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Here’s What Top U.S. CEOs Are Saying About the Election

November 7, 2016, 9:48 AM UTC
SEATTLE, WA - MARCH 18: Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz talks about the company's goal to hire 10,000 military veteran's and military spouses during the Starbucks annual shareholders meeting March 18, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. Schultz also announced a 2-for-1 stock split, the sixth in the company's history, during the meeting. (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
Photograph by Stephen Brashear — Getty Images

Since the start of October, senior executives from more than 80 U.S. companies have discussed how the U.S. election is affecting business in recent conference calls with Wall Street analysts and investors.

Here are some of their comments:

Howard Schultz, Starbucks (SBUX) chairman and CEO, on Nov. 3:

“I think it is safe to say that wherever we have been, I don’t think we have ever witnessed such concern about what could happen in the US as a result of the election. And I think there is no question as I speak to other retailers and other merchants both in and out of our sector, there isn’t one exception where everyone is experiencing I think a very unpredictable and erratic chain of events where it is very, very hard.”

Jeff Fettig, Whirlpool (WHR) CEO, on Oct. 25:

“We have seen what we believe is a temporary softness in industry demand in the U.S., particularly we saw it early in the quarter in July and August, with some rebound in September. We believe this is due to consumer confidence weakening, primarily due to the focus around the U.S. elections.”

Farooq Kathwari, chairman, president and CEO of Ethan Allen (ETH), on Oct 26:

“If you take a look at on a macro level, the environment is difficult. Many, many factors. You have first, election campaign — and we’ll be glad it’s over in two weeks, and it’s been tough. It really has impacted customers and clients. It’s taken a tremendous amount of attention from especially discretionary budgets. So I think from that perspective, the environment this whole last six months has not been good.”

Steve Easterbrook, McDonald’s (MCD) CEO and president, on Oct. 21:

“If you look hard, there aren’t many tailwinds at the moment. There’s not great economic growth to help provide a lift, consumer confidence is muted. We’re at a rather unusual stage of the election cycle, so none of that is really providing a tailwind for us.”

Max Messmer, Robert Half (RHI) chairman and CEO, on Oct. 26:

“I spend a lot of time talking to executives at other companies and many of our clients, and the elephant in the room probably is the election. Nobody really knows exactly what the impact is, they just know it is much different. You couple that with anemic GDP growth this year, which has resulted in a tremendous cost-consciousness on the part of many clients, it becomes very easy to drag your feet, drag out the hiring process, be very careful about expanding.”

Chris Nassetta, Hilton Worldwide Holdings (HLT) CEO and president, on Oct. 26:

“I talk to a lot of other CEOs. I talk to a lot of our biggest customers. I would say that there is a view right now, particularly exacerbated by the U.S. election cycle, that everybody’s nervous. They don’t know—there’s just a great deal of broad uncertainty….

“I think it’s been an unusual cycle and as a consequence I think it has slowed down the economy probably more dramatically than I’ve seen certainly in my adult life, just in the sense of creating such an aura of uncertainty that people are sort of waiting to make decisions until it’s over. Now, we don’t know what’s going to happen, but the one thing we do know is it’ll be over on November 8 by the time we close out at midnight. We’re going to have certainty of who our next President is going to be, and I think just the fact of having that type of certainty is going to be beneficial.”

Ryan Marshall, PulteGroup (PHM) president and CEO, on Oct. 20:

“My experience from spending a number of years in the field in our operations is anytime we’re this close to the end of an election cycle, I think the general public is trying to calculate and figure out what the impact will be of a change in power, moving from one side of the political power grid to the other, what that will do to their earning power potential, what that will do to job growth, what that will do to the stock markets, etcetera. My general sense is that folks maybe pause, and wait and see.”

Nigel Travis, Dunkin’ Brands Group (DNKN) chairman and CEO, on Oct. 20:

“I think what is driving franchisees towards the lower end is several factors, and I’ll describe it — pull it together as uncertainty. Uncertainty over the general election, Senate, obviously the House and local elections…

I think it’s a cocktail of factors, many of which are transient, weighing on certain channels and sectors… Changes in gas prices, changes in food stamp regulations, and of course, the overwhelming dampening effect of the presidential election. I think we will all be pleased when that’s past.”

Mark Mednansky, Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group (DFRG) CEO, on Oct. 14:

“We think that there was some trepidation with our guests, what’s going on. We’ll be very happy when all these debates are over. Our guest, the upscale guest in all three brands are pretty well informed. They’re like everyone else in this country, they were glued to the TV during the debates, confused maybe with what’s going on….During any election cycle, once there’s a victor, usually there’s a big sigh of relief and people go out and spend, and they’re hopeful. That’s what we think will happen because it’s happened so many times in my history in this industry.”

Shelly Ibach, Select Comfort (SCSS) CEO, on Oct. 19:

“… looking at the full quarter, consistent with what we have been seeing all year we have been talking about a choppy environment since Feb week one. And we continued to see that in the quarter, and the more intense consumer distraction has certainly been, with the election uncertainty as of late, but when there is distraction like the Olympics or the conventions we also saw some softness in those periods and then strength around them.”

Michael Happe, Winnebago Industries (WGO) president and CEO, on Oct. 13:

“The factors that are probably more important to actual purchases of RVs are things like consumer confidence, the wealth effect, but also the ability to access financing. And we are not seeing any significant signs of financing tightening. The financing companies are little smarter certainly than they were back in 2008 and 2009, but we are not seeing any significant signs that the macro metrics are providing significant headwinds. As we near an election date in early November, there’s no doubt that I think consumers are, certainly with all discretionary purchases, maybe just taking a look at what’s going to happen here in the next couple of months. But again, we believe, as does RVIA, that the next couple of years could again be cautiously still upward for the overall RV industry.”