The near-term outlook for the retail sector remains cautious, but at the same time is nuanced between subsectors and geographical locations.
Having come through the extraordinary times of the global pandemic, the retail sector has faced fresh challenges in the past year: higher (although easing) inflation, rising interest rates and slowing economic growth are combining to put consumers and retailers under sustained pressure. Compounding these challenges is the ongoing question over the vibrancy of prime CBDs (downtown) as the “return to the office” remains lacklustre across many parts of the world, as well as international tourism not having fully yet recovered to pre-pandemic levels.
The retail sector has continued to face these issues head-on while proving its resilience with the top 250 retail companies posting 8.5% growth year-over-year (YOY) in revenue, up from 5.2% in the previous year.1 Similarly, in the luxury sector, over 95% of brands reported profit growth2 in 2022, which continued into early 2023 with LVMH becoming the first luxury brand to reach a market capitalisation of USD 500 billion.
Although the luxury sector has slowed overall, luxury sales growth remains in positive territory as seen in recent Q3 2023 earnings results. The end of 2023 and into 2024 is likely to remain a challenging trading period but one that we are confident the sector can endure as it continues to evolve to meet economic and societal change.
At the macro level, the focus is on the resilience of consumer spending. As central banks have undertaken one of the most aggressive interest rate hiking cycles in decades, consumers have shifted spending patterns and are reigning in non-discretionary expenditure. For the luxury sector, this represents a normalisation in their customer base after a period of strong fiscal stimulus, but as noted, sales growth is slowing.