From Bloomberg this morning:
"Big retailers rushed to build up inventories last year amid soaring consumer demand and transportation bottlenecks -- going so far in some cases as to rent their own cargo ships. Now, they’re trying to figure out how to sell all their stuff.
"Inventories rose $44.8 billion for companies on S&P consumer indexes with a market value of at least $1 billion that reported earnings over the last two weeks, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s up 26% from this time last year. The glut dented profits at some retailers, with Walmart Inc. paying more for storage and Target Corp. and Gap Inc. cutting prices on key goods.
"It’s far from clear what comes next. In the past, ballooning retail inventories have signaled economic slowdowns or recessions as shoppers bought less. But consumer spending in April climbed at the quickest pace in three months after adjusting for inflation, the Commerce Department said Friday. As long as Americans keep shopping, well-stocked warehouses could buoy retailers if port congestion worsens this summer."
One example: "Costco Wholesale Corp. said its 26% jump in inventory was fueled in part by a decision to replenish its stockpile after high demand last year, and as insurance in case supply-chain disruptions get worse. The company expects to sell through it 'without really a lot of heartburn,' said Bob Nelson, senior vice president of finance. Some of the extra inventory consists of holiday goods that will still be good this year."
- KC's View:
There is an irony to the idea that retailers, who were suffering from shortages not that long ago, suddenly have too much stuff.
I suspect that it won't be a problem for too long. Folks I talk to seem to think it is a virtual certainty that port congestion is likely to worsen this summer as labor issues persist. If that happens, all those crowded warehouses may start to empty out pretty quickly.
The one exception may be fashion items - if there are pants or sweaters that consumers don't want to wear, product shortages won't matter much.