Back when we were much younger, my best friend Rob and I used to do all our Christmas shopping on Dec. 24. We’d go to the mall, shop for three hours or however long it took, then go to the bar for a few drinks. It was a good way to put everything off to the last minute, still get it all done, and, well, have a good excuse for drinking.
I supposed I’ve changed over the years, although I still generally wait until the last minute to do my shopping (being a journalist, I really do need a deadline to get anything done.) But it seems retailers have changed even more, and every year the holiday push begins just a little earlier.
But this year, it’s totally out of hand. I was in Sears two weeks ago, and they were selling fake trees and those lighted-deer lawn ornaments. Kohl’s and Target have already started selling some holiday merchandise. Wal-Mart, Target and Toys ‘R US are already engaged in price wars over toys.
So it was interesting to hear Black & Decker note that a big part of their improved 3Q earnings outlook came on — you guessed it — earlier than planned promotional sales.
Chairman and Chief Executive Nolan Archibald said the modestly better revenue was largely due to shipping promotional items in its U.S. industrial power-tools and accessories business in the third quarter, not the fourth as had been planned
Might that be merchandise that’s already moving in an attempt to book some holiday sales early? Kind of sounds like it.
But retailers could move Christmas up to July, and they’d still be in for a rough season. Americans may have Financial Crisis Fatigue, but they’re not that dumb. People are still losing their jobs, other people are holding onto theirs but having their wages cut, or their hours cut, and still others are making due with whatever part-time or side jobs they can. This is no time to max out the credit cards.
A survey out this morning from NPD Group found that 30% of consumers plan to spend less this year than last. That’s up from 26% last year, and last year saw the worst holiday sales in 40 years. The amount of people who plan to spend more was constant at 11%, and the percent who expected to spend the same fell to 59% from 63%.
That didn’t stop NPD from somehow trying to spin the data. “That 4% is not as dramatic as it could have been,” the group’s Marshal Cohen said. The group expects retail sales will be up 0.5%-1.5%. That’s more optimistic than the National Retail Federation, which is predicting sales will be down 1%. How NPD gets a rise in sales from those survey results, we’re not exactly sure.
Don’t forget, as John pointed out yesterday, looking at rail traffic, there’s not much going on out there.
“I think consumers will be looking for the right gift, rather than the most extravagant or expensive one.”
Yeah, right. Listen up, folks, the only “right gift” this year is a job.