Friday, December 5, 2014

Confidence Up, Shopping Down?

Two more days of data releases confirm that Black Friday sales were down significantly this year, and that the change is not the result of shoppers squeezed for cash. How much smaller was Black Friday than last year? One indication comes from album sales, as reported in Billboard:

According to Nielsen Music, album sales declined 15.2 percent for the week ending Nov. 30, when sales were 7.28 million units, versus the nearly 8.6 million units scanned last year during the corresponding week ending Dec. 1.

In-store album sales is a declining category, of course, but it isn’t declining that fast.

The decline in shopping comes as consumers are feeling nearly as confident as they were before the recession. From Bloomberg:

Consumer confidence climbed to a more than seven-year high in November as Americans’ views of their financial well-being improved heading into the holiday shopping season.

Could it be that reduced shopping is part of what is making consumers feel more confident? That is a difficult conclusion to come to, as it is something never observed before, but it is consistent with what I have observed in the stores since the Christmas shopping season got going in a visible way on October 31. I have been seeing people shopping with more energy and optimism than in years past, feeling good about what they get, being decisive, but buying less and taking less time than in past years.