A not-so-bad Black Friday led retailers to hope that the Christmas selling season might not be as awful as feared. Unfortunately, sales appeared to have petered out in the typically busy last few selling days, in part due to rotten weather in the northern part of the country.
U.S. retail store traffic fell 24 percent last weekend from a year earlier as deepened discounts failed to entice consumers to spend during what may be the worst holiday-shopping season in four decades.
Retail sales declined 5.3 percent Dec. 19 through Dec. 21 because of inclement weather and a slowing U.S. economy, Chicago-based research firm ShopperTrak RCT Corp. said today in a statement….
ShopperTrak said yesterday that U.S. customer traffic on Dec. 20, also known as “Super Saturday,” fell 17 percent from the corresponding day a year earlier, Dec. 22, 2007. Foot traffic was hurt by the economy, unfavorable weather and a calendar shift, the Chicago-based research firm said today in a statement. Sales for the day rose 0.5 percent.
Same-store sales in November and December may drop as much as 2 percent, the International Council of Shopping Centers said yesterday, more than the previously projected 1 percent decline. That would make it the worst Christmas sales season in at least 40 years.
And a separate Bloomberg story suggests that retailers will not get a boost from gift cards, since consumers are steering clear of them due to worries about bankruptcy:
Spending on holiday gift cards in the U.S. may fall 5.3 percent to $24.9 billion this year, while overall sales increase, according to the National Retail Federation trade group. Gift-card sales growth slowed to 5.8 percent last year from 34 percent in 2006, according to NRF data…
While more retailers will probably close stores or file for bankruptcy, many will probably still honor their gift cards as long as they are not liquidating, Dave Sievers, head of the retail practice at Stamford, Connecticut-based Archstone Consulting LLC.
But consumers understandably do not want to turn themselves into retail analysts to make what ought to be a no-hassle purchase decision. Better to resort to other gift-giving options.