by Robin Fiedler
Not only did online sales increase last year, but retail sales overall showed growth the last week of Christmas shopping in 2009. Economists interpret the higher sales as an indicator of consumer optimism, and a national survey shows that we are optimistic.
Sectors that showed the highest increase in online sales hint towards greater prosperity for the New Year. In 2008, jewelry sales bombed, but for the Nov.-Dec. 2009 holiday shopping season, jewelry and watches won the top spot for the sector with the highest increase in online sales--at 20%, according to comScore. It's not a full recovery, but the return to purchasing discretionary items such as jewelry shows hope for the economy.
comScore also reports, "Consumer Electronics ranked second with 15-percent sales growth, bolstered by strong sales of flat panel TVs (which experienced significant price cuts this year), mobile devices and e-readers." Third in online sales increase was event tickets at 8%, fourth was computer hardware at 7%, and fifth was books and magazines at a 6% increase.
Overall retail sales did not fare as well, flatlining for most of the holiday shopping season, except the last week of Christmas shopping as consumers in an almost-frenzied last-minute shopping spree increased retail sales by 8.8%, according to ShopperTrak. Even though shopper traffic was down 1%, ShopperTrak reports, "sales increased a strong 8.8 percent for the week ending December 26 as compared to the same period last year," with an overall 1.6% increase of retail Nov.-Dec. holiday sales over last year.
What's interesting is that the day after Christmas, Dec. 26, had the second-highest one-day sales of the season at $7.9 billion, according to ShopperTrak. After unwrapping all their presents, consumers hit the stores the next day to spend on themselves, hoping to find the best deals and redeem those gift cards, and by the dollar amount of sales it looks like they did find deals. ShopperTrak lists the day with the highest sales was Black Friday at $10.66 billion, another super-deals shopping day.
But instead of extrapolating consumer confidence from retail sales numbers, Office Max went to the horse's mouth with a national survey of 1,000 consumers about the close of the decade. The majority of those surveyed looked back on the past decade with "negative sentiments. . . .But even after a decade full of ups and downs, 84 percent of Americans reported they are looking ahead to a better day rather than looking back fondly at the 90s (16%)."
Sparkly jewelry sales, price discounts on the latest electronics, a last minute push of retail sales, and a survey expressing optimism are signs for a brighter 2010. And thus the new decade begins.
"December 26 Spending Totals $7.9 Billion, Moves Ahead of Super Saturday as Number Two Performing Day of Season." ShopperTrak. 30 Dec. 2009.
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