Humbug: The last holiday shopping weekend falls short of expectations

posted at 4:31 pm on December 24, 2012 by Erika Johnsen

The final tally for third-quarter GDP rose a bit more than initially expected, thanks largely to government spending and inventory expansion, although consumer spending did tick upwards. Fears of the consequences of the fiscal cliff have been taking their toll on investor confidence for awhile now, and there have been signs that consumer confidence is finally starting to catch up with that pessimism — the outlook in consumer spending for the fourth quarter isn’t looking too good.

The Saturday before Christmas was expected to be the second biggest sales day after Black Friday, and retailers have been stepping up the deals and discounts — but to little avail, reports the AP:

Talk about more than just the usual job worries to cloud the mood: Confidence among U.S. consumers dipped to its lowest point in December since July amid rising economic worries, according to a monthly index released Friday.

Marshal Cohen, chief research analyst at NPD Inc., a market research firm with a network of analysts at shopping centers nationwide, estimates customer traffic over the weekend was in line with the same time a year ago, but that shoppers seem to be spending less. …

All that spelled glum news for retailers, which can make up to 40 percent of annual sales during November and December. They were counting on the last weekend before Christmas to make up for lost dollars earlier in the season. …

After a strong Black Friday weekend, the four-day weekend that starts on Thanksgiving, when sales rose 2.7 percent, the lull that usually follows has been even more pronounced. Sales fell 4.3 percent for the week ended Dec. 15, according to the latest figures from ShopperTrak, which counts foot traffic and its own proprietary sales numbers from 40,000 retail outlets across the country. On Wednesday, ShopperTrak cut its forecast for holiday spending down to 2.5 percent growth to $257.7 billion, from prior expectations of a 3.3 percent rise.

The pervasive worries over the fiscal-cliff, combined with continued high unemployment and slackening economic indicators across all sectors, have punctured even Americans’ reliably robust Christmas spirit. But hey, I’m sure it’s all those dang Republicans’ fault, right?

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