Stocks to sell

Edge of the Abyss: 3 Stocks Flirting With Disaster

This week, the Fed affirmed a “higher for longer” stance that could send some investors’ dreams tumbling down — particularly affecting these three stocks to sell. While each has had ups and downs over the past few years, the post-pandemic whiplash that included poor consumer sentiment and slacking sales may be the final nail in their respective coffins.

Worse yet, one of the stocks to sell meets poor consumer sentiment and higher interest rates at the worst possible junction. It offers short-term loans to consumers with poor credit, even as higher rates increase default risks across the board. While that’s a unique situation, the wider economic landscape affects all three equally. That’s particularly true as each stock-to-sell struggles to adapt to changing trends and consumer preferences.

Kohl’s (KSS)

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Kohl’s (NYSE:KSS) is set to tread the same path as Sears — a slow downward march leading to (in my view) inevitable insolvency and collapse, making it a top retail stock to sell. While many factors are forcing the stock downward, many of which are well-worn ground I won’t cover, Kohl’s downfall will likely come purely from failure to adapt, like the infamous Bed Bath & Beyond debacle.

Specifically, Kohl’s hasn’t embraced eCommerce to the same extent that competitors like The TJX Companies (NYSE:TJX) have. Specifically, Kohl’s created an online purchase/in-store pickup model that seeks to create an iterative flywheel to drive further spending in-store once customers arrive. Thus far, that hasn’t worked well. While we need to wait until next week for up-to-date stats, Kohl’s third-quarter filing showed a weak 35% of digital sales fulfilled in-store and a pathetic 8% digital sales CAGR over the past five years. And, no, that CAGR isn’t a mistake. Over a period in which pandemic-facilitated online sales boomed, KSS managed just 8% annual growth.

A slew of big-name partnerships, like Amazon’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) returns processing, further reinforces Kohl’s ill-informed managerial emphasis on in-store shopping as they try not to capture customers by quality product or sales but to spark impulse buys. Already doing poorly in the eCommerce arena, inviting one of the biggest names in the sector to treat your store as an “I don’t want this product” dumping ground seems short-sighted — to say the least.

Big Lots (BIG)

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Discount store extraordinaire Big Lots (NYSE:BIG) also stands out as a retail stock to sell for many of the same reasons driving the Kohl’s thesis. The inability to adapt to eCommerce trends and fighting for a cost leadership position against cheaper discount stores (with wider offerings) like Dollar General (NYSE:DG) is pushing Big Lots’ stock downward and making it worth a sell today.

Big Lots is touting a new directorship hire as a move destined to reorient the company’s course. Maureen Short has a storied legacy that includes a CFO position with Upbound Group (NASDAQ:UPBD), also known as Rent-A-Center, and roles with Blockbuster. Frankly, while Ms. Short is doubtlessly qualified, Big Lots’ decision to highlight her experience working for a company that famously refused to adapt to changing consumer trends is questionable.

Across the board, Big Lots’ sales are slumping, with the “best” category (Consumables) dropping 7% and the worst (Furniture) falling 17%. Big Lots’ time as a one-stop discount stop is over as companies like Dollar General focus product lines more narrowly, especially as high inventory costs compound slow sales for big-ticket items like furniture.

Affirm Holdings (AFRM)

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Affirm Holdings (NASDAQ:AFRM) differs from our other two stocks to sell in two respects. One, the stock works within the wider alternative lending sphere rather than retail. Second, AFRM shares are on a record run. Per-share pricing nearly tripled over the past year. But that upward trend won’t last, making the fintech stock one to sell soon.

Credit card delinquencies are spiking, and it’s reasonable to use these consumer credit reports as an early leading indicator that doesn’t bode well for Affirm’s buy now/pay later (BNPL) lending model. Since there are fewer credit requirements for BNPL lending, and those with poor credit are more likely to finance their groceries (with due empathy toward those doing so), it’s reasonable to project that trouble for Affirm’s loan portfolio is coming soon.

Affirm seemingly agrees, as its most recent filing increased its provision for credit losses (unpaid loans) by $30 million. If rates remain higher for longer, as the Fed affirmed this week, a cascading consumer credit event could bring Affirm to its knees rapidly.

On the date of publication, Jeremy Flint held no positions (directly or indirectly) in the securities mentioned. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

Jeremy Flint, an MBA graduate and skilled finance writer, excels in content strategy for wealth managers and investment funds. Passionate about simplifying complex market concepts, he focuses on fixed-income investing, alternative investments, economic analysis, and the oil, gas, and utilities sectors. Jeremy’s work can also be found at www.jeremyflint.work.

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