A day after Nordstrom sent investors running with sharply lower first-quarter profits, Wall Street showed little willingness to forgive the beleaguered retailer.
On Wednesday, shares in Nordstrom were still down more than 9%, to $34.35 — the biggest drop for the Seattle-based retailer since the Great Recession.
The crash came after Nordstrom surprised investors Tuesday afternoon with first-quarter earnings of just $37 million, a 57% decline from the same period last year, along with a 3.5% decline in sales, to $3.44 billion.
In a conference call with investors, Nordstrom co-President Erik Nordstrom blamed a soft retail environment compounded by poor execution in the company’s online marketing strategy, its merchandising mix, and, in particular, an upgrade to its rewards program, whose members accounted for some 60% of first-quarter sales.
“We had some executional misses with the customer experience,” Nordstrom told analysts, before outlining a turnaround plan.
Across Wall Street, retail-industry analysts signaled their skepticism by cutting their full-year earnings estimates for Nordstrom and, in some cases, changing their advice to investors about Nordstrom shares.
Bank of America analyst Lorraine Hutchinson cut BofA’s price target for Nordstrom shares from $40 to $32, and stuck with a rating of “underperform,” reported Bloomberg News, while at Wedbush Securities, analyst Jennifer Redding kept a “neutral” rating but dropped the price target from $40 to $35.
Especially harsh was CFRA Research’s Camilla Yanushevsky, who downgraded Nordstrom from “hold” to “sell” and cut her 12-month price forecast from $50 to $30.
One big factor in Wall Street’s punishing response: surprise. Nordstrom’s earnings were roughly half of what analysts had predicted.
But the share-price tumble also reflects doubts that Nordstrom can quickly address its problems, says Neil Saunders, managing director of analysis firm GlobalData Retail.
Saunders agrees that Nordstrom’s strategic mistakes, while costly, can probably be addressed relatively quickly.
But like other analysts, Saunders notes that Nordstrom also had a disappointing 4th quarter in 2018, before these strategic errors were committed, and he questions whether the company has truly come to grips with the more fundamental challenges to its business model.
Among those challenges — steady competition from online retailers and discounters and, especially, the failure of many of its own physical locations to deliver adequate sales and profits, Saunder says.
Even as Nordstrom generates solid performance for stores in big urban markets, such as Seattle, Los Angeles, or New York, where it is opening a huge new store this fall, many other Nordstrom locations in outlying areas “just aren’t doing the level of business they need to do,” Saunders says.
That’s a challenge that many analysts say may need more than a new loyalty program or refreshed merchandise mix.
While most analysts expressed optimism for an eventual turnaround, they also believe it is some ways off.
As Wedbush Securities’ Redding put it in a research note, “While we believe that it is within management’s ability to rectify issues, with all data points inflecting negatively so quickly, deterioration continuing into May, and investors adjusting to less visibility on the horizon, we see the turnaround as likely paused for now.”