High-end retailers’ earnings growth could nearly double in 2017, but is unlikely to return to the double-digit levels achieved in the 2010-13 period, wrote Moody’s Investors Service in a report Wednesday.
The credit rating firm expects global luxury brands’ earnings growth to increase from 4% in 2016 to 7% in 2017, in a report which looked at a sample of 11 luxury product manufacturers and compared a range of metrics including revenue growth, EBITDA margin, share buybacks and dividends.
Moody’s Vice President Vincent Gusdorf wrote that double-digit growth in the global luxury retail segment will have to wait until at least 2020, noting that “as the Chinese consumer boom has slowed, value-conscious consumers are now less likely to stand for price hikes, and competition from other sectors like travel and fine dining remains elevated.”
The researchers forecast U.S. players such as Tiffany & Co. and Ralph Lauren Corp. will reduce capex and shareholder remuneration to maintain stable leverage in the face of a slowdown in earnings growth, resulting from department store weakness, a strong dollar and operating issues. Moody’s highlights Estee Lauder Companies Inc. as a solid play given its “good international diversification and its portfolio of well-recognized brands.”
The report notes that department store-reliant companies such as Macy’s Inc., Kohl’s Corp. and Nordstrom Inc. have been particularly hard hit by changing shopping trends, lower mall traffic and competition from online and off-price retailers. Rising competition should also push some high-end retailers to improve productivity and continue store closures, suggests Moody’s.
Overall, luxury goods makers are expected to cut share buybacks when necessary to preserve their credit ratios, while payout ratios will remain high. The report commended Estee Lauder as one of the “most shareholder-friendly companies in the sector.”
Moody’s adds that it expects M&A to continue as luxury companies consider large scale acquisitions. The companies in the sample will spend $7 billion on acquisitions in 2017, compared to just $2 billion in 2016.