Last night, Hanoi government officials reported 28% growth in inflation, and cut economic growth estimates to 6.5-7% from 8%. “Our goals are to achieve 7% economic growth, and inflation at 25%.” Gee guys, thanks for aiming high in the most stagflationary environment Vietnam has seen since the mid-1990s.
- The good news for the footwear and apparel industry is that exposure here is not huge – only 4% of US consumption is sourced in Vietnam. Not the case for Nike and Adidas, however. These guys have more diversified manufacturing bases, but source roughly 1/3 of their respective footwear in Vietnam (Nike is 33%, and Adi is 30%).
- This scares me big-time. And it’s got to be scaring the two largest footwear companies in the industry. This will pressure margins in calendar ’09, and more importantly, it will cause disruption for the little guys that they’re not currently planning for.
- Think about it… Nike wakes up one morning and realizes that it needs to pay an extra 20% to cover wages in Vietnam. Yes, it will make its partner there whole to some degree. But it will also find capacity in China, Indonesia and Thailand that is currently occupied by smaller competitors, and muscle them out of their space.
- This is bad for Nike and bad for Adi, but will not destroy their margins. This will take margins away from everyone else in the industry, who will try as hard as possible to push the pain off to the next guy in line. This is when marginal brands and retailers take a massive hit (Skechers, Brown Shoe, DSW, and even Dick’s), the big guys hang in there and print numbers that are ‘less bad’ than the group, and good brands with poor management teams get taken out (Timberland).
- This space is going to be fun…
This morning's unemployment rate was printed at +6.1%. This is a new 5 year high. No, this is not good - but it's not a new revelation to people who aren't living Wall Street's narrative fallacy that the global market contagion wouldn’t spill over to Main Street.
We are still early innings of an accelerating unemployment cycle. This isn't just about the "credit cycle". See the "Trend" in US jobless claims below. Math is hard to debate.
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I've moved from 81% to 79% cash.
So what are the benefits? The clear positive to the gaming industry of ETS is reduced labor costs. To get an idea of magnitude, roughly half of MGM’s revenues goes to labor. The employee base is not comprised of all dealers, of course. But could MGM improve EBITDA margins by 10% by eliminating dealers? Holding everything else constant, maybe.
The key, as always, is the consumer. If the consumer doesn’t embrace ETS then it won’t happen, no matter how much labor it saves. The cost benefits of cashless gaming were apparent long before SunCoast proved the consumer would adapt. The second hurdle may already be tripping up Excalibur. Nobody wants to lose their job. New technology always displaces and disrupts and ETS would be no different. As the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported, some dealers are vocally not happy with MGM. A total of 40 dealers were let go, although the company did promise to find them jobs at other MGM casinos. I’ve written extensively on the growing influence of labor unions on the gaming industry, particularly if Obama wins the presidency. ETS would be one more issue for the labor bosses to pounce on.
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