over 1 year ago • 3 mins
Retail giant Target issued its second profit warning in three weeks on Tuesday.
What does this mean?
Target’s investors were sent sprawling last month by the biggest one-day drop in the company’s share price since 1987. But just as they were dusting themselves off, Target’s given them another shove: the retailer just cut its profit outlook again, as it takes “aggressive steps” to reduce a stockpile of products that was 43% bigger last quarter than the same time in 2021. Target said the move will make room for big-sellers eventually, but that it’s going to have to offer big discounts and cancel orders in the meantime. Investors looked down at their scraped knees, scowled up at Target, and sent its stock down 10%.
Why should I care?
The bigger picture: What’s a retailer to do?
Target was sort of painted into a corner here: the company needed to stay stocked up enough that it wouldn’t run out of merchandise amid all the supply bottlenecks, but not so much that it ended up with an excess of useless goods. That’s a sweet spot the retailer clearly wasn’t able to hit, even before record inflation changed spending habits even more. At least it wasn’t the only one: Walmart is in a similar position after having chartered its own ships earlier this year to keep the goods coming.
Zooming out: Good things come to Kohl’s who wait.
If Kohl’s only issue was how much stock it had, the pandemic-bruised department store probably wouldn’t have been forced to look for a buyer. Kohl’s announced on Monday that it’s in exclusive negotiations to be bought out for $60 a share by retail company Franchise Group, which would value the business at around $8 billion. Investors think this could finally be the start of the end of a sale process that’s been dragging on for more than half a year, and its stock jumped 10%.
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Apple announced plans earlier this week to push into the buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) market.
What does this mean?
There have been mutterings that Apple is about to launch a BNPL product since March, when the company bought out credit check startup Credit Kudos. So cue the “I told you so” brigade: the tech giant has just announced that it’ll be launching Apple Pay Later – a service that’ll allow Apple Pay’s American users to buy things in four interest-free installments over six weeks.
It’s arguably an odd time for Apple to enter the BNPL market, whose rapid growth has petered out as inflation has climbed and the ecommerce boom has tailed off. But Apple’s confident it’s made the right decision: the move could encourage more people to use Apple Pay to buy what they need, not to mention allow the company to make more inroads into financial services.
Why should I care?
For markets: Oh great. More competition.
BNPL mainstays Klarna and Affirm need Apple in the market like they need a hole in the head. Klarna is currently in the midst of offsetting its borrowing costs – which just hit a record high on the back of rising interest rates – by cutting 10% of its workforce, while Affirm’s stock has now plummeted 75% this year. And things are only going to get harder: analysts are anticipating that more and more cash-strapped customers will either wind down their spending or struggle to pay off their loans altogether.
The bigger picture: Won’t someone please think of the borrowers?
Plus, regulators are keeping an especially close eye on the BNPL industry, with speculation rampant that it’s only a matter of time before they roll out profit-damaging measures. Probably the honorable thing to do, mind you: they’re worried that the soaring cost of living could lead to irresponsible lending among BNPL companies, leaving consumers with insurmountable piles of debt.
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