Retail Sales See Solid Gains in First Half of Holiday Season

November retail sales grew a solid 5 percent year over year and 0.1 percent from an already-strong October as consumers found the deals they were hoping for both online and in stores and showed their purchasing power during the first half of the holiday season, according to calculations released today by the National Retail Federation. Online and other non-store sales grew 15.3 percent year over year, reflecting the growth of online shopping. The numbers exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants.

“Consumers were able to take advantage of low prices throughout the first half of the holiday season, checking out with full baskets but paying less even though purchasing was up,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “The combination of job and wage gains led to solid holiday spending by American households.”

“Consumers have the wherewithal to spend but households remain measured and rational, which is no surprise given their history since the recovery began in 2009,” Kleinhenz said.

There were broad-based monthly increases across the majority of sectors with the exception of sporting goods.

November’s results indicate that retail sales for the holiday season will meet or exceed NRF’s holiday sales forecast, which anticipates an increase of 3.6 percent over last year’s level for November and December. For a look into the art of forecasting, read Kleinhenz’s article: The Art and Science of Economic Forecasting.

A few specifics from the report include:

  • Online and other non-store sales increased 0.1 percent seasonally adjusted over the previous month and increased 15.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sales at clothing and accessories stores were flat from the previous month and increased 1.9 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sales at general merchandise stores increased 0.1 percent seasonally adjusted over the previous month and decreased 1.4 percent year-over-year.
  • Electronics and appliances stores’ sales increased 0.1 percent seasonally adjusted over the previous month and decreased 2.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores’ sales decreased 0.7 percent seasonally adjusted over the previous month and decreased 7.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sales at building materials and supplies stores increased 0.3 percent seasonally adjusted over the previous month and increased 7.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sporting goods stores’ sales decreased 1 percent seasonally adjusted over the previous month and increased 1.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sales at health and personal care stores increased 0.1 percent seasonally adjusted over the previous month and increased 7.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

More people shopped over Thanksgiving weekend than last year — but they spent less

About 154 million shoppers made purchases at stores or on e-commerce sites this holiday weekend, the National Retail Federation reported Sunday, a bump up from the 151 million people who last year participated in the annual barrage of Black Friday deals.

And though it is encouraging for the retail industry that more consumers opened their wallets this time around, it wasn’t all good news: Average spending per person was down to $289.19 from $299.60 in 2015.

Matt Shay, the chief executive of the National Retail Federation (NRF), attributed the decline in spending to just how deep and broad the discounts were over the four-day weekend. While the promotions offered during this period were probably preplanned and thus baked into the retailers’ sales plans, it could prove a troublesome dynamic for them if ultra-deep discounts end up being needed all season long to get people shopping.

But other factors could have contributed to the decline in per-person spending: Retailers have been spreading their Black Friday deals out over a longer stretch, so it’s possible that many people pounced on offers several days before Thanksgiving even arrived. And NRF’s survey found that about 122 million people plan to shop on Cyber Monday, up from 121 million last year. So perhaps some consumers are holding out for the fresh batch of deals that will arrive after the weekend comes to an end.

The survey results reflect the increasing importance of e-commerce in the retail landscape. This year, about 108.5 million people shopped online over the holiday season, compared with 103 million last year. Meanwhile, the number of people who shopped in stores fell to 99.1 million from 101 million last year.

Indeed, other data released this weekend offers evidence that online spending was strong on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Adobe, which analyzed 22.6 billion visits to retail websites, reports that a record $3.34 billion was spent online on Black Friday, up 21.6 percent from the previous year. Sales on Thanksgiving Day were up 11.5 percent to $1.93 billion.

Adobe’s research found that top-selling items included iPads, Samsung 4K televisions and toys such as Lego Creator sets and the Barbie Dreamhouse.

The NRF had earlier projected that the retail industry would see a 3.6 percent increase in sales this holiday season over last year. That would be significantly better than the 3 percent growth registered in 2015. The trade group’s chief economist, Jack Kleinhenz, said Sunday that he believes that prediction “holds up pretty well” right now, even as some have asked whether the surprising election results might have altered consumers’ mind-set.

Experts say that in a presidential campaign year, we typically see that the election serves as a temporary distraction, with shoppers getting their gift-buying started a little later than they might otherwise. NRF’s survey seems to reflect that dynamic: About 23 percent of respondents said they hadn’t started their holiday shopping yet, compared with 19 percent last year. And a smaller share of people have finished their holiday shopping. This year, just 9 percent of shoppers have done so, compared with 11 percent last year.

 

November 27 at 3:53 PM

The Washington Post

Photo:Byron Siekavizza wheels his television to his car as he gets a jump-start on shopping for deals at Best Buy on Thanksgiving in Alexandria. (Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)

Higher Wages And Easy Credit Likely To Spur Holiday Sales, Retailers Say

Rising wages and cheap loans are setting the stage for a strong holiday season, according to retailers, consultants and pollsters.

On Tuesday, the National Retail Federation predicted a 3.6-percent increase in holiday sales, compared with 2015. That’s considerably better than the 10-year average gain of 2.5 percent for the holiday period.

Why the optimism? “People have more money in their pocket and an expanded use of credit,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said on a conference call with reporters.

The industry trade group expects sales to hit $655.8 billion, up from $626.1 billion last year. Kleinhenz says consumers are being buoyed by low unemployment, rising income and low interest rates.

Other studies, done by consulting firms such as Kantar Retail, Deloitte and theInternational Council of Shopping Centers, all forecast holiday spending growth of 3.2 percent to 4 percent.

The projections reflect not only easy credit and improving incomes, but also rising confidence. Last week, the University of Michigan raised its September Index of Consumer Sentiment to 91.8, a 4.6 percent increase over last year. In its latest report, the Conference Board said consumer confidence has reached its highest levels since August 2007.

Still, things can go wrong, as they did last year. NRF says unusually warm weather in much of the country in December 2015 caused seasonal sales to come in $4.4 billion below expectations.

And this year, there could be another big “unknown” that disturbs consumer confidence. When asked if surprising election results might shake holiday spending, Kleinhenz downplayed the threat, saying the economy “is a big aircraft carrier, it’s not going to turn on a dime.”

But retail analysts say one thing is certain: more shopping will be done online. The NRF forecasts a 7 percent to 10 percent increase in sales occurring outside of stores, such as online purchases. Other consultants predict even higher upticks in online sales, some as high as 17 to 19 percent.

College student Tony Fitzgerald, who was shopping for clothes in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, says he shares the sense of rising optimism as the economy improves. “I definitely plan on spending more this year than last year,” he said. “It just feels right.”

Christmas Sales Are Expected to Be Strong This Year

Retail sales should jump a solid 3.6% this year

Finally.

U.S. retailers can expect a strong holiday season this year, buoyed by income gains and rising consumer confidence according to the National Retail Federation.

The industry group forecast holiday season sales—excluding car sales, gas and restaurants—would rise 3.6% to $655.8 billion, well above the 10-year clip of 2.5% growth and better than the 3% rise for the 2015 Christmas period. And online business should be a big help, rising as much as 10% during the period.

The holiday season is crucial for many retailers, making or breaking the year for some chains and generating as much as 30% of sales.

2016 has proven to be a challenging year so far,particularly for stores like Macy’s, M 0.77% Kohl’s KSS 0.91% and Target TGT -0.04% , which had to deal with sales declines last quarter. Shoppers are moving online and also away from apparel, making it tough going for many such chains. A notable exception has been Walmart WMT -0.36% , which has fared well thanks to improved customer service, fewer out-of-stock items, and an improved e-commerce site.

And as Walmart and Amazon.com AMZN -0.32% have shown so far this year, retailers will engage in pricing warfare to outdo one another: Target for one has said it needs to re-emphasize its low prices in its marketing given the competitive environment. And weak traffic at hundreds of malls is hurting the like of Macy’s and Gap Inc GPS -0.18% .

But at least shoppers are in a better mood heading into the holiday season. “Consumers have seen steady job and income gains throughout the year, resulting in continued confidence and the greater use of credit, which bodes well for more spending throughout the holiday season,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a statement, adding that anxiety about the outcome of the election could weigh on shoppers’ mood.

And once again, retailers will have to fight extra hard with Amazon to give shoppers a reason to come to stores, or at least to their websites. Last year was the first year more shoppers went online on Black Friday than to stores. This year eMarketer expects digital sales to surpass 10% of total holiday season revenue for the first time, while a recent study found that nearly half of all online shopping searches begin on Amazon.

In a separate forecast, PwC estimated holiday spending would increase 10% during the 2016 season, though stores would struggle to get their share since shoppers will be spending proportionately more on experiences and travel.

a OCTOBER 4, 2016,

Holiday sales to rise 3.6 percent this winter: NRF

A more confident group of consumers are expected to loosen their purse strings this holiday, and are seen sparking an acceleration in retail sales growth over last year.

The National Retail Federation on Tuesday said it expects retail sales excluding automobiles, gasoline and restaurants to rise 3.6 percent in November and December, to $655.8 billion. That would mark an acceleration over last year’s 3 percent increase, and would easily top the 10-year average of 2.5 percent growth.

The trade organization’s forecast, considered the industry benchmark, is based on an economic model that factors in consumer credit, monthly retail sales and personal income.

NRF anticipates non-store sales, which skew toward digital, will increase between 7 percent and 10 percent, to as much as $117 billion.

“We have a lot more people working this year,” Jack Kleinhenz, NRF’s chief economist, told reporters.

When factoring in other indicators like wage growth and higher home prices, “our general sense of the economy is that we’re in better shape than we were last year,” Kleinhenz said.

Source: NRF

Retailers got off to a rocky start in 2016, as last winter’s unseasonably warm temperatures left their shelves stocked with coats and scarves. Stores were forced to aggressively discount these items to make way for spring goods, cutting into their margins. Retailers have finally gotten their inventory levels in check, boding well for their profitability this season.

Yet even as more Americans are working and receiving slightly higher paychecks, they’ve been reluctant to spend on traditional retail goods — namely apparel. Broad-based discounting has also cut into retailers’ top lines, requiring them to sell more items to record a gain.

And weather once again took a toll on sales in August and September, thanks to a warm back-to-school and early fall selling season. High temperatures dented apparel specialty stores’ revenue by $393 million during those two months as compared with the prior year, according to new research by Planalytics.

More broadly speaking, data from the Commerce Department shows that retail sales in August slipped on a monthly basis for the first time since March.

Despite the slowdown, Planalytics predicts temperatures on the densely populated East Coast will be more in line with typical years this holiday, which should help spur demand for cold-weather categories. And while some holiday purchases may be pushed back because of the election, the trade organization said it does not anticipate political uncertainty to dent sales.

“This year has not been perfect,” NRF President Matthew Shay conceded. “Overall we think this is a realistic number and very reflective of the current environment.”

Like NRF, separate forecasts from Deloitte, AlixPartners, the International Council of Shopping Centers and RetailNext are all calling for growth between 3.2 percent and 4 percent. PwC expects a more robust 10 percent lift in spending; unlike the other predictions, its forecast includes spending on restaurants and travel.

Retail sales excluding automobiles and parts rose 2.8 percent through August, according to the Commerce Department.

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CNBC

Forecast: Holiday Sales to Increase 3.6 Percent

The first forecasts for the upcoming 2016 holiday season have been released, and they predict that retailers will enjoy solid sales during the crucial season which can comprise more than 20 percent of a retailer’s annual business, according to the National Retail Federation, the Washington D.C. retail trade organization.

Retail sales during November and December, excluding auto, gas and restaurant sales, will increase 3.6 percent to $655.8 billion, according to the NRF, which released its forecast on Oct. 4. Deloitte, the auditing, consulting and risk management company, forecast that holiday retail sales will increase 3.6 percent to 4 percent, according to a statement released Sept. 21. Retail sales should exceed $1 trillion during the season, said Daniel Bachman, Deloitte’s senior U.S. economist.

“Consumers have ramped up their spending this year on the back of a strong labor market. We also expect slightly higher growth in disposable personal income during the upcoming holiday season compared with last year,” he said.

During a conference call, Jack Kleinhenz, the NRF’s chief economist, also noted that economic indicators support predictions that sales will increase during the holiday despite gloom about the economy. “Certainly there will be some speed bumps that come along,” he said.

But with unemployment low—it is 4.9 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics—and consumer confidence increasing—it is at the highest level since the recession, according to a Sept. 27 statement from The Conference Board—things look good for the U.S. consumer.

“They have more money in their pockets, but they haven’t over-leveraged themselves,” Kleinhenz said.

Kleinhenz also is confident that the economy is in a much stronger position than it was last year when the NRF missed its holiday forecast.

“It would be a different picture if we had higher unemployment. We’ve been adding jobs, we aren’t at a break-out speed, but I don’t see where people are going to fall off of the side of the world and stop spending,” he said.

Last year, the NRF predicted that holiday retail sales would increase 3.7 percent. By the time the season’s last receipts were counted, the NRF announced that 2015 holiday sales had only increased 3 percent. Matthew Shay, the NRF’s president and chief executive officer, blamed the missed forecast on warm weather during the holiday season, inventory issues and retailers offering deep discounts early in the season.

The NRF also forecast sales increases for e-commerce and catalogs during the 2016 holiday season. It is forecast to increase between 7 percent and 10 percent to as much as $117 billion. Deloitte also predicted a robust forecast for holiday e-commerce sales, saying online sales will increase 17 percent to 19 percent, reaching $96 to $98 billion during the 2016 holiday season.

By Andrew Asch | Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Economists Say Retail Sales for 2016 Will Grow Slowly

Consumers Win as Retailers Cut Holiday Prices

Retail sales for November — excluding automobiles, gasoline and restaurants — were up 0.5 percent over October and 3 percent from a year ago. That’s a welcome increase, but less impressive than what we had expected. While we have been comfortable with our estimate of the direction of sales, the November numbers mean we are going to be watching the next two weeks — including this weekend’s Super Saturday — very closely.

So what’s happening?

A closer look at the numbers reveals that while fewer dollars are coming in than expected, that doesn’t mean consumers are shopping less. In fact, unit volume appears to be up. The issue is that prices are down. And that means the same number of sweaters, toys or electronic gadgets sold brings retailers less revenue.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis’ price index shows that general retail prices were 2.9 percent lower in October than a year earlier. A number of factors are behind the lower prices — inventories are stable but elevated, in part due to the flood of merchandise that came into the country earlier this year after the labor dispute that brought West Coast ports to a crawl ended. Warm weather has reduced demand for seasonal items like coats and sweaters. Much of the extra money freed up by lower gasoline prices has gone to services such as travel and restaurants rather than retail merchandise. In addition, most consumers have seen little in the way of wage increases. Rent, health care costs and even the amount spent on communications like smartphones, tablets and broadband Internet service are all up.

More than anything, perhaps, is that consumers have become conditioned to expect discounts and promotions. As the TV commercial says “nobody pays retail anymore.”

All of this has combined to create a very deflationary atmosphere the past year or more, meaning retailers have needed to be competitive and drop prices to keep products moving off the shelves.

While prices may be down, demand is certainly up. November sales were generally solid, with strength seen in sales of electronics, food and beverage, clothing, sporting goods, general merchandise and on-line and other non-store sales. Weakness in furniture and building materials was seen, but both had been strong in October.

“Lower prices might be bad news for retailers. But they are good news for retailers’ customers, who are getting great values for the prices they pay.”
NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz

Economist Richard Curtin, who compiles consumer sentiment data for the University of Michigan, stated recently that overall buying attitudes were solid due to the lower prices. He noted that purchases of durable goods were at the highest level since 2006. He says consumers are willing to spend but, as has been the case since the end of the recession, they will continue to dig for discounts and sales.

What’s the bottom line? Lower prices might be bad news for retailers. But they are good news for retailers’ customers, who are getting great values for the prices they pay. And, in the long term, what’s good for consumers is good for retail.

Jack Kleinhenz

December 15, 2015

National Retail Federation