Sentiment Analysis: Tax Refunds Stabilize, Retailers Cautious

This week’s IRS data showed similar trends compared to last week. Refund sizes are now similar to last year, but still lagging behind on volume and total dollar amount.

Some retailers continue to attribute mixed results in February to delayed tax refunds, although how much is related to tax refund impact vs other macro factors, competitive pressures, etc., remains to be seen.

Please note: This in no way represents investment advice. All transcript text provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

IRS Data: Year-Over-Year Change

  • Burlington Stores (3/7/19):

"As a number of retailers have pointed out, tax refund quantities, delays have created a choppy sales environment. And not only the total amount of refund dollars impact our business, it’s timing – it’s the type of refund, i.e. the different credits that are there and how they apply to our customer base."

  • H&R Block (3/7/19):

"The latest results from the IRS show a decline in returns of 3.5% on the day-to-day basis through February 22. While it’s typical to see declines at this point in the season, this year, the industry has been impacted by a slower-than-normal start due to uncertainty surrounding both the government shutdown and the tax law changes."

  • American Eagle Outfitters (3/6/19):

"It was a strange month, February, because we have the government closure, you had income tax checks that came out late, late as far as like tax refund checks."

  • Urban Outfitters (3/5/19):

"It’s not an across-the-board drop in sales, but apparel has to kick in. And again, I think it’s not kicked in partly because of weather and partly because of our assortment. It may have some other influences like tax rebates that have been talked about, those sorts of things."

  • Target (3/5/19):

"We don’t actually see a big impact in our business on SNAP or tax refunds.  We do always keep an eye on that, as you can imagine. But because of our multi-category assortment, because of our incredibly loyal base of guests, we see a pretty consistent business, and we don’t see the impacts there typically."

  • The Children's Place (3/5/19):

"Quarter-to-date,traffic and comps are running down double digits pressured by Gymboree liquidation events and delayed and lower tax refunds versus last year."

  • Big Lots (3/8/19):

"So the first 2 weeks of February were very good for our business in those key categories of Furniture and Soft Home. And as we anticipated, Presidents’ Day, we were very encouraged by trends. Unfortunately, as you mentioned, the tax refund delay does impact big ticket purchasing and did have an impact on our business in the later part of the month of February. Our business went from one place to a significantly different place overnight when those refunds started happening again as we moved in the early part of March. So that is factored into our guidance. We’re not 100% sure how much of that income tax refund delay comes back to us in March and April versus might have been a missed trip."

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Transcript text provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

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