Low Oil Prices Hit Luxury Retailers Hard

March 18, 2016, 6:22 PM UTC

Live by the oil boom, die by the oil bust.

The dramatic drop in oil prices has hurt luxury retailers and other stores, in ways direct and indirect.

Neiman Marcus, the department store retailer based in Dallas, the heart of the U.S. oil belt, has hit a rough patch, in part because of the severe drop in oil stocks and energy industry job cuts. Earlier this week, Neiman reported that its comparable sales fell 2.4% last quarter, the company’s second consecutive drop after almost seven years without any declines.

“We have many customers with investments in the oil and gas business, and that has had an impact on spending, especially in Texas, with some of our largest volume stores,” Neiman CEO Karen Katz told investors. As Bloomberg reported this week, one fifth of Neiman’s department stores are in the Lone Star State, and Texas’ tax receipts have fallen for five straight months.

And the impact hasn’t just been felt in the luxury world.

Macy’s (M), which is coming off a tough 2015 that included a 5% comparable sales drop during the key holiday season, also felt the pinch. “We didn’t do great in the energy markets, either,” Macy’s CFO Karen Hoguet said on a call with Wall Street analysts last month.

Dillard’s (DDS), which is a primarily Southern department store chain based in Little Rock, Arkansas, saw its comparable sales fall 2% in the holiday quarter. According to Bloomberg Intelligence, 28% of Dillard’s stores are in Texas.



Of course, there is a whole continent beyond the Texas-Oklahoma oil patch.

Though Nordstrom (JWN) is relatively unexposed to the oil producing regions of the U.S. (7% of stores, according to Bloomberg), it has made a big bet on Canada, a country whose currency has fallen 25% from a year ago because of the drop in oil prices, meaning profits there translate into fewer U.S. dollars.

Nordstrom opened its first Canadian store 18 months ago in Calgary, the epicenter of the country’s oil industry. Though Nordstrom does not break out its Canadian sales (though its department store comparable sales have been in decline), it’s worth noting that the Seattle-based retailer’s decision to enter Canada was announced in 2012, when the oil industry was booming and U.S. and Canadian dollars were trading at par.

Back in the U.S., the oil rout hit the stock market earlier this year, setting off a wave of volatility. The fate of the stock market is directly correlated to luxury sales because it affects how shoppers feel about their net worth.

“Our business continues to feel the effects of a skittish stock market and a strong dollar resulting in fewer international tourists in key store markets,” Neiman’s Katz said.

Speaking of international tourists, retailers from Macy’s to Saks Fifth Avenue (a unit of HBC (HBC)) to Tiffany (TIF) are highly reliant on visitors from foreign shoppers to their stores in key destinations like New York, Miami, and San Francisco. Indeed, on Friday, Tiffany said some 40% of business at its Fifth Avenue flagship in New York came from tourists, many of whom come from Brazil and Russia, two oil-dependent economies. The jeweler also reported declining comparable sales in the Americas.

On the bright side, oil has rallied a bit, hitting a 2016 high on Friday of $41.60, as has the U.S. stock market. So perhaps these retailers are about to get some relief.

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