|Bid||1,750.00 x 0|
|Ask||1,751.00 x 0|
|Day's Range||1,738.00 - 1,763.50|
|52 Week Range||1,554.00 - 2,730.00|
|Beta (5Y Monthly)||0.69|
|PE Ratio (TTM)||19.59|
|Forward Dividend & Yield||N/A (N/A)|
|Ex-Dividend Date||Dec. 12, 2019|
|1y Target Est||N/A|
Primark, the fashion retailer owned by AB Foods <ABF.L>, said on Sunday it would not take advantage of a British government scheme to pay employers for bringing back staff from furlough, eschewing a bonus of about 30 million pounds. Primark closed all of its stores in March when the COVID-19 outbreak in Europe intensified, costing it about 650 million pounds in net sales a month. Across Europe 68,000 staff received furlough payments from governments, without which it said it would have been forced to make most redundant.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Fast-fashion trailblazer Boohoo Group Plc is being forced to slow down.Retailers including Amazon.com Plc, Next Plc and Asos Plc are dropping Boohoo products after a Sunday Times article alleged unfair working conditions in its U.K. manufacturing chain in Leicester, England. The company came under criticism from social influencers including former reality TV star Vas J Morgan and model Jayde Pierce. Boycottboohoo has been trending on Twitter.After losing 2 billion pounds ($2.5 billion) in market value this week, Boohoo said on Wednesday it’s launching an independent review of its supply chain led by Alison Levitt, a lawyer and former public prosecutor. It also cut ties with two suppliers that infringed on its code of conduct, but said there were inaccuracies in the newspaper report.Even though the investigation will not be completed for some time, the fast-growing company, founded in 2006 to make cheap, catwalk-inspired fashions for young shoppers, is right to take action. Boohoo will bolster its board by appointing two more independent non-executive directors with backgrounds in environmental, social and governance issues. It is essential that it makes quality hires. But it should go further. Co-founder Mahmud Kamani remains executive chairman. If the company is serious about putting itself on a surer footing, it should appoint a strong, independent chairman.One option would be to elevate Brian Small, the former finance director of JD Sports Fashion Plc, who is currently Boohoo’s deputy chairman and senior independent director. Part of Boohoo’s problem is that it has been growing at breakneck speed and hoovering up rival high-street brands. As sales fly, suppliers struggle to keep up, and so they subcontract to other companies, further removed from the retailer. This is what appears to have happened in this case highlighted by the Sunday Times, according to Boohoo’s investigations into the report. Boohoo is now taking steps to crack down on this practice, refusing to place orders with big suppliers unless they disclose subcontractors and allow them to be audited. Boohoo’s new chief executive officer, John Lyttle, has experience tackling this kind of situation. He was formerly chief operating officer at Associated British Foods Plc’s Primark, which has dealt with its own supply chain issues in the past. Even so, there will be costs associated with scrutinizing and overhauling the manufacturing base, and they may ultimately have to be passed onto Boohoo’s customers.The company will invest 10 million pounds to eradicate supply chain malpractice. But it’s not clear what will be found in the independent review. If there are shortcomings, they must be dealt with, at the requisite cost. Boohoo, whose cheap, dressy clothes are often discarded once they’ve appeared in enough selfies, is particularly vulnerable to environmental, and now social, criticism. Sports Direct saw its sales slow after allegations in 2015 about poor conditions in its distribution center in Shirebrook, Derbyshire. Although Boohoo no longer supplies Amazon directly, the U.S. online retailer still holds stock from Boohoo and its associated brands from previous agreements. It will be suspending these products as well as any offered by third-party sellers while Boohoo conducts its investigation.While many young people say they are concerned about the environment and working conditions, it’s not clear how many Boohoo customers will care enough to stop buying its puff-sleeve blouses and very short denim shorts. They may care more about increases in price however, particularly if they have been furloughed because of the coronavirus lockdown or risk losing their jobs altogether in the health crisis’s aftermath.So Boohoo has many challenges ahead. It will have to balance a potentially higher cost base with its low prices, while working to integrate recent acquisitions and manage a growth rate that is still likely to be superior to rivals.That is even more reason why a strong independent chairman must be recruited without delay.(Updates to explain Amazon’s relationship with Boohoo in 11th paragraph.)This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Andrea Felsted is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering the consumer and retail industries. She previously worked at the Financial Times.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
European shares opened higher on Friday after upbeat China data fuelled a bounce in Asian markets, but another record surge in U.S. coronavirus cases checked overall investor optimism. The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.2% to hover near its strongest level in three weeks, but trading volumes were thinned by a U.S. holiday. The benchmark index was headed for a modest weekly gain after a batch of strong data pointed to a recovery from the coronavirus crisis, but the United States set a new daily global record for COVID-19 cases on Thursday, driving many U.S. states to delay reopening plans.
The blue-chip FTSE 100 <.FTSE> rose 1.3% and the mid-cap FTSE 250 <.FTMC> 1% as a COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer <PFE.N> and Germany's BioNTech <BNTX.O> was found to be well tolerated in early-stage human trials. Appetite for global equities heightened after data showed record employment growth in the United States at 4.8 million job additions, even as layoffs remained elevated and COVID-19 cases across the country spiked.
The pan-European STOXX 600 rose 0.9% by 0716 GMT, in its fourth consecutive day of gains. Banks, automakers and travel & leisure were the top gainers, rising between 1.5% and 2%. Among individual movers, Associated British Foods jumped 7.1% as it said that trading in its Primark fashion stores that reopened after lockdown has been "reassuring and encouraging".
Trading in British fashion chain Primark's reopened stores has been encouraging but the prolonged coronavirus lockdown means the retailer's full-year profit is likely to slump by about two thirds, owner Associated British Foods <ABF.L> said. All 375 Primark stores were shuttered in March as the pandemic spread. AB Foods said on Thursday that since the reopening of the first Primark stores on May 4, cumulative sales for the seven weeks to June 20 were 322 million pounds ($403 million) and were 12% lower than last year on a like-for-like basis.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Don’t be fooled by red replacing black as this season’s color at Zara-owner Inditex SA.The Spanish fast-fashion behemoth reported its first loss since it went public in 2001 after shutting stores during Covid-19 lockdowns worldwide. But nimble retailers will still prosper as economies open back up again, and Inditex is among them. In fact, with a big investment plan to bolster online sales, the company could well emerge even stronger than before the pandemic.The world’s largest fashion retailer is also aggressively overhauling its store network to focus on more muscular flagships. It has already been closing smaller outlets, while opening fewer, larger stores for the past few years. This will accelerate over the next two years, with between 1,000 and 1,200 stores closed, many belonging to Inditex brands other than Zara, such as Pull&Bear, Oysho and Stradivarius. The aim is to transfer their profit contributions to bigger shops or online.There are important costs related to that transformation. The first-quarter net loss of 409 million euros ($465 million) included a 308 million-euro charge for closing stores. And Inditex hasn’t been completely insulated by the retail dislocation. Net sales fell 44% in the three months from Feb. 1 to April 30 due to the coronavirus impact.But Inditex’s business model came into its own during the pandemic. Most garments are ordered within the fashion season, and the company, which gets about two-thirds of its revenue from Europe, has kept its supply chain tight. About 60% of products come from manufacturers in Spain, Morocco, Portugal and Turkey.In early March, the company scaled back purchases when it saw how the pandemic was developing. In early May, it sped them up again to make sure it had enough playsuits and flimsy blouses on hand for June and July. The strategy worked. Inditex actually ended the first quarter with 10% less stock, an impressive feat when other retailers have been saddled with a mountain of unsold spring and summer garments.At the same time, its online business thrived thanks to efforts including the introduction of radio-frequency-identification technology that tracks where every maxi dress and balloon-sleeve blouse is. This enables online orders to be fulfilled from wherever the stock is, be that in warehouses or stores. As my Bloomberg News colleagues have noted, when shops were closed, Inditex was able to redeploy stock to its digital business. Online sales rose 95% year-on-year in April.To capitalize on this trend, Inditex will spend 1 billion euros between now and 2022 to bolster its internet sales, and a further 1.7 billion euros upgrading its stores and further integrating them with its digital platform. Shops will become distribution hubs as well as places that customers can browse and buy products in real life. The aim is for more than 25% of sales to come from digital channels by 2022, up from 14% in 2019.Despite its strengths, Inditex has not been immune from the pre-Covid-19 pressure on the apparel retail sector, with women generally buying fewer clothes and cheaper rivals, such as Boohoo Group Plc and Associated British Foods Plc’s Primark chain, nipping at its heels. That means the strategic blueprint for the next few years is not without risk.Zara is not the cheapest clothes retailer, and in tougher economic times the chain could prove too pricey for some cash-strapped consumers. What’s more, it could be a tricky time for Inditex to put its faith in big flagships if people emerging from lockdown shun larger stores, malls or city centers. And rivals are not giving up. Even fusty British retailer Marks & Spencer Group Plc said it aimed to speed up its supply chain, including using factories closer to its U.K. market.But thanks to its strong balance sheet, Inditex should be able to stay ahead. The company had net cash of 5.8 billion euros at the end of the first quarter. While Covid-19 has upended retail, some things should stay the same, including Inditex’s superstar status.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Andrea Felsted is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering the consumer and retail industries. She previously worked at the Financial Times.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Anyone who has ever waited at Primark to pay for cheap workout attire or a bargain dress knows just what a challenge it is to keep the snaking line in the right place. With precautions to control the novel coronavirus’s spread, that logistical nightmare will get even worse. Every second cash register will be shut and there’ll be an employee in charge of enforcing the regimented flow of customers — in one way and out another.Social-distancing rules governing shops are just one of the reasons why any honeymoon for retailers in the first days of reopening may be short lived. Many will soon have to confront hard decisions about whether to shut some stores definitively and how to fend off online competition in a world where people may still be hesitant to go out to shop. Recovery will be a long slog, with more pressure on profits than before the Covid-19 outbreak.Non-essential stores in England, which were forced to close in March, will be permitted to open from June 15. Early indications are good. Ikea stores on the outskirts of London and in the West Midlands drew huge queues when the purveyor of flat-packed furniture (classified as essential) reopened earlier this week. In the U.S., where some states have moved quickly to reopen for business, signs have been encouraging — at least until the civil unrest that forced some store closures again.Take TJX Cos., owner of T.J. Maxx, one of the most touchy-feely retail experiences. It might seem that treasure hunting for a designer gem would be less appealing during a pandemic. But in late May the company said that overall, sales were above the year-earlier period in the 1,100 stores that had been open for at least a week. Even Macy’s Inc., which got caught in the department-store maelstrom, said sales were moderately higher than anticipated.It’s a similar picture in Europe. Earlier this week, Primark, owned by Associated British Foods Plc, said that suburban outlets, such as the one in Hilversum in the Netherlands, were comfortably ahead, even though sales in city-center stores in Berlin and Amsterdam were at less than half of what they were a year ago.There will be pent-up demand when stores open in England, too. During lockdown, online shopping has flourished. Initially, demand was for home furnishings and clothing basics, such as underwear and workout gear. But warm weather, along with a slew of special offers, has encouraged more fashion purchases, such as day dresses, over recent weeks. More markdowns, needed to clear out unsold spring and summer stock, could prompt people to splurge when they can get back out to shop again.But a surge at the reopening doesn’t necessarily mean an enduring rebound. The pandemic has had great human and economic costs, with U.K. unemployment expected to spike in the second quarter. Even if their finances have held up, furloughed workers may be reluctant to spend. People make the most drastic changes to their spending when they lose their job or see their friends and family being laid off. Meanwhile, even though economies are gradually reopening, cancelled weddings, parties and overseas holidays will likely mean a lower level of clothing demand for the remainder of this year.Those who do feel brave enough to splash out may get frustrated with long waits to get into stores or check out. That could be bad news for discount retailers that rely on a high number of relatively low-value transactions. Primark could be hardest hit by social-distancing measures at its busiest stores, which accounted for 10-20% of its total sales before the pandemic, parent Associated British Foods said.Store closures during lockdown pushed even more people to shop online, a trend that’s likely to continue. The digital share of non-food sales in the U.K. could increase to 41% over the next 18 months or so, from about 30% at the end of 2019, according to Richard Hyman, the independent retail analyst. Shifting business online comes with additional costs too.All of these forces will make chains think hard about which stores are worth keeping in their networks. In the U.S., Nordstrom Inc. said it would close 16 of its 116 department stores. Expect similar decisions in Europe, especially if the additional costs associated with equipping stores for social distancing can’t be shared with landlords in the form of lower rents.But some companies are poised to make the most of the turmoil. While Primark may have to deal with some tricky in-store logistics, it should still emerge a winner, given its focus on value, along with cheap-chic rivals Hennes & Mauritz AB and Inditex SA’s Zara. Perhaps that’s why Primark, which has shunned online commerce, is actually opening new stores — such as in Manchester’s Trafford Centre — rather than closing any. Online retailers such as Germany’s Zalando SE and Britain’s Asos Plc, as well as companies with big digital businesses, such as Next Plc, should also be well placed.But even for the winners, the next year or so will be testing. The changes roiling the industry in the space of these five months would have taken five years in normal times. That’s a lot for even the most nimble retailers to deal with. This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Andrea Felsted is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering the consumer and retail industries. She previously worked at the Financial Times.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Fashion retailer Primark plans to reopen all 153 of its stores in England on June 15 as coronavirus restrictions are eased, encouraged by European stores that have already resumed trading. The faster than expected reopening sent shares in Primark's owner, Associated British Foods, up as much as 8% in early Monday trading. All Primark stores were closed over 12-days from March 11 as the virus spread, costing it 650 million pounds a month in sales.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Conglomerates are about as appealing as a pink fluffy sweater left stranded on Primark’s shelves at the start of the lockdown in March. But the devastation to sales wrought by the new coronavirus has shown why, for once, it might make sense that the retailer’s parent, Associated British Foods Plc, combines clothing, groceries and agriculture in one big company.Primark’s stores are closed, and the discount fashion chain doesn’t sell online. It has gone from taking 650 million pounds in ($805 million) a month before the last of its stores shut their doors on March 22, to selling nothing at all. Even with efforts to cut costs, and a tax break, the retailer’s cash outflow is 100 million pounds a month. It has taken a 284 million-pound provision for the stock that it will have to sell at a lower price to clear it out.While the parent company’s name hides it well, Primark is by far the biggest element of Associated British Foods, accounting for almost 50% of sales in 2019 and more than 60% of operating profit. This year the proportion will be much lower after at least two months of not trading. But if Primark were a stand-alone group it would have no revenues at all for that period. The smaller divisions, which range from corn sugar and tea to Southeast Asian cooking spices, are at least bringing in cash.What’s more, ABF’s grocery arm has been helped by the panic buying at the start of the pandemic crisis, as consumers around the world stocked up. At its bakery brands, Allinson and Kingsmill, it is selling every loaf of bread it can make. Similarly, the craze for home baking as people try to fill their time in lockdown is driving demand for flour. This should also help sales of sugar. Demand for food more broadly could feed through to other divisions such as agriculture and ingredients.The London-based company is also able to benefit from a strong balance sheet. It had net cash of 801 million pounds as of Feb. 29.It’s not clear how long Primark will be out of action. Reopening won’t be straightforward in a world where social distancing becomes the norm. The retailer will need to reconfigure stores, and deal with stock, like those pink fluffy jumpers that won’t sell well in higher summer temperatures. That means the conglomerate structure should help ease the burden for a while yet.But at some point the world will return to some semblance of normality. Shopping malls and main streets are likely to see a significant shake-up, with some winners emerging in a much stronger position. Primark, with its focus on low prices, will probably be among them. It could also pick up market share from those that fail.If the group’s U.S. business continues to prosper, Primark should resume its growth trajectory once more. The prospects here are good. The inevitable economic downturn that will follow the pandemic should favor discount retailers. What’s more, with some well-known U.S. names likely disappearing, and others closing swathes of stores, ABF will have a surfeit of space to choose from if it expands its network.Once Primark’s sales pick back up, it risks pulling away from ABF’s smaller divisions again. That will make a split or a spin-off look more appealing once more.The logic of having discount fashion alongside diet crispbreads won’t be evident forever. But right now, investors in ABF should be thankful for it.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Andrea Felsted is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering the consumer and retail industries. She previously worked at the Financial Times.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Primark owner Associated British Foods <ABF.L> will not pay an interim dividend to save cash during the coronavirus crisis and has booked a 284 million pound ($352 million) charge to reflect an expected lower value of stock when its stores reopen. All of Primark's 376 stores in 12 countries have been closed since March 22, representing a loss of 650 million pounds ($806 million) of net sales per month. "One of the world's great clothing retailers is entirely shut," Chief Executive George Weston said on Tuesday.
Fashion retailer Primark has committed to pay suppliers for 370 million pounds of orders, though all its stores are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. All of Primark's 376 stores in 12 countries have been closed since March 22, representing a loss of 650 million pounds of net sales per month. The retailer, owned by Associated British Foods <ABF.L>, had previously only committed to paying for orders that were in transit or booked for shipment by March 18.
Primark owner Associated British Foods <ABF.L> said on Friday its bosses are taking temporary pay cuts and will not receive bonuses for the current year given that profits will be dented by the coronavirus emergency. It said the base pay of chief executive George Weston, finance chief John Bason and Primark boss Paul Marchant will be reduced temporarily by 50%. The group's non-executive directors, including the chairman Michael McLintock, have also decided that their fees should be reduced temporarily by 25%.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Lakeside shopping center, just outside of London, is a mecca of consumerism. It’s situated in the county of Essex, which loves shopping so much that a reality TV show captures the exploits of its glamorous, bauble-buying residents.But since last week, the mall has been open for only essential purchases, in line with government guidance. Its owner Intu Properties Plc said last Thursday that it had collected just 29% of the rent due from its tenants there and around the country. At the same time last year, it had received 77% of the amount due. Occupants including Associated British Foods Plc’s Primark and Swedish fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz AB, which has shuttered thousands of stores around the world, are withholding payments or seeking better terms.It’s a scenario that’s being repeated on both sides of the Atlantic. Cheesecake Factory Inc., which has 294 stores throughout the U.S. and Canada, said in a filing last week that it would not pay its April rent, and that was in discussions with its landlords, a who’s who of American mall owners.While consumer-facing groups such as apparel chains have been the first shoe to drop, landlords look set to be the next. Retailers are bracing for a prolonged shutdown. On Monday, Macy’s Inc. said it was forloughing most of its 130,000 strong workforce after losing the majority of its sales because of store closures.No wonder some, such as U.S. mall owner Taubman Centers Inc., are fighting back. It told tenants in a memo that they still have to pay, although it added that it’s working with affected occupiers.The developing stand-off will do nothing to help the plight of stores, nor in the longer term, shopping center owners. As I have argued, the fall-out from the catastrophic loss of business from the coronavirus retail crisis needs to be shared. Some consequences will have to be borne downstream, by suppliers; some upstream, by landlords.But this could be tricky. With fixed assets like malls, it’s not easy to adjust the cost base. Some also have significant borrowings. Lenders may have to bear some of the burden, while government relief looks increasingly necessary. My colleague Brian Chappatta has warned of the potential dangers to the mortgage market.Intu, which owns 17 U.K. malls including Manchester’s Trafford Center and the Metrocentre in Gateshead, is particularly vulnerable. Even before the outbreak, it was struggling under a mountain of borrowings. It said last Thursday that it was in talks with its lenders on waiving covenants, and that it could access the U.K. government’s 330 billion-pound ($410 billion) support mechanism.Meanwhile, in the U.S., mall owners CBL & Associates Properties Inc., Macerich Co. and Taubman stand out for their above average net debt-to-Ebitda ratios and heavy use of secured lending, according to Lindsay Dutch, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence.Others look to be in a better position.Simon Property Group Inc. has one of the strongest balance sheets. But it agreed in February to buy Taubman for $3.6 billion. This deal, if it goes ahead, together with the Covid-19 impact, could increase Simon’s net debt to 7 times Ebitda at the end of 2020, from 5.6 times a year earlier, according to Moody’s. Taubman has some prize assets, such as the Short Hills Mall in New Jersey and the Gardens Mall in Florida , but the higher leverage and integration will be more challenging in the current environment.Indeed, there will be pain even for the most solid operators. Simon is the biggest landlord to Cheesecake Factory, according to analysts at RBC Capital Markets.But even when the virus abates, the retail landscape won’t be the same. Some weaker stores and restaurants will not re-open their doors. For others, it will take considerable time for demand to return to normal.A frank conversation between retailers and landlords is needed to settle on ways for making it easier for everyone to weather this crisis. Alterations could include moving to monthly rent payments in cases where retailers are still expected to pay quarterly installments in advance, and doing so without any additional fees to facilitate the switch. Making it easier for tenants to break leases would also avoid time consuming and costly processes to exit agreements.While that may seem to favor retailers more than landlords, mall owners too have something to gain. The pandemic, and the retail shake-out that will inevitably follow, will exacerbate the divergence between the most muscular stores and restaurants and the laggards. It will also polarize the vibrant malls and secondary locations even more.To prosper in this new reality, mall owners will need to ensure they can attract the most desirable brands. The retailers that do emerge from the wreckage will remember how they were treated when the chips were down. On both sides, even-handed negotiations are the best way to help all parties recover, rather than risking bringing about the death of the mall for once and for all.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Andrea Felsted is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering the consumer and retail industries. She previously worked at the Financial Times.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Shares in AB Foods, which also owns major sugar, grocery, ingredients and agriculture businesses, slid 13% by 1108 GMT after it also said it could not provide earnings guidance for the full 2020-21 year due to the uncertain outlook. “There is no doubt that all clothing retailers are seeing lower demand...Peoples’ immediate priorities are in other areas," AB Foods' finance director John Bason told Reuters. The group said it closed 20% of Primark's selling space in continental Europe which the World Health Organisation says is now the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.
Unfortunately for some shareholders, the Associated British Foods (LON:ABF) share price has dived 31% in the last...
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- The biggest coronavirus risk to retailers on both sides of the Atlantic may turn out to be empty stores, rather than empty shelves.As the outbreak has spread from Asia to Europe and the U.S., concern has shifted from the impact on supply chains because of closed Chinese factories to the potential of the deadly disease to put a sudden brake on consumer spending.While fashion chains and do-it-yourself merchandisers rely less on China today than they did a decade ago, it’s inevitable there will be some supply problems. The country is still the world’s biggest clothing exporter, and it makes everything from paddling pools to power tools. Associated British Foods Plc, owner of cheap chic fashion chain Primark, and U.S. athletic apparel maker Under Armour Inc. have recently warned of the risks.A full understanding of the impact will only come later. Many spring fashions and home furnishings were shipped before the outbreak, and there is evidence that factories are returning to work. But the closures in February will mean that some orders for the summer and potentially even the back-to-school shopping seasons may not reach stores in time. For apparel retailers this is a particular risk. If say, pastel hued coats designed to be worn in the spring arrive when the weather is warmer, those coats will need to be discounted to sell.But some canceled orders may be a blessing.The worry now is not that shoppers won’t find what they are looking for, it’s that they won’t hit the mall and spend time browsing for it in the first place. Almost half of U.K. retailers surveyed by consultancy Retail Economics and law firm Squire Patton Boggs had already seen a negative impact on their sales, with three quarters expecting revenue to be hit if the virus continues, according to a report published on Wednesday.This adds to anecdotal evidence, from some retailers finding trading tougher than expected to others seeing footfall weaken. In the U.K., traffic to stores held up until Thursday, but as bad news about the virus intensified, shopper numbers dropped, particularly in malls. Even for a Tuesday evening in March, London’s Oxford Street seemed unusually quiet yesterday. Expect the same pattern in the U.S. as new cases pop up in new cities. It would be understandable if people hesitate to head to the mall and avoid lingering at the supermarket after filling their cart with hand sanitizer, toilet paper and food staples for a month. After all, employers such as Amazon.com Inc. are telling workers to limit non-essential travel and governments in countries like France are banning events for more than 5,000, leaving worried citizens to wonder how many people is too many people in one place. And with Covid-19’s symptoms silent for a long incubation period it can be tempting to avoid public spaces altogether. Reasons for splurging at the shops are also evaporating as major events get canceled or delayed, and by extension people contemplate skipping parties, weddings or graduations. For example, tech giants including Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. have pulled out of the South by Southwest tech conference in Austin, Texas. That means purchases that would have been made — from trendy sneakers to wear at SXSW to the suit to impress at any number of industry conferences — may be lost.Travel is another boon to spending that risks being sapped. Tour operator TUI AG said holiday bookings have weakened over the past week. Unless they come back later on, that means fewer bikinis and tubes of suntan lotion filling shopping carts. If the problem is consumers hibernating, then online retailers such as Amazon and Britain’s Asos Plc, could be protected. But if the issue is a lack of stimulants to spending, no one will be spared. There’s also the knock on effect on restaurants and bars if consumers stay home.There may be some offsetting factors. For example, Brits and Americans have been bulk buying essentials in retailers such as Costco Wholesale Corp. Long-life milk, nappies and bottled water are all in demand at supermarkets. At the other end of the spectrum, shares in Peloton Interactive Inc. defied the market rout last week on hopes that more fitness fanatics would work out at home, rather than go to the gym.Any short-term silver linings will be lost if consumers simply hunker down. The risk of a pandemic, as well as market uncertainty or worse, are hardly conducive to splashing out. Britons had started spending again after pulling in their purse strings during the impasse over their departure from the European Union. In contrast, U.S. consumer confidence has remained remarkably robust. But cracks are emerging. U.K. consumer confidence dropped for the first time in five months, according to YouGov and the Centre for Economics and Business Research. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the Bloomberg Weekly Consumer Comfort Index suffered its largest one-week drop since late October in the week ending Feb. 23.As with trading, it’s hard to separate out what’s due to the virus and what’s down to other factors. But either way, it’s a timely reminder that faced with an epidemic, consumer demand also isn’t immune.To contact the author of this story: Andrea Felsted at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Melissa Pozsgay at firstname.lastname@example.orgThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Andrea Felsted is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering the consumer and retail industries. She previously worked at the Financial Times.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Primark owner Associated British Foods warned on Monday there was a risk of supply shortages on some lines later in the 2019-20 financial year if delays in factory production in China are prolonged due to coronavirus. AB Foods, which sources a broad assortment of its product from China, said it typically builds inventories in advance of Chinese New Year and, as a consequence, is well stocked with cover for several months and does not expect any short-term impact. Several of its food businesses have operations in China.
Legendary fund manager Li Lu (who Charlie Munger backed) once said, 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility...
Today we'll take a closer look at Associated British Foods plc (LON:ABF) from a dividend investor's perspective...