Fitch Publishes U.S. Retail Stats Quarterly for Fourth Quarter 2012

Wed May 1, 2013 4:46pm EDT

(The following statement was released by the rating agency) CHICAGO, May 01 (Fitch) Fitch Ratings has published its U.S. Retail Stats Quarterly for the fourth quarter of 2012. The report provides an overview of key economic data, operating and credit trends in the U.S. retail industry, and a summary of individual companies' operating and credit metrics for retailers on which Fitch maintains public ratings, private credit opinions, as well as some select non-rated names. In addition, the report highlights key credit strengths and concerns and provides a summary of company liquidity positions for the latest reported period. KEY HIGHLIGHTS: 2013 Off to a Slow Start: Retail sales in first-quarter 2013 were up a modest 2.2% (excluding auto), likely indicating that the payroll tax increase is hurting spending modestly. Weaker-than-expected sales also reflect soft performance in seasonal and weather-sensitive categories due to unseasonably cool spring weather. However, Fitch expects the full year to come in around 3%-4%, versus 4.2% last year, suggesting sales will pick up over the remainder of the year. Year-over-year comparisons will become easier as the key spending seasons, such as back-to-school and the holidays, occur. Economic Backdrop Muted: As can be seen on pages 3-5, the economic backdrop remains muted, though there has been some improvement from a year ago. The unemployment rate decreased to 7.6% in March, and the consumer confidence index increased to 68.1 in April. The inflation picture has improved, as cotton costs remain low and gasoline prices have come off of their February peak. Food inflation has moderated to the low single-digit range, and could start creeping up in 2013 as the effect of crop failures in 2012 works through the food chain, but is expected to remain manageable at 2%-3%. Uneven Growth Across the Industry: Bifurcation of spending remains an ongoing theme. On the one hand, mid-to-upscale household spending benefits from the wealth effect (stabilizing-to-improving home prices and/or higher stock prices). On the other, lower-income households remain pressured with no growth in real incomes, which amplifies the brunt of higher taxes more acutely. The report, 'U.S. Retail Stats Quarterly - Fourth-Quarter 2012,' is available on Fitch's web site at 'www.fitchratings.com'. Contact: Monica Aggarwal, CFA Senior Director +1-212-908-0282 Fitch Ratings, Inc. One State Street Plaza New York, NY 10004 Timothy Lee Analyst +1-312-368-3179 Media Relations: Brian Bertsch, New York, Tel: +1 212-908-0549, Email: brian.bertsch@fitchratings.com. Additional information is available at 'www.fitchratings.com'. Applicable Criteria and Related Research U.S. Retail Stats Quarterly -- Fourth-Quarter 2012 here ALL FITCH CREDIT RATINGS ARE SUBJECT TO CERTAIN LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS. PLEASE READ THESE LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS BY FOLLOWING THIS LINK: here. IN ADDITION, RATING DEFINITIONS AND THE TERMS OF USE OF SUCH RATINGS ARE AVAILABLE ON THE AGENCY'S PUBLIC WEBSITE 'WWW.FITCHRATINGS.COM'. PUBLISHED RATINGS, CRITERIA AND METHODOLOGIES ARE AVAILABLE FROM THIS SITE AT ALL TIMES. FITCH'S CODE OF CONDUCT, CONFIDENTIALITY, CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, AFFILIATE FIREWALL, COMPLIANCE AND OTHER RELEVANT POLICIES AND PROCEDURES ARE ALSO AVAILABLE FROM THE 'CODE OF CONDUCT' SECTION OF THIS SITE. FITCH MAY HAVE PROVIDED ANOTHER PERMISSIBLE SERVICE TO THE RATED ENTITY OR ITS RELATED THIRD PARTIES. DETAILS OF THIS SERVICE FOR RATINGS FOR WHICH THE LEAD ANALYST IS BASED IN AN EU-REGISTERED ENTITY CAN BE FOUND ON THE ENTITY SUMMARY PAGE FOR THIS ISSUER ON THE FITCH WEBSITE.