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Retail Finance Study Reveals Retailers Generally Pessimistic about U.S. Economy; Cautiously Optimistic about Their Own Future
76% of Retail Executives Expect Financial Crisis Will Extend into 2012 or Beyond
74% See Holiday Retail Sales Improving Slightly or Staying About the Same as Last Year
63% Believe Change in Health Care Costs and Regulations Will Be Negative for Their Businesses
59% Expect Sales Growth Over Next 12 Months
58% Are Shifting Marketing Dollars Away from Old Media Toward New Media
Wednesday, October 19, 2011 08:30 AM
Burt Feinberg, Group Head of CIT Commercial & Industrial.(Photo: Business Wire)
Retail executives maintain a sense of optimism about their own business growth prospects, even while they continue to sour on the idea of a quick recovery of the U.S. economy

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Middle market retail executives are bearish on a short-term U.S. economic recovery, even though many expect their own companies to improve faster than the industry, according to the third annual Retail Finance Outlook study released by CIT Group Inc.(NYSE: CIT), a leading provider of financing to small businesses and middle market companies. While a majority of retail executives expect business to improve in the coming months, they remain cautious when it comes to increasing staff levels, building inventory, and assessing the availability of credit—especially for their customers.

These are some of the findings detailed in the research study, “Retail Finance Outlook 2011” (, which was prepared in association with Forbes Insights. The study gathered the views of more than 100 middle market retail executives to assess their opinions on the U.S. economy and retail financing, as well as their views concerning prospects for their own companies and the retail industry as a whole.

“Retail executives maintain a sense of optimism about their own business growth prospects, even while they continue to sour on the idea of a quick recovery of the U.S. economy,” said Burt Feinberg, Group Head of CIT Commercial & Industrial. “This study highlights some of the key factors affecting the retail sector, including the price-conscious consumer, waning consumer confidence, the increased influence of social media, rising commodity costs, and consumer access to credit.”

Key Findings from the Study:

  • NO END IN SIGHT TO FINANCIAL CRISIS: Retail executives remain pessimistic about the U.S. economy, with three-quarters expecting the crisis to extend into 2012 or beyond. A return to growth in the financial markets is also seen as taking some time, as 58% of retail executives don’t see growth resuming until 2013 or later.
  • FUTURE SALES GROWTH TO INCREASE: Retail executives remain cautiously optimistic about their outlook for the coming 12 months. Nearly 60% predict sales will either grow (51%) or grow significantly (8%), with just 9% of executives predicting a sales decline in the next 12 months. Compared with the Retail Finance Outlook 2010 study, retailer optimism has been tempered. Last year, 22% of executives foresaw significant growth, and 68% predicted overall expected growth. The number of executives who predicted any decline in sales was just 2% in 2010.
  • CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM FOR THE HOLIDAY SEASON: Nearly three-quarters of executives see sales improving slightly (38%) or staying about the same (36%) as last year for the overall season. Sensing that price-conscious consumers will be looking for bargains this year, 37% of executives predict an increase in last-minute shopping, while 38% expect post-Christmas shopping days to be stronger. On a related note, nearly half of executives believe both broad discounting and the price of fuel will be driving factors in consumers’ decision to spend.
  • NEW MEDIA MARKETING LEADING GROWTH OPPORTUNITIES: Nearly six in ten executives report their companies are shifting marketing dollars away from old media toward new media, such as social media campaigns. As part of that shift, 68% of respondents report increases in marketing and deals through social media channels, including Facebook and Twitter. In addition, 63% report that their Web sales are growing (28%) or growing faster than other channels (35%).
  • SHIFT TO NEW MEDIA WILL CONTINUE: In a sign that this trend will continue, some 58% of retail executives believe they need to improve their new media marketing strategies, while a further 7% characterize their companies as “late starters” in the new media game.
  • HEALTH CARE COSTS AND REGULATIONS WIDELY SEEN AS NEGATIVE: More than any other topic presented, health care costs and regulations appear to weigh most heavily on the minds of retail executives. Over the next 12 months, nearly two-thirds of executives believe changes in health care costs and regulations will be negative (38%) or strongly negative (25%) for their businesses. Just 6% of executives view them as positive for their businesses.
  • RETAIL FINANCING READILY AVAILABLE: Nearly half of retail executives say their ability to secure financing has not improved or has worsened in the past year. For the year ahead, half of executives expect the availability of financing to be stable, while 30% expect availability to improve and only 10% expect it to worsen.
  • SKEPTICISM AROUND CONSUMER ACCESS TO CREDIT: Retail executives expressed concern about consumers’ ability to finance their own purchases and household costs. When looking ahead to the next 12 months, a third of retailers see consumer access to credit worsening and 22% see it improving, while the remaining 44% expect little change. Interestingly, 22% of executives expect to increase the lines of credit they can extend to consumers in the coming year as well. A smaller percentage (17%) foresees restricting credit to their customers.
  • COMMODITY COSTS CAUSING CONCERN: More than half of retail executives see rising energy costs as being negative (47%) or strongly negative (8%) for business in the 12 months ahead. When asked about raw materials costs, 59% of executives said they feel either negative (48%) or strongly negative (11%) about non-energy commodity costs in the coming year.

EDITOR’S NOTE: To download a free copy of the study and related charts visit: In addition, individuals can download a free copy of the CIT Executive Spotlight on Retail Industry Trends with Burt Feinberg

Individuals interested in receiving future updates on CIT via e-mail can register at

About the Study

The information in this study is based on the results of a September 2011 survey of 100 executives at U.S. middle market retail companies (annual revenues of $25 million to $1 billion). Almost half (49%) of the companies had revenues of less than $100 million; 29% had revenues of $500 million or more. Almost three-quarters of respondents (73%) had titles of director or above; 41% were owners or C-level executives (CEO, CFO, CTO, CIO, etc.).

About Forbes Insights

Forbes Insights ( is the strategic research practice of Forbes Media, publisher of Forbes magazine and Taking advantage of a proprietary database of senior-level executives in the Forbes community, Forbes Insights’ research covers a wide range of vital business issues, including: talent management; marketing; financial benchmarking; risk and regulation; small/midsize business; and more.

About CIT

Founded in 1908, CIT (NYSE: CIT) is a bank holding company with more than $35 billion in financing and leasing assets. A member of the Fortune 500, it provides financing and leasing capital to its more than one million small business and middle market clients and their customers across more than 30 industries. CIT maintains leadership positions in small business and middle market lendingfactoringretail financeaerospace, equipment and rail leasing, and global vendor



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