Wall Street Times

Student loan relief plan rejected, and retailers wary of aftermath

Student loan
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Student loan — The Supreme Court ruled on Friday that President Joe Biden’s student debt relief program, which would have erased up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower, was unconstitutional.

Student loans are projected to consume a large chunk of budgets in the autumn, when payments and interest accruals resume after a nearly three-year hiatus imposed by the epidemic. Biden also suggested methods to ease the transition to repayment, including the possibility of debt forgiveness. The ruling also demonstrates that outstanding loan balances are larger than they would have been if the court had adhered to Biden’s plan and payments had started.

According to the White House, the student loan reduction proposal would have brought about debt relief for roughly 20 million Americans (45% of borrowers).

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Cautionary spending

Apart from the financial strain of student debt for millions of people around the country, the decision makes firms’ ability to predict client buying behavior in the coming months more difficult.

Despite their increased vigilance, more than 40 million Americans with student loans may now face a new financial hardship once payments begin. Almost all Americans have decreased their spending in some fashion, according to several studies. According to some shops, customers have shifted from high-priced products to lower-priced private-label brands.

The Supreme Court’s ruling comes at a difficult moment, particularly given the implications for shops. Repayment of student loans will start just in time for the hectic back-to-school and holiday seasons.

According to KeyBanc Capital Markets retail analyst Brad Thomas, loan adjustments will not influence whether the US enters a recession. He was concerned, however, that it might have a psychological impact on Americans who are already stuck with hundreds of dollars in monthly payments.

“It’s enough to potentially give us what could be an ugly and disappointing holiday season, relative to expectations,” said Thomas.

Pressure on consumers and companies

In the United States, inflationary forces have increased the cost of food and housing, while recessionary anxieties have increased consumer and business anxiety. Furthermore, government measures like debt relief that were intended to assist households in dealing with the epidemic have failed.

Spending plans for low-income household programs have been raised, and these include:

  • Expanded child tax credits
  • A robust Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
  • Stimulus checks

Consumers have invested their money on experiences rather than products since the cash injection ended, adding to the variables that may affect retail sales in 2023.

The suspension of student loan payments, according to Brad Thomas, was part of the pandemic tailwind for shops. Meanwhile, KeyBanc predicts a 2% yearly headwind to retail sales in the next year unless compensated by rising incomes or further borrowings. Several stores reported fewer sales due to lower tax refunds during earnings calls in the spring.

The percentages change depending on how much borrowers pay each month on their student loans. The typical afflicted household will have to spend roughly $180 per month, according to the Bank of America Institute. Meanwhile, higher education consultant Mark Kantrowitz predicts that the average monthly cost will be approximately $350. Finally, KeyBanc predicts monthly payments ranging from $400 to $460.

There is minimal evidence of Americans spending money on student loans that they did not use, according to Kantrowitz, and he is dubious that payment resumption would have a substantial influence on stores. According to the research, the amount is a negligible portion of the country’s GDP.

“The impact on retailers is, yes, it’s going to be a negative, but it’s not going to be a huge decrease,” explained Kantrowitz. “It is a mild decrease.”

Student loan adjustments, according to Brett House, an economics professor at Columbia University’s business school, are appropriate in view of the problems people face as a result of inflation. The House further stated that when the payments were phased out in 2020, many Americans received increases.

Companies impacted

Some firms may be more affected by the student debt relief decision than others. Several of the businesses stated that they sell high-end items. Analysts at Wells Fargo believe that experience-driven firms are also vulnerable.

Meanwhile, Barclays identified the following companies as the most vulnerable due to their popularity among recent college graduates and newly hired employees:

  • American Eagle Outfitters
  • Figs
  • Urban Outfitters

KeyBanc and other equities research companies have identified Target as a retailer that may face pressure. Despite gaining young, college-educated clientele, their revenue fell.

However, retailers may not have anticipated the commencement of student loan repayments this year, and many significant industry participants have yet to comment on the potential consequences. At the end of the retail earnings cycle, the decision was made to cease the prolongation of the student loan pause.

While some firms may suffer until payment is restored, experts and CEOs are confident that customers will keep spending money on flights and restaurants.