The Shoppers are Shopping!
For the last couple of years it was plastered on news sources both
mainstream and new that the Christmas shopping season was DOA.
Accompanying these stories were warnings of doom for our economy and a
generally gloomy outlook for America’s future. This year’s shopping season has started out with a bang however.
NEW YORK (AP) - The nation’s retailers had a robust
start to the holiday shopping season, according to results announced
Saturday by a national research group that tracks sales at retail
outlets across the country.
According to ShopperTrak RCT Corp., which tracks sales at more than
50,000 retail outlets, total sales rose 8.3 percent to about $10.3
billion on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, compared with $9.5
billion on the same day a year ago. ShopperTrak had expected an
increase of no more than 4 percent to 5 percent.
“This is a really strong number. … You can’t have a good season
unless it starts well,” said Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak,
citing strength across all regions. “It’s very encouraging. When you
look at September and October, shoppers weren’t in the stores.”
In a separate statement released Saturday, J.C. Penney Co. (JCP)
reported “strong performance across all merchandise categories,”
including fine jewelry, outerwear, and young men’s and children’s
But the department store chain cautioned, “while we are encouraged
by our strong start, it is still early in the holiday season, and we
are mindful of the headwinds consumers are facing.”
J.C. Penney, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) and other major retailers
are expected to report same-store results for November on Dec. 6.
Same-store sales are those at stores opened at least a year and are
considered a key indicator of a retailer’s strength.
The upbeat reports were encouraging since merchants have been
struggling with anemic sales in recent months, as shoppers,
particularly in the middle and lower-income brackets, were becoming
more frugal amid higher gas and food prices and an escalating credit
In an apparent sign of desperation, the nation’s stores ushered in
the official start of the holiday shopping season on Friday with
expanded hours, including midnight openings, and a blitz of early
morning specials that were more generous than a year ago. J.C. Penney
and Kohl’s Corp. (KSS) opened at 4 a.m., an hour earlier than a year
The strategy appears to have worked, as shoppers jammed stores in
record numbers for early morning deals on Friday. Martin noted that
judging by the strong figures on Friday, stores were able to sustain
strong sales throughout the day. He said he’s counting on strong
traffic throughout the weekend as many stores, including Macy’s Inc.
(M), are continuing with special deals.
While Black Friday - so named because it was traditionally when the
surge of shopping made stores profitable - starts holiday shopping, it
is not considered a bellwether for the season. However, merchants see
Black Friday as setting an important tone to the overall season: What
consumers see that day influences where they will shop for the rest of
Last year, retailers had a good start during the Thanksgiving
weekend, but many stores struggled in December, and a shopping surge
just before and after Christmas wasn’t enough to make up for lost sales.
This year, the Washington-based National Retail Federation predicted
that total holiday sales would be up 4 percent for the combined
November and December period, the slowest growth since a 1.3 percent
rise in 2002. Holiday sales rose 4.6 percent in 2006 and growth has
averaged 4.8 percent over the last decade.
Fine, go dump on our parade AP. But I don’t think they’re right with
there last sentences of warning. People I know aren’t pinching their
pennies this Christmas season (and they’re by no means “rich”). All I’m
saying is that things on the ground in SoCal look better then those
lukewarm predictions would have one think. I hope I’m right. BigT