Moody's Investors Service, a provider of credit ratings, research and risk analysis, released a disturbing statistic regarding U.S. retailers and debt.
Moody’s rates companies on a tiered structure, with ratings ranging from Aaa (the best) to C (the worst). The ratings of Caa and Ca are toward the lower end of the spectrum. The organization recently declared that the number of U.S. retailers on the lowest and distressed tier of its rating spectrum has tripled since the Great Recession. Currently, these firms make up just over 13 percent of Moody’s total rated retail portfolio, officials stated in a press release. This approaches Great Recession levels, which reached 16 percent of the portfolio.
Corporations such as Claire’s, J. Crew, Tops and rue21 have all been given weak credit ratings after taking on high levels of debt to fund acquisitions.
Moody’s also expressed concern about debt maturities. The 19 Caa/Ca-rated companies in the agency’s retail portfolio owe roughly $5 billion in debt through 2021, with about 40% of this due by the end of 2018.
Moody’s attributes this largely to the low interest rates making it easier to borrow. But, the organization warns, rising interest rates and preponderance of low-tiered groups may scare financial institutions into become more conservative.
“While the credit markets remain open to companies up and down the rating spectrum, that could change abruptly if investor sentiment turns,” it said in a press release.
Experts believe that as companies sink lower into debt, liquidation and going-out-of-business sales will follow. This will put more pressure on healthier retail outlets to lower their prices.