Thursday, January 6, 2011

Retail Reports Confirm Cautious Shoppers

Retail reports from December have been trickling in, and they mostly confirm what we saw at street level. In particular, the day after Christmas was snowed out in the Northeast, even in areas where the snowstorm was still pending during retail hours. And there is no sign that these shoppers made a return trip to the stores on a later day to pick up the sales they had missed. Most shoppers didn’t do any after-Christmas shopping at all, suggesting that people didn’t feel they had time for it, regardless of the weather.

A recurring theme in the reports so far is that retailers don’t have much pricing power. Stores that attempted slight price increases saw sales plummet.

A price war broke out in the teen-apparel category. Consumer electronics was also hit by lower prices, though this merely reflected retailer desperation. I wonder if consumers have come to expect a pace of deflation in consumer electronics that manufacturers aren’t able to deliver when the economy is slower.