“IT’S STILL GOING TO BE A DAY-BY-DAY challenge,” declared Arnold Aronson, managing director of retail strategies at Kurt Salmon Associates. But so far, things are looking very good for Christmas retail sales. November turned out to be one of the best retail sales months in five years.
And now Aronson says he expects department stores to ring up very good increases, with luxury chains posting the best gains. Specialty retailers, he says, will be a mixed bag, and mass merchandisers will probably come in about even.
“The U.S. consumer has a lot of optimism,” declared Keith Jelinek, director in AlixPartners’ global retail practice. Still nobody is about to replace their wardrobe, he contends. Instead they are updating clothes with key items, like jewelry, and other fashion accessories. Jelinek says “18-to-25 years olds are the most willing to open their wallets.”
An important boost to holiday sales came in the form of eye-catching promotions held on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, according to one major industry publication. The promos enticed customers and drove sales up, giving retailers stronger-than-expected comparable store sales for the month. It also hyped up retailers’ outlook for the holidays.
Cyber Monday, it turns out, was the biggest online spending day in history, with $1 billion dollars in sales, according to ComScore.
Sales at the retail level weren’t the only positives on the industry picture. Fashion Industry stocks also rose, with retail stocks rising higher than anything seen since 2007.
RUNNING WITH OPTIMISM ISN’T THE WORST THING FOR RETAILERS. THINK UP, AND STOCK UP ACCORDINGLY: HERE ARE SOME GOOD BUYS FOR THE SEASON:
- Large CZ necklace set. Classy!
Citi broadlines analyst Deb Weinswig pointed out that favorable weather and compelling deals drove better sales for November. But some analysts worry that the early spurt in business will be followed by a drop-off in sales with lots of buying at the last minute.
Sherif Mityas, partner in A.T. Kearney’s retail consulting business, agreed that there will be a lull. “Retailers are still going to need to drive some pretty strong deals to get consumers in the stores,” the executive said.
Mityas said to expect strong online promotions and continued free shipping. There will be more and more aggressive promotions as we get closer to Christmas,” Mityas said. The partner is predicting a 2 to 3 percent rise in sales for the holiday.
Last week, as had been feared, sales were down somewhat from the end of November and more buyers were seen browsing rather than purchasing. Still, retailers reported sales volumes up from a year ago, and sufficient to sustain their positive outlook for the rest of the year. “The cold weather helped a lot,” declared Lis Rodbell, Lord & Taylor executive vice president. “Accessories, handbags and watches were standouts.”
“A phenomenal week!” is how Crawford Brock, owner of Stanely Korshak luxury store in Dallas described his business last week. “And, if you look at the trend of the last 90 days,” he said, “I’d expect a 15 percent gain this month. Jewelry is doing great, and it was terrible a year ago.”
Fred Levine, owner of the M. Fredric retail chain, said, “I am seeing a turnaround. There is no question. I am seeing a spark of life in the consumer. It’s been a couple of years of tough times and this is the first time I am seeing positive energy.”
STILL, IT IS NOT ALL ROSY. CONSUMERS ARE VERY PRICE CONSCIOUS. AND THE VALUE-TO-PRICE RATIO CONTINUES TO QUALIFY SALES. HERE ARE SOME PRODUCTS THAT RING UP GREAT NUMBERS WHERE THAT’S CONCERNED:
- Large crystal drop earrings. Trendy!