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Clearly, cheap scented candles and hand sanitizers aren't immune to recession fears either

·Anchor, Editor-at-Large
·3 min read
In this article:
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Scented candles and hand sanitizer at Bath & Body Works aren't known to siphon money out of one's wallet given their cheap price points, but apparently recession-weary shoppers are now seeing otherwise.

Bath & Body Works shares fell about 2% in Wednesday trading after the retailer slashed its second-quarter earnings estimate to $0.40-$0.42 a share. Previously, the company forecasted earnings of $0.60-$0.65 a share.

"As we progressed through the second quarter, we experienced declines in traffic trends compared to the first quarter of 2022," the company said in pre-recorded commentary accompanying the warning. "Our customer continues to respond to our merchandise and our shopping experience in stores and online. However, our data indicates that customers, particularly lower-income customers, have become more cost conscious and are limiting purchases and/or seeking out lower-priced sale merchandise as they are being impacted by the overall inflationary environment."

Analysts wasted no time serving up critical hot takes on the massive profit whiff from the scented lotion king.

A"More concerning to us was the implied second-half margin outlook, which we estimate are baking in 600-700 basis points more promotional pressure in second half versus the outlook two months ago," Evercore ISI nalyst Omar Saad said. "Recall that we just downgraded Bath & Body Works last week on concerns that its sales are being pressured both by normalization and spending shift towards more experiential categories."

The company's shares are down 57% year to date.

An ongoing trend

Bath & Body Works is just the latest example of increasing stress on the country's retailers as shoppers reign in their spending due to rampant inflation.

In early June, Target kicked off concerns about the retail sector's health with a shocking decision to liquidate massive amounts of slow-moving inventory and take a more cautious view on near-term profits.

Since then, discretionary retailers such as RH, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Kohl's have issued financial warnings for their second quarters. Nike took a more measured approach to its full-year financial outlook when it reported quarterly earnings.

Amy Perkins looks at candles in the Bath and Body Works store at White Marsh Mall in Maryland. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Amy Perkins looks at candles in the Bath and Body Works store at White Marsh Mall in Maryland. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Gap also fired its CEO last week after another lackluster quarter.

"I have never — maybe I don't remember — seen as much discounting with as much merchandise with high percents off," former Gap and J Crew CEO Mickey Drexler said on Yahoo Finance Live recently.

Amid the concerns about profits for retailers, the Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR Fund has tanked 26% so far in 2022 compared to an 17% decline for the S&P 500.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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