Monday, December 29, 2008

The downhill trend in holiday sales

Three seasons of Holiday Shopping

(2006 season) January 13, 2007: The Wall Street Journal reports December Retail Sales Jump 0.9% Amid Robust Holiday Shopping Season:
As it turned out, shoppers spent more freely during the just-ended holiday season than had been thought, helping some retailers end the year on strong footing and suggesting that economic growth could be rebounding faster than expected.

Retail sales jumped 0.9% in December from the month before, to a seasonally adjusted $369.9 billion, the Commerce Department said Friday. December's growth was up from a gain of 0.6% in November and was the strongest rate of growth in retail sales since July. When compared to December a year ago, retail sales were up 5.4% compared with December-to-December growth of 5.7% in 2005.

Although full-year growth in 2006 was lower than in 2005, economists noted that sales in the final three months of last year were regaining momentum.
(2007 Season) January 11, 2008: Wall Street Journal reports Retailers Post Tepid Growth:
U.S. retail sales last month weakened, especially among clothing chains, but weren't the disaster some predicted.

The report capped a year that turned out to be retailers' worst in at least four years and a holiday season that hit a five-year low. Still, a sales gain for the industry as a whole in December -- albeit slight -- lent some reassurance that consumers continue to spend.

The decline prompted a number of retailers, led by Kohl's Corp., to chop fourth-quarter earnings projections. Investors, however, pushed up depressed share prices in a relief rally as January inventories appeared tame and a weak U.S. dollar continues to boost international results.

The results confirmed pre-holiday worries that falling home prices and high gasoline prices would crimp consumer spending. Retail Metrics Inc.'s index of December same-store sales rose a scant 0.4%, compared to a 3.2% gain the previous year. Comparisons, in part, were skewed by December's reporting period having one less week of post-Thanksgiving sales than in 2006.
The carnage of 2008: Today's Wall Street Journal reports that Holiday Retail Sales Plummet:
No retail sector was spared. Among the biggest losers were electronics and appliances, which fell a combined 26.7% versus a 2.7% gain last year. Women's apparel slid 22.7% compared with a 2.4% drop a year ago. E-commerce showed the most resilience, with online sales falling just 2%. But it was still a disappointment compared with last year when online sales posted a 22.4% gain in the period.

In addition to sales at stores and online, SpendingPulse tracks spending at restaurants and on gift cards, though retailers don't book revenue from card sales until they are redeemed. Its data are based on sales activity in the MasterCard payments network with estimates for all other payment forms, including cash and checks.

At the Prudential Center mall in downtown Boston on Christmas Eve, Stephen Sweigart and Paul Heffernan were perusing sale items and refused to buy anything for less than half off.

Mr. Sweigart said he wasn't spending as much on family this year, and was making donations to charity in lieu of gifts due to the recession. "It makes unwrapping presents a lot faster, and we spent less money. It's a win-win," he said.RW: The trend is clear: consumers went from big spenders to thrifty spenders in two short years. Good thing for retailers that gas prices fell back to 2004 levels.
RW: The trend is clear: consumers went from big spenders to thrifty spenders in just two short years. Good thing for retailers, though, that gas prices plummeted.

Rebecca Wilder


  1. Talk about a precipitous drop!! I loved gassing up yesterday - the numbers seemed to turn almost in tandem. Just waiting for the next big move in all sectors, up or down.

  2. Ken Fisher pointed out (Dec 22, Forbes):

    (1) the S&P 500 is going for 12 times earnings for the 12 months ending Oct. 31
    (2) in the 3rd qtr roughly 2/3 of forms reported higher earnings thru Nov 25.
    (3) 2/3 reported earnings stronger than analysts' latest expectations
    (4) ON Oct 13, THE S&P DIVIDEND YIELD WAS 3.74%...that means it exceeded the yield on the ten-year Treasury note for the 1st time since 1958.

  3. I don't think stocks can, or will turn, until April09 (Greenspan said the same).

  4. Take a look at default risk on stocks though, and the total loss they bring. That's the major fundamental that's holding stock prices down.

  5. I guess in this environment, it's more accurate to replace "default risk" with "risk of share dilution through gov't capital injection, nationalizatoin risk, and default risk."


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