“That unemployment office is going to have its work cut out for it.” – Jeff

 

Hey there carnivores,

Markets were up on Monday, but we’re not ready to call them “back” just yet. 

Today we’re talking retailpocalypse.

 

Keep raging,

Jeff & Jason

Talk about a bloody Monday

Nobody wants things to get back to normal more than big retailers. Well, maybe those of us stuck in NYC apartments. But after POTUS announced over the weekend that he expects shutdowns through at least April 30, big changes had to be made.

Macy’s, Kohl’s, Gap, Neiman Marcus, and other retailers all announced that they are furloughing just about all of their respective employees at brick and mortar locations and HQ. Yes, even you, Karen. In total, 300k+ employees will have their paychecks temporarily suspended.

Furlough, BTW, means that employees are forced to take unpaid absences but they are technically still employed. It is a temporary situation, though no timeframe needs to be given to said “employees.” Seems fair…

Desperate times

Macy’s is the biggest name out of the bunch to tell employees to stay home on their own dime, but not before the retailer tried other measures to stay afloat. The company initially suspended its dividend, canceled orders, and reduced executive pay when it thought that stores could be reopened by April 1st. What a cruel April Fools joke that turned out to be.

While the retailer won’t be paying employees, it at least plans to cover health insurance and pay premiums through May. Macy’s has an e-commerce business that will require some staff to stay on board.

Macy’s stock closed down roughly 3% on the day.

The bottom line…

Employee costs can account for up to 70% of companies’ operating expenses, so going all Donny Politics-in-the-last-30-seconds-of-an-episode-of -‘The Apprentice’ is usually the fastest way to trim the fat. Analysts estimate that Macy’s and Kohl’s have five months’ worth of cash on hand. No pressure.

So, what happens after that? 

Well, if the US remains shut down for the foreseeable future (spoiler: it will), there’s a chance that public companies could seek private equity investments… for pennies on the dollar, of course. While the public is struggling, reports show that PE firms are flush with cash, waiting to pounce on struggling industries. Barbarians, meet the gate.

☑️Steeee-rike!

Instacart and Amazon employees have had enough. On Monday, Instacart employees declined orders, while 50 of Amazon’s Staten Island fulfillment center workers walked off the job. Amazon’s Whole Foods employees got in on the action as well, agreeing to call in sick on Tuesday. The strikes come as more and more “essential” workers demand higher pay and more protection during an increase in demand for grocery delivery services while coronavirus rages on. More hours and a higher risk of contracting a deadly virus? Sounds fun!

Some of the demands to employers include $5 per hour hazard pay from Instacart, Whole Foods providing sick pay, and Amazon reshuffling warehouses to allow for CDC recommended social distancing. 

Jeff Bezos did have something for one employee. A pink slip. Amazon fired Chris Smalls, the organizer of its Staten Island warehouse strike last night. Amazon, of course, said it had nothing to do with the strike, but rather that Smalls had received “multiple warnings” regarding his violation of social distancing in the warehouse. How convenient… 

☑️Do not pass go, do not collect your salary.

Bob Iger is taking a pay cut as he starts his new job as Disney’s executive chairman. How much will he make? $0. Iger agreed to give up his salary as coronavirus has wreaked havoc on a number of Disney’s business units. Theme parks and cruises ring a bell? 

Iger’s replacement as CEO, Bob Chapek, has also agreed to take a 50% pay cut to support the cause. The Bobs likely agreed to take pay cuts so that the mandatory salary reductions across the rest of the executives don’t sting so badly. VP level employees will have salaries reduced 20%, SVPs reduced 25%, and everyone above that by 30%. Ahhhh, there’s the catch. Thanks, Bobs! 

☑️Helping the little guys.

Facebook has set aside $100M in grants and promised ad spends to help news outlets that have been hurt by coronavirus. The same news outlets that run coronavirus stories 24 hours a day? Many of the outlets’ Facebook wants to help are smaller, and have seen substantial revenue disruptions, forcing them to lay off employees. I guess the local AAA baseball beat writer probably doesn’t have a lot to do these days. 

Facebook’s funding will be broken out with $25M going towards emergency funding grants to support coronavirus coverage at smaller outlets, the other $75M will be used as advertising spending to cover the lack of ad revenue from those smaller outlets. 

The ‘book’s move comes one month after it offered a similar $100M in grants and ad money for small businesses affected by government shutdowns. It appears the Zuckerbot has taught itself to feel emotions. 

☑️  No Vacancy.

Too much vacancy, actually. Airbnb has pledged $250M to hosts that have lost money due to coronavirus cancellations. Airbnb had initially caught flak for not offering refunds to guests that had canceled due to travel restrictions, a position they held until the WHO finally declared the virus a pandemic. Once they did, travelers were happy, but it left a bit to be desired from the hosts. 

Hosts with Airbnb usually receive a cancellation fee to make up lost income on last-second cancellations. Airbnb said it would be paying them 25% of that fee. Airbnb then reassured hosts that they’d also lobbied congress to let owners apply for federal aid as part of the stimulus package. Read: we’ll do the lobbying, you do the paperwork if you want that refund. 

For what it’s worth, the bachelor party home-away-from-home renters already had financial troubles before this whole thing began. In just the last three months of 2019, it lost more than $276.4M, compared to a loss of $143.7M last year. 

 

Author: Jeff Bishop

One of the best traders anywhere, over the past 20 years Jeff’s made multi-millions trading stocks, ETFs, and options. He is renowned as an incredible trader with a deep insight and a sensitive pulse on the markets and the economy. Jeff Bishop is CEO and Co-Founder of RagingBull.com.

Even greater than his prowess as a trader is his skill and passion in teaching others how to trade and rake in profits while managing risk.

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