Most major media outlets herald a report showing that holiday sales were up this year. As noted by the Associated Press: "Holiday shoppers spent a little more this season, according to data released Monday, giving merchants some reason for cheer. Retail sales rose 3.6% from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24, compared with a 3.2% drop in the year-ago period."
Happy days are here again! Or are they?
Below are a few significant caveats to the Associated Press story:
1) These reports are estimates and not hard data from the Commerce Department and retailers (NPR). The government will report these real numbers concerning holiday sales in mid-January.
2) As noted by SpendingPulse, (which calculated the widely-reported holiday sale estimates):”Tempering these (holiday sale) results, however, is the fact that there was an extra day this year over last year’s holiday season. Adjusting for this could decrease the season’s year over-year-growth statistics by anywhere from 2% to 4%.”
3) SpendingPulse (an affiliate of Master Card) does not provide a comprehensive analysis of retail sales. Data included in its analysis are for sales in the electronics, specialty (apparel), and Ecommerce and luxury sectors of the retail economy.
4) Ecommerce (which does not help local merchants or most state revenues) was the big winner this year, with seasonal sales up 15.5% during the period.
5) Kamalesh Rao, director of economic research at Spending Pulse, cautioned that a consumer return was tentative and far below 2007 level New York Times.
6) Reuters reported that “an unprecedented 22 percent of U.S. consumers said they did not finish their Christmas shopping this year. "This is the lowest number of consumers finishing shopping in all my 26 years of tracking retail sales during the holiday season," Beemer said. (Mr. Beemer is the founder of the consumer research and marketing firm—America's Research Group.)
Based upon these caveats, I cannot conclude that the 2009 Holiday Sales provided much holiday cheer to American merchants.