Consumer

Andrea Felsted is a Bloomberg Gadfly columnist covering the consumer and retail industries. She previously worked at the Financial Times.

It's not just about Brexit.

On Tuesday, Pandora A/S and Primark owner Associated British Foods Plc highlighted risks on the other side of the Atlantic.

Pandora, the Danish charm maker, warned that full-year revenue would be at the low end of its 23 billion krone ($3.6 billion) to 24 billion krone range, due to the impact from the hurricanes in the U.S. and adverse currency movements.

ABF, meanwhile, said Primark would downsize three of the stores it opened early on in its American assault.

With investors focused on the British high street, which is looking increasingly grim, it would be tempting for them to overlook other big markets.

But with the U.S. accounting for a quarter of Pandora's sales last year, and international markets becoming increasingly important to Primark as the opportunities for new stores in the U.K. become more difficult to find, that would be short-sighted.

Pandora warned in August of challenging conditions in the U.S. Compounding its difficulties, it said Tuesday that the hurricanes would cost it about 150 million krone of sales.

American Nightmare
Pandora's U.S. business has gone from charmed to challenging
Source: Company reports, Bloomberg Intelligence

Although Pandora launched its Christmas collection early, helping to drive gains in U.S. web revenue, it's hard to have confidence in the outlook while like-for-like sales at physical stores in such an important market are still falling.

ABF's move, meanwhile, sends a worrying signal about Primark's American expansion. The shares fell 3.8 percent, the most in about two months, also reflecting worries about the conglomerate's sugar business.

The company described the move as "fine tuning," reflecting what it has learned so far about the market over the past two years. While having a smaller footprint makes no difference to sales, it can make the stores more efficient, increasing profit. That's useful when you're investing heavily in a big and challenging market.

It is also still adding space in the U.S.: it has extended its first outpost in Boston by 20 percent, and will open its ninth in Brooklyn next summer.

As Gadfly has argued, Primark has a good chance of cracking the world's largest economy where other British household names have failed. This is thanks in part to its ability to negotiate attractive deals with landlords keen to fill space as other retailers depart or downsize stores.

Primark Position
The success of the discount fashion retailer has kept ABF's valuation above the market and rivals
Source: Bloomberg

But Primark's decision to shrink certain outlets demonstrates that even its journey to building a meaningful U.S. presence won't be a straight line one. Its biggest challenge is raising awareness of the brand.

Ironically, it was Primark's British stores that were the star of the show in the retail chain's full-year sales report.

Primania
Primark is forecast to become the U.K.'s second biggest retailer by market share next year
Source: GlobalData
Note: 2017 and 2018 are forecasts

But with the outlook darkening for the U.K. high street, and Primark's October sales likely to have been adversely affected by recent warm weather, ABF can't afford any slip-ups in the discount retailer's burgeoning international operation.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Andrea Felsted in London at afelsted@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Jennifer Ryan at jryan13@bloomberg.net