Sector Morsel: A new look at retail inventory

A new dataset looks at corporate payments to shipping companies to better understand business behaviors.

Headshot of Anna Zhou

Anna Zhou

Headshot of David Tinsley

David Tinsley

    July 2023

Key takeaways

  • We introduce the use of a Bank of America corporate dataset to provide an alternative measure of retail inventory through the lens of corporate payments. We believe this is particularly useful in understanding the supply chain disruptions that have beset retailers over recent years.
  • Bank of America data showed a sharp rise in payments by U.S. retailers to transportation and shipping companies in 2020-2021 as they sought to catch up to surging demand for goods during the pandemic by ramping up inventories, followed by a rapid reversal by late 2022/early 2023 as consumers pivoted back to services.
  • Inventory is more in balance today, but some sectors like autos and clothing stores maintain leaner inventories than they historically have. Does this reflect lessons learned during the pandemic or continued supply challenges? We will keep monitoring the data for clearer signs.

Read our full analysis for a more in-depth look at these trends.