Monday, November 26, 2007

A Note On Holiday Sales

From Bloomberg:

Sales gained in the days after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday as retailers lured more customers with discounts even as individual shoppers spent less on average.

ShopperTrak RCT Corp. reported yesterday an 8.3 percent gain in sales the day after Thanksgiving, a bigger increase than it expected. The National Retail Federation said 147 million customers visited stores, up 4.8 percent from a year earlier, while shoppers spent 3.5 percent less per person.

Both groups left their forecasts for the holiday season unchanged, with the NRF predicting the slowest increase in sales in five years. Customers have cut back on spending in the face of increased costs for milk and gasoline and the worst housing slump in 16 years, forcing Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Macy's Inc. and other retailers to slash prices.


Shoppers spent an average of $347.44 on purchases from Nov. 22 through yesterday, the NRF said based on a poll it commissioned from BIGresearch. Consumers chose to buy less- expensive digital-photo frames and cashmere sweaters instead of the high-definition televisions they favored last year, NRF spokesman Scott Krugman said.

A few notes:

1.) For about the last 5 years most of the news stories in the pre-holiday period were ones of concern. "The shopper is tapped out" etc....

2.) For about the last 5 years, these predictions have been wrong.

Americans love to shop, and will do it to their detriment if possible. And considering the overall position of US households right now, a big Christmas shopping season probably isn't a good idea. But now there's a question of what people should do and what they will do.

However, this year there are serious economic headwinds. Gas prices are a lot higher than usual for this time of the year. The housing market is a mess and the stock market is on shaky ground.

Here's the point. To my ears, the news is nothing more than a large cacophony right now as various players try and get their viewpoints into the news. My guess is trade groups want to be bullish, individual retailers are desperately trying to manage expectations and other people who have their own agenda will try and promote that agenda.

I don't expect to have a firm view on retail sales until after the season is over and the numbers come in. It's that simple.

Oh yeah -- I plan do do most of my shopping online because I hate shopping crowds.