Beyond the Build

Construction Trends

For Retailers, A Catch 22 Today Means Liquid Assets for Tomorrow

I read recently in the Wall Street Journal that as of May, retailer Bed Bath & Beyond had $1.64 billion in cash and short-term treasuries, and expects to generate at least another $600 million by February. Nationwide, non-financial businesses had approximately $1.85 trillion in liquid assets as of June. That’s pretty good, I would say. It’s just short of the record high set in the first quarter of this year.

To me it seems that executives at many U.S. companies are in a similar situation these days. They have a significant amount of money at their disposal, and they’re not sure what to do with it.

They’re not expanding like they once were because consumers aren’t spending like they used to. There is no need to increase production amid such anemic growth. Couple that with low interest rates, and companies can’t find any meaningful way to invest their money. And so the cash sits, waiting for a profitable use.

Eventually, consumers will pay down their debt, begin feeling good about the economy and start spending again. The good news is, when that happens—and it feels like we are now on the up tick—there is a wealth of cash ready to pour back into the market.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.