Sales at U.S. retailers rose 1.9 percent in the two days following the Thanksgiving holiday, ShopperTrak RCT Corp. said, as a decline on Nov. 29 further damped the smallest Black Friday gain in three years.
Retailers slashed prices up to 70 percent following the holiday to draw in shoppers who have cut spending because of rising joblessness and the worst housing slump since the Great Depression. Earlier and larger discounts may have prompted shoppers to complete more of their gift purchases sooner.
“When it comes to profitability, this deep discounting will have a negative impact,” Hana Ben-Shabat, a partner in AT Kearney’s retailing practice in London, said in a Bloomberg Radio interview. “Retailers were discounting in the months of October and November, so it could well be that Black Friday just signifies the end of the season’s shopping and then we just see it tailing off, instead of the launching of the shopping season.”
Purchases fell 0.8 percent on Nov. 29 from a year earlier, a day after Black Friday sales rose 3 percent, Chicago-based ShopperTrak said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. Total sales combined for Nov. 28-29, which includes Black Friday, reached $16.6 billion, ShopperTrak said. Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy.
Retail stocks fell yesterday, with Macy’s Inc. down 14 percent to $6.41 and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. declining 5.1 percent to $53.01 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Retailing Index, with 27 companies, dropped 9.3 percent. Retailers can make more than a third of their annual income during the holiday season.
The National Retail Federation, a trade group based in Washington, is maintaining its forecast for a 2.2 percent holiday sales gain, which would be the smallest since a 1.3 percent gain in 2002.
Another gauge of consumer spending showed uneven results for retailers. U.S. specialty-apparel sales increased 1.6 percent on Nov. 28-29 from a year earlier as consumers hunted for discounts during the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season, according to data from SpendingPulse.
Clothing sales growth improved from the beginning of the month, said Michael McNamara, vice president of research and analysis for Purchase, New York-based MasterCard Advisors, which publishes SpendingPulse.
Combined electronics and appliance sales on Black Friday, as the day after Thanksgiving is known, and Saturday fell 14.3 percent. Luxury sales climbed 2.4 percent and e-commerce purchases rose 11.8 percent, according to SpendingPulse data.
Sales were spurred by “ideal” weather across the U.S., some pent-up demand and “rather extraordinary discounts” across almost all sectors of retail that drove store traffic, McNamara said yesterday.
This year, consumers are facing pressures that didn’t exist six years ago, said Richard Hastings, consumer strategist for Global Hunter Securities LLC in Newport Beach, California.
“There was no credit impairment at all and house prices were still rising at a very steady clip” that year, Hastings said yesterday.
He’s estimating that 1.05 million non-farm jobs will disappear from the beginning of last month through January, with the biggest holiday-season job losses since at least 1981-1982.
The NRF said 172 million shoppers went to stores and Web sites from Thanksgiving through yesterday, a 17 percent increase from a year ago and more than a forecast of 128 million. They spent an average of $372.57, up 7.2 percent from last year, according to an e-mailed survey conducted for the NRF by BIGresearch, a Worthington, Ohio-based polling firm.
SpendingPulse, a data service of MasterCard Advisors, a unit of MasterCard Worldwide, calculated its projections based on MasterCard payments and estimates for cash and check transactions. MasterCard Inc. is the world’s second-biggest credit-card company.
ShopperTrak measures foot traffic in shopping centers and malls using more than 50,000 video devices.
----With reporting by Charles Stein in Boston and Heather Burke and Allison Abell Schwartz in New York. Editors: Elizabeth Wollman, Mike Nol