A new study from the professional services firm BDO shows that expectations among chief financial officers at the nation's largest retailers call for challenging economic conditions to remain in place. One hundred CFOs at retailers with sales ranging from $100 million to $100 billion shared their views with BDO, and 82% said they expected to see a continuation of stagnant economic conditions; 9% said they expected a double dip recession and another 9% were looking for an ongoing turnaround.
Amajority (78%) of retail CFOs cited an ongoing economic turnaround as most dependent upon lower unemployment or consistent improvement in consumer confidence and spending. Don't really need to be a CFO to know that employment and consumer confidence are key drivers of spending.
"Even with the slight improvements we've seen in recent consumer confidence numbers, the weak job market is darkening consumer's long-term outlook. Retailers simply cannot answer the question 'What will improve the job market in the United States?'" said Al Ferrara, National Director of BDO's retail and consumer product practice. "An unemployment rate of 9.6% shows that a pint size recovery persists. In addition, the back-to-school season proved that offering deep discounts and value-oriented items remains critical." The survey was conducted on behalf of BDO by Market Measurement Inc. whose interviewers spoke directly to CFOs.
Financial firm CIT Group is also out with a survey, theirs looks more closely at mid-sized retailers, and respondents are cautiously optimistic about spending during the holiday and the next 12 months. According to CIT, 65% of the retailers and 69% of the suppliers surveyed said they expect spending to return to 2007 levels by the end of 2011.
"While the majority of retailers are cautiously optimistic about their future, more than two-thirds expect revenues to grow over the next 12 months," said Burt Feinberg, managing director and industry group head of retail finance at CIT. "The general consensus is that, having weathered the economic downturn, most retailers are in better shape today than in 2009 and have positioned themselves well to meet future consumer demand when it returns."
The report is based on the results of two surveys and a series of one-on-one interviews conducted by Forbes Insights in July and August. In the first survey, 111 executives and financial decision makers at middle market retailers were surveyed. All companies had revenues of $25 million to $1 billion. Respondents represented a broad range of retail segments including specialty apparel, consumer electronics, appliances, sporting goods, convenience stores, housewares and discount chains. In the second survey, an additional 150 executives and financial decision makers at suppliers to the middle market retail sector were surveyed.