Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas sales up?

In the news: Last-minute holiday shoppers boost U.S. sales
More last-minute shoppers flocked to stores this year on the final Saturday before Christmas than last year, but spending is expected to be even higher late this week.

U.S. retail sales on Saturday were up 15.1 percent from last year to $7.58 billion as many people wrapped up their gift buying, research firm ShopperTrak said on Tuesday. This year also benefited from its comparison to the weekend in 2009 when a blizzard hammered the East Coast.

That storm contributed to a 16.5 percent drop to $6.58 billion in so-called "Super Saturday" spending in 2009. This year's totals were below the $7.87 billion Americans spent for the day in 2008, said ShopperTrak, which analyzes the retail industry.(...)

"Now that we are down to the wire, consumers have stepped up their shopping pace, as well as their purchases," ICSC chief economist Michael Niemira said in a statement. "All and all, retail shopping trends are shaping up to be very favorable for holiday sales, as well as December sales performance, for retailers."
Well, that's what they are reporting, but it doesn't match my experiences here in Los Angeles. Foot traffic has been pretty low and the parking lots are not jammed. The Black Friday of the Thanksgiving holiday registered only a 0.3% increase in sales. That seems about right, considering the persistent high unemployment. This recent news about a shopping surge seems overly optimistic.

MATH TIME: If you drop 16.5% and then rise 15.1%, where do you end up? Not down 1.4%, since simple addition does not apply here. From a base of 100, a 16.5% drop puts you at 83.5. An increase of 15.1% from 83.5 gets you 96.1 - a decline of nearly 4% from the 2008 year (and closely matches the $7.58B/$7.87B = 96.3 [ratio of 2010:2008] figures cited elsewhere). So the bottom line is that this season is not terrible, but it's not boffo either.


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By Anonymous Chicago cleaning, at 12/23/2010 12:51 AM  

Your "Math Time" comment is news to a lot of people: that is, many people are unaware that percentage rises and percentages falls are not directly equivalent.

I've noticed people consoling themselves that, for example, property prices rose by 40% between 2000 and 2007, and have only dropped by 30% between 2007 and 2010, leaving them with "10%" still to fall before their gains are totally gone. Totally wrong, alas. They already lost all gains, and then some.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/30/2010 5:27 PM  

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