Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: December sales fall short of expectations

January 14, 2010

Williams-SonomaCheck out the U.S. government’s take on December retail sales, which totaled $352.99 billion.

U.S. retail sales fell 0.3 percent in December versus November, while analysts polled by Reuters had forecast a rise of 0.5 percent.

If you compare December 2009 to December 2008, sales actually rose 5.4 percent. Excluding autos, gasoline and building materials, sales rose 3.2 percent from a year earlier.

“Obviously the market was primed for a better recovery from the consumer,” said Boris Schlossberg, director of research at GFT Forex. “That’s going to be the story going forward — will (the) consumer be able to take over from theĀ  government and replace demand that has come so far fromĀ  government spending. If the consumer is unable to do that, it’s going to pose some significant risks to the global recovery story.”

What types of retailers were the biggest losers?

Sales of building and garden equipment fell 5.8 percent year over year, while furniture and home furnishings sales fell 3.8 percent.

It doesn’t seem like that played much of a role in sales at Williams-Sonoma, whose holiday period sales rose 7.4 percent. The owner of chains such as Pottery Barn, West Elm and, of course, Williams-Sonoma, said quarterly revenue and profit should top Wall Street’s expectations.

Also in the basket:

Cargill 2nd-quarter profit tumbles

VCs eschew physical stores, focus on retail tech

Target resumes share buybacks

How UK retailers fared over Christmas

(Reuters photo)

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