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Target’s CEO says the consumer environment is ‘perhaps the strongest’ in his career — and he’s not alone

Will it last?

Target’s dog, Bullseye, sits on a red Target-logo stool in front of a Target-themed backdrop.
Target’s dog, Bullseye, is happy about the economy, too.
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for NYX Professional Makeup
Rani Molla is a senior correspondent at Vox and has been focusing her reporting on the future of work. She has covered business and technology for more than a decade — often in charts — including at Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal.

Retail executives have long lamented secular declines or competition from e-commerce (really, Amazon) — and the subsequent dwindling sales — on earnings calls, but this quarter felt downright optimistic. A number of major U.S. retailers have released positive quarterly reports lately — and many of them are thanking a healthy economy that has boosted consumer spending.

“There’s no doubt that, like others, we’re currently benefiting from a very strong consumer environment, perhaps the strongest I’ve seen in my career,” Target CEO Brian Cornell said today on the company’s earnings call after reporting revenue that beat expectations.

Other top retailers have been singing a similar tune on their earnings calls.

  • Walmart VP of Investor Relations Dan Binder: “Job growth is great. Wages are up. Credit is expanding ... So the consumer is in great shape. In the surveys that we look at, they tell us that they are feeling good about their financial condition.”
  • Home Depot CFO Carol B. Tomé: “As we look to the back half of the year, we continue to expect strong economic growth, with the backdrop of a healthy home improvement environment. Homeowners continue to enjoy home price appreciation, and rising wages and low unemployment have driven consumer confidence to record high levels.”
  • Macy’s CEO Jeffrey Gennette: “Based on the first-half performance, our strong execution and the anticipation of continued healthy consumer spending, we’re raising both sales and earnings guidance for the year.”
  • Lowe’s CFO Marshall A. Croom: “We expect to see solid sector growth driven by gains in employment which should boost disposable income and consumer spending.”

Their optimism is in line with a record-high market that could soon mark the longest bull run ever. Note that the previous record began in 1990 and ended with the dot-com bubble.

Of course, the internet isn’t going away, and retailers still, really, have to contend with Amazon. So, we’ll see how long this exuberance lasts. But at least this quarter they’re happy.

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