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Retail Apocalypse: Everything You Need to Know

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Retail Apocalypse: Everything You Need to Know

Chart: Retail Apocalypse 2017

The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.

The steady rise of online retail sales should have surprised no one.

Back in 2000, less than 1% of retail sales came from e-commerce. However, online sales have climbed each and every year since then, even through the Great Recession. By 2009, e-commerce made up about 4.0% of total retail sales, and today the latest number we have is 8.3%.

E-commerce vs. total retail sales

Here’s another knowledge bomb: it’s going to keep growing for the foreseeable future. Huge surprise, right?

Signs of a Reckoning

Retailers eye their competition relentlessly, and the sector also has notoriously thin margins.

The big retailers must have seen the “retail apocalypse” coming. The question is: what did they do about it?

Well, companies like Sears failed the shift to digital altogether – in fact, it is even widely speculated that the former behemoth might file for bankruptcy later this year.

The majority of other companies, on the other hand, are trying to combine “clicks and bricks” into a cohesive strategy. This sounds good in theory, but for established and sprawling brick and mortar retailers with excessive overhead costs, such tactics may not be enough to ward off this powerful secular trend. Target, for example, has had impressive growth in online sales, but they still only make up just 5% of total sales. As a result, the company’s robustness is also in doubt.

Wal-Mart took another route, which could potentially be the smartest one. The company hedged their bets by buying Jet.com, which was one of the fastest growing online retailers at the time. Later, they followed up by buying an online shoe retailer to help fill a perceived gap in footwear. Recent reports have surfaced, saying that these acquisitions are leading to staff shakeups, as the company re-orients its focus.

After all, going online is not just a tactic to boost sales in the new era of retailing. It has to be a mindset, and one that is central to the company’s strategy. Hopefully Wal-mart gets that, otherwise they will also be in trouble as well.

Apocalypse Now

In the midst of all of this is what is described as the “retail apocalypse”.

There are two main metrics that are pretty black and white:

Number of Bankruptcies: We’re not even one-third through 2017, and we already have about as many retail bankruptcies as the previous year’s total. If they continue at the current pace, we could see over 50 retailers bankrupt by the end of the year.

Number of Store Closings: So far we’ve seen roughly 3,000 store closings announced in 2017, and Credit Suisse estimates that could hit 8,600 by the end of the year. That would easily surpass 2008’s total, which was 6,200 closings, to be the worst year in recent memory.

Here’s some of the companies that have already filed for bankruptcy:

  • Gordmans Stores
  • Gander Mountain
  • Radioshack (again)
  • HHGregg
  • BCBG Max Azria
  • Eastern Outfitters
  • Wet Seal
  • The Limited
  • Vanity Shop of Grand Forks
  • Payless Inc.
  • MC Sports

And here are the store closings occurring as a result of the retail apocalypse:

Retail Closings

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Charted: Stock Buybacks by the Magnificent Seven

While Apple carried out $83 billion in stock buybacks over the last four quarters, Amazon and Tesla didn’t report any.

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Nightingale chart of stock buybacks for the magnificent seven stocks showing that Apple had the most buybacks of $83 billion.

Charted: Stock Buybacks of the Magnificent Seven

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

By 2025, Goldman Sachs predicts that total U.S. stock buybacks will exceed $1 trillion. The bank sees this growth being driven by strong tech earnings growth and lower rates.

But what are buyback amounts like for the largest tech companies today?

This graphic looks at the total value of shares each Magnificent Seven company has repurchased in the last four quarters using data from their latest financial statements.

What is a Stock Buyback?

A stock buyback is when a company buys their own shares to reduce the number of available shares on the market. Companies may choose to buy back stock to return value to shareholders. Having fewer shares available improves earnings per share, and may drive up the stock price.

Buying back stocks can also come with risks, such as using up cash that would otherwise be put toward growing the business.

Stock Buybacks of Tech Titans

We gathered data from company financial statements to see how stock buyback amounts differed among the Magnificent Seven. Each total represents what companies reported from June 1, 2023 to June 1, 2024.

As we can see, the tech companies in the Magnificent Seven have been the ones buying back their stock over the past year.

CompanyTotal Stock BuybacksBuybacks as a % of Market Cap
Apple$83B2.8%
Alphabet (Google)$63B2.9%
Meta$25B2.0%
Microsoft$20B0.6%
Nvidia$17B0.6%
Amazon$0B0.0%
Tesla$0B0.0%

Values rounded to the nearest billion. Company market caps are as of June 6, 2024.

Apple had by far the most share repurchases, raising its diluted earnings per share from $1.26 to $1.53. Going forward, Apple authorized an additional $110 billion for share repurchases, a U.S. record. The board says the repurchases are in light of their “confidence in Apple’s future and the value we see in our stock.”

On the flip side, both Amazon and Tesla did not issue stock buybacks in the last four quarters. Amazon’s CFO Brian Olsavsky recently emphasized the company’s strategy of reinvesting in the business. He says Amazon is focused on reducing debt and building data centers to take advantage of AI.

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