 70 million working age Americans not in the labor force. Fourteen years later the number of working age Americans is 247 million and only 144.6 million are working. The working age population has risen by 16% and the number of employed has risen by only 5.6%. That’s quite a success story. Of course, even though median household income is 7.5% lower than it was in 2000, the government expects you to believe that 22 million Americans voluntarily left the labor force because they no longer needed a job. While the number of employed grew by 5.6% over fourteen years, the number of people who left the workforce grew by 31.1%. Over this same time frame the mega-retailers that dominate the landscape added almost 3 billion square feet of selling space, a 25% increase. A critical thinking individual might wonder how this could possibly end well for the retail genius CEOs in glistening corporate office towers from coast to coast.
This entire materialistic orgy of consumerism has been sustained solely with debt peddled by the Wall Street banking syndicate. The average American consumer met their Waterloo in 2008. Bernanke’s mission was to save bankers, billionaires and politicians. It was not to save the working middle class. You’ve been sacrificed at the altar of the .1%. The 0% interest rates were for Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein. Your credit card interest rate remained between 13% and 21%. So, while you struggle to pay bills with your declining real income, the Wall Street bankers are again generating record profits and paying themselves record bonuses. Profits are so good, they can afford to pay tens of billions in fines for their criminal acts, and still be left with billions to divvy up among their non-prosecuted criminal executives.
Bernanke and his financial elite owners have been able to rig the markets to give the appearance of normalcy, but they cannot rig the demographic time bomb that will cause the death and destruction of our illusory retail paradigm. Demographics cannot be manipulated or altered by the government or mass media. The best they can do is ignore or lie about the facts. The life cycle of a human being is utterly predictable, along with their habits across time. Those under 25 years old have very little income, therefore they have very little spending. Once a job is attained and income levels rise, spending rises along with the increased income. As the person enters old age their income declines and spending on stuff declines rapidly. The media may be ignoring the fact that annual expenditures drop by 40% for those over 65 years old from the peak spending years of 45 to 54, but it doesn’t change the fact. They also cannot change the fact that 10,000 Americans will turn 65 every day for the next sixteen years. They also can’t change the fact the average Baby Boomer has less than $50,000 saved for retirement and is up to their grey eye brows in debt.
With over 15% of all 25 to 34 year olds living in their parents’ basement and those under 25 saddled with billions in student loan debt, the traditional increase in income and spending is DOA for the millennial generation. The hardest hit demographic on the job front during the 2008 through 2014 ongoing recession has been the 45 to 54 year olds in their peak earning and spending years. Combine these demographic developments and you’ve got a perfect storm for over-built retailers and their egotistical CEOs.
The media continues to peddle the storyline of on-line sales saving the ancient bricks and mortar retailers. Again, the talking head pundits are willfully ignoring basic math. On-line sales account for 6% of total retail sales. If a dying behemoth like JC Penney announces a 20% decline in same store sales and a 20% increase in on-line sales, their total change is still negative 17.6%. And they are still left with 1,100 decaying stores, 100,000 employees, lease payments, debt payments, maintenance costs, utility costs, inventory costs, and pension costs. Their future is so bright they gotta wear a toe tag.
The decades of mal-investment in retail stores was enabled by Greenspan, Bernanke, and their Federal Reserve brethren. Their easy money policies enabled Americans to live far beyond their true means through credit card debt, auto debt, mortgage debt, and home equity debt. This false illusion of wealth and foolish spending led mega-retailers to ignore facts and spread like locusts across the suburban countryside. The debt fueled orgy has run out of steam. All that is left is the largest mountain of debt in human history, a gutted and debt laden former middle class, and thousands of empty stores in future decaying ghost malls haunting the highways and byways of suburbia.
The implications of this long and winding road to ruin are far reaching. Store closings so far have only been a ripple compared to the tsunami coming to right size the industry for a future of declining spending. Over the next five to ten years, tens of thousands of stores will be shuttered. Companies like JC Penney, Sears and Radio Shack will go bankrupt and become historical footnotes. Considering retail employment is lower today than it was in 2002 before the massive retail expansion, the future will see in excess of 1 million retail workers lose their jobs. Bernanke and the Feds have allowed real estate mall owners to roll over non-performing loans and pretend they are generating enough rental income to cover their loan obligations. As more stores go dark, this little game of extend and pretend will come to an end. Real estate developers will be going belly-up and the banking sector will be taking huge losses again. I’m sure the remaining taxpayers will gladly bailout Wall Street again. The facts are not debatable. They can be ignored by the politicians, Ivy League economists, media talking heads, and the willfully ignorant masses, but they do not cease to exist.
“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” – Aldous Huxley