Retailers, consumers and prices
The annual ritual began with all the proper signs. Shoppers lined up before midnight on Friday. Some wore pajamas, others imbibed hot coffee or alcohol. Store managers straightened rows of sweaters and blew dust mites off flat-screen TVs while their doors remained closed.
Then the rush started.
There were fights over toy hamsters, a clamor for laptops under $500 and even a leather jacket or two was purchased. Retailers prayed and tried to banish the ghosts of a terrible 2008.
Traffic was strong. Americans left malls with more shopping bags in their hands than a year ago. And yet.
ShopperTrak told us today that sales were only up 0.5 percent on Black Friday. In 2008, when the banking system seemed on the verge of collapse and global recession loomed, sales rose 3 percent on Black Friday.
We know it is still early in the season. We remember from last year that it is very hard to call the holiday season. But we can’t help but wonder, what happened?
Check out the probable lower level of tips for service providers during the holidays.Chalk up tips for cleaning people, school teachers, barbers, mail carriers and others as another probable victim of the weak U.S. economy, according to a new poll conducted by Consumer Reports magazine. The magazine polled Americans about their tipping habits during the 2008 holidays and again in October and found 26 percent of Americans who usually tip or give a gift to a service provider said they would spend less this holiday season. Just 6 percent planed to spend more.”Families are looking for ways to balance their financial concerns with the need to thank people who have helped them during the year,” Tobie Stanger, senior editor at Consumer Reports, said in a statement. “This year, tipping is more of a challenge than ever, but CR’s survey shows that people are still trying to do it, for the most part.”The average value of tips (i.e. some were gifts instead of cash or gift cards) varied by occupation, with a cleaning person at $50, a child’s teacher and a hairdresser at $20, and a manicurist at $10, according to Consumer Reports.Some readers told the magazine they plan to still say thanks with a card or homemade gift.Also in the basket:Food the focus as Wal-Mart starts holiday givingKraft quarterly results could make a case to CadburyADM profit soars past Wall Street estimatesPolo 2nd-qtr profit tops Street viewWalgreen October sales up a bit more than expectedEnergizer quarterly profit falls(Reuters photo)
After becoming accustomed to discounts of 50, 60 or 70 percent, will consumers tolerate paying the full amount listed on a price tag? And if so, when will that happen? And does “full price” now mean selling items for 10 percent to 20 percent below what they were sold for a year ago?
Retailers are geared up for the crucial three-day Thanksgiving shopping weekend, and many have already slashed prices to kick-start sales and rouse wary shoppers into spending mode.
With retailers worried over the prospects for the holiday season (The Commerce Department said on Friday that retail sales slumped 2.8 percent in October — the largest decline since the department’s current methodology was adopted in 1992), they are expanding their definition of friends and family.
While “Friend & Family” sales used to be special events actually reserved for the friends and family members of a retailer’s employees, today it takes little more than an e-mail address to be considered a retailer’s friend.
The financial crisis of the past two months has rocked retailers, and many are now planning to hire fewer seasonal workers and roll out promotions earlier than planned to try to salvage holiday sales, according to a recent survey by the Hay Group.
The human resources consulting firm conducted an informal survey in September with 20 of the top American retailers, including Best Buy, JC Penney, Costco, and Macy’s to get a glimpse into their plans for the holiday season.
The group then ran the survey again this month to find out how those plans may have changed given the recent financial crisis. Here is what the they found:
On Friday, fresh data showed the U.S. economy shed 240,000 jobs in October, worse than the 200,000 decline that was forecast. The Labor Department said the national unemployment rate shot up to 6.5 percent from 6.1 percent in September — the highest since March 1994.
That disappointing report came a day after U.S. retail chains reported their worst October sales results in 35 years.