Holiday retail sales fall short on consumer uncertainty
By Jay Keller
Analysts and news outlets blame the disruption to the holiday season on bad weather and consumer uncertainty about the economy.
A report that tracks holiday spending on popular goods showed that predictions are not always accurate. Sales increased a mere 0.7 percent over sales in 2011 during the two months before Christmas, according to the MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse.
MasterCard Advisors said that holiday retail sales, both in-store and online purchases, was slower than last year’s gains in several categories.
Luxury items, however, piqued the interest of consumers again this holiday shopping season as luxury items continued to outpace the rest of the retail sector. Demand for jewelry, cars, high-end clothing, trendy electronics and other expensive merchandise heightened in 2012.
“Original projections had Americans spending between three and four percent over last year,” Helaine Olen wrote in Forbes about the MasterCard report. “While we are a few weeks away from final sales figures, and the numbers could still change, that’s sure looking less likely than it did a few months ago.”
Spending habits during the holiday season never gained any momentum as shoppers were affected by economic uncertainties or by events that were beyond control.
“Consumers got skittish over the ‘fiscal cliff’ and Superstorm Sandy disrupted shopping on the East Coast, reported The San Francisco Chronicle . “Last month, retailers from Macy’s to Target posted same-store sales that trailed analysts’ estimates.”
Ironically, The International Council of Shopping Centers said Wednesday that the group is sticking to its forecast for a three-percent increase in sales for the whole holiday season.
“The ICSC estimate is in contrast to the 0.7% sales increase MasterCard Advisors research chief Michael McNamara said it saw in the two months leading up to Christmas,” USA Today reported on Thursday. “MasterCard’s estimate is for sales using cash, checks and all credit cards in key holiday categories, including luxury goods, clothing, electronics and furnishings, as well as online sales.”
Regardless, MasterCard Advisors says that the report represents a sampling of U.S. retail sales.
Much of the bad news came on the heels of optimistic forecasts from the National Retail Federation.