Sunday, December 20, 2009

December Shopping: Retailers Are Still Waiting

The weekend snowstorm is putting a damper on the Northeast and 20 percent of shoppers in the country, but how is this month going at retail in general? Retail analysts say that shoppers are still holding out for bargains. But what this really means is that shoppers so far haven’t been buying as much as retailers were hoping. Every year, retailers say they’re expecting a last-minute push from shoppers, but realistically, this is the year that that is least likely to happen, with financial pressure limiting consumers’ options.

And the employment news also suggests that the shopping season has not gone well. Post-holiday layoffs at retail started two weeks ago, mostly in clothing shops where the shoppers never materialized. Ordinarily, the post-holiday layoffs don’t get underway until Christmas Eve at the earliest.

Online sales and gift cards are up, but only slightly. And in keeping with the payment trends, credit card sales are down sharply from last year. This means that consumers who can’t find the discounts they are looking for can’t just pay full price. If they buy something, it will have to be something less. This is one reason analysts are expecting dollar stores to be the busiest places on Tuesday and Wednesday.