Bad Omens for Last Minute Christmas Shopping

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.

From Bloomberg:

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.

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  1. fresno dan

    being a male, I ain’t buying nothing. Friends at work bought me lunch at a mall (PF Chang) since my birthday is Dec 29. The women had to buy something – Nicole bought 89$ sunglasses at banana republic (she said they were not an impulse purchase, even though they look exactly like her other sunglasses). Seemed like a lot of traffic at the mall, but not too many shopping bags. I told her Bernanke and Paulson would send her a special thank you/Christmas card for her purchase.

  2. Glen

    Here in OZ they are talking about record spends for Christmas! Either we’re really stupid and have NFI about what’s happening outside Fortress Australia or we do but don’t give a flying f**k, so what the hell; the world is about to grind to a halt so let’s enjoy the last hurrah. Probably abit of both I suspect. Right – off to crack coldie and open a present we can’t afford.

  3. Anonymous

    I wonder how many will partake of the Aussie classic of re-gifting. Take an old gift, re-wrap and hand over as new, retailers worst nightmare.

    BTW another good example, of when a man made system is weak, some unforeseeable act of nature or other, will further erode its capacity/performance and its ability to to correct its position against these forces.

    If this effect cascades, well their is little to do but rework the system. The time lines/durations of events usually happen in 10, 20 to 40 year durations, with equal periods of seemingly calm/normal events. Hence the feeling of normalcy and no need to rework the system till it becomes to overstressed and collapses.

    All because the human mind as an individual and as a collective society needs to be reaffirmed/placated/consoled in short time frames, regardless of its detachment to the facts.


  4. russell1200

    Maybe we need to give everyone a 5 year old.

    It’s a double bonus. You buy more gifts, AND the enthusiasm reciprocated per gift doubles as well.

  5. Saks

    Remember last January – sales got a big big bump from gift card redemption – this year gift card sales tanked – When the January retail sales numbers are reported in the first week of Feb. it will be a disaster

  6. Just another CIA created monster


    Sounds good. I will package my 5 year old in a box. It should make some FBI agent’s day. Another anonymous serial killer pokes his head out of the CIA wack-a-mole machine…

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