For retailers, tis the season to be nervous.
Total U.S. retail sales rose a smaller-than-expected 0.2% in November. That’s a slowdown from the upwardly revised gain of 0.6% the month before, according to figures by the Commerce Department.
November’s reading was the weakest in five months, but it’s still early in the crucial holiday shopping season, says Societe Generale U.S. economist, Brian Jones.
“We really don’t have a full tally on how good the late November and the Thanksgiving sales were, so I would wait to see those. I mean what we can say about spending, given this morning’s report, is it looks like the spending pace thus far in Q4 is in-line with that of the third quarter at around 2.5% in real terms.”
And with consumer spending responsible for 70% of U.S. economic growth, that’s enough to support forecasts that the economy is doing better than it was earlier this year.
But there are still real concerns:
Best Buy announced quarterly results, which missed targets. Heavy discounting brought shoppers into the store, but the retailer made less money on each sale.
“I think that the thing is that that has been a problem in retailing for quite some time across all retailers; that consumers are willing to wait them out especially when it comes to the holiday shopping season, because they know that if they are patient there are probably more discounts down the road as the holiday season winds down.”
Discounts that could make this a jolly season for consumers and the overall economy, but a not-so-happy time for some retailers.