Retailers and private label card issuers have increased issuance of ABS transactions in 2000 as corporate bond spreads in many retail names widened considerably in the second half. The challenging retail environment, downward revisions to earnings estimates by major retailers, and the potential for a slowdown of the US economy have made it difficult to issue new paper in the unsecured debt markets. As a result, supply of retail and private label credit card ABS in 2000 got a boost and increased substantially to total $4.7 billion, a 102% increase over the $2.3 billion issued in 1999. The biggest issuer was Sears, Roebuck and Co., which issued four deals totaling $2.9 billion from its master trust, SCAMT. Sears is the largest issuer of retail card ABS with $11.7 billion outstanding at year end 2000. There were $14.9 billion of retail card and private label ABS outstanding on December 31, 2000.
Issuance also got a boost from the refinancing of deals that matured this year. Spiegel Inc. came out of hibernation with a $600 million five-year, floating-rate deal issued out of Spiegel Master Trust (SPMT). Neiman Marcus Group Inc, a high-end specialty retailer, also re-entered the market in July with a $300 million, five-year floater issued from NMMT, which refinanced $300 million from Series 1995-1, which matured this year.