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Walmart Closing Stores, Frasers Group Deal, and Consumer Confidence: Week Ahead

Walmart is reportedly closing a store in southwest Louisville, Ky. next month because it was “underperforming,” a spokesman for the mass retailer told WDRB.com. Other reports suggest Walmart will be closing a store in the Greater Cincinnati area and Canada’s East Oshawa. Walmart did not respond to a request for comment before press time.

According the pond, Frasers Group acquired its third retail park acquisition with a deal for Northern Ireland’s Boucher Shopping Park, considered a retail destination for out of town shoppers.

Although Frasers Group is best known owning nameplates including House of Fraser, Sports Direct, Flannels, Jack Wills, Lillywhites and Psyche, its first foray into shopping malls came in October 2020 when it acquired Berryden Retail Park in Aberdeen, Scotland. The company followed that six months later in March 2021 when it acquired Robin Retail Park in the town of Wigan in the U.K.

As inflation rises, where is consumer confidence headed?

In the March consumer sentiment index from the University of Michigan, more consumers mentioned reduced living standards due to rising inflation than any other time during the two worse recessions in the past 50 years, from March 1979 to April 1981 and from May to October 2008. The University of Michigan’s gauge on consumer sentiment fell to 59.4 in March 2022, down from 62.8 in February, and representing a 30 percent decline from a year ago when the March 2021 reading was 84.9.

“Just when difficult decisions need to be made about monetary and fiscal policies, consumers have expressed loss in confidence in government economic policies,” Richard Curtin, University of Michigan economist and director of surveys, said. “Moreover, most consumers are uncertain about the ultimate impact Putin’s war will have on their personal economic situation.”

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Curtin noted that the year-ahead expected inflation rate rose to its highest level since 1981, while gas prices rose to their largest monthly upward surge in decades. Consumers also held negative prospects for the economy, with the job market as the sole exception. With consumers expecting economic declines rather than increases in the national unemployment rate, that could provide some strength in maintaining consumer spending at “moderate levels to late 2022.

The National Retail Federation expects retail sales growth of 6 percent to 8 percent this year, or $4.86 trillion to $4.95 trillion. That projection outpaces the 10-year, pre-pandemic growth rate of 3.7 percent, but still pales in comparison with the 14 percent annual growth rate in 2021.

The Conference Board will publish its next Consumer Confidence Index on Tuesday, and could shed light on how consumers feel about the economy.