Heading into this holiday season retailers were cautiously optimistic. The markets are way up, there are more job postings than we've seen in years and more people are landing jobs. Slowly but surely, people are regaining confidence in our economy.
Well, the numbers are in, and Black Friday weekend wasn't a disaster, but it also didn't indicate that Americans are back to their old spending habits. During the four day period from November 28th to December 1st purchases were down 2.9%, and what was even more discouraging was the fact that more people were actually out shopping, yet less was spent.
So, what does this all mean to regular Americans? First, retailers will likely continue offering significant discounts to encouraging spending. This is good news for people like me who didn't make it out to the mall over the weekend and bad news for companies like Wal-Mart, Target, and Macy's who depend on significant revenues this time of year.
Second, it tells us that the recession may have significantly altered consumer behavior in ways that a year or two of better news is not going change. Some forecasters have already backpedaled saying in effect, that job growth happened too late and people didn't have time to save for the holidays. While this idea makes sense, I also suspect that people are going to need more than just a few extra months at their new job before they start spending at pre-recession levels.
The last and most interesting takeaway actually came up in an opinion piece by Tom Keane of the Boston Globe, "Time to shop or, maybe, stop shopping". Keane argues that we live in an era where everyone has a smart phone and everything we need is only an app away. The idea is that many traditional gifts have simply become obsolete, leading to the rise of the gift card. There have also been consumer studies that indicate people are growing more dissatisfied with gift giving over time.
So which is it? Are people flat out broke? Or, are they just sick of buying gift cards for half their relatives? Only time will tell.
(This article contains the current opinions of the author but not necessarily those of Brighton Securities Corp. The author's opinions are subject to change without notice. This blog post is for informational purposes only. Forecasts, estimates, and certain information contained herein should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. References to specific securities and their issuers are for illustrative purposes only and are not intended and should not be interpreted as recommendations to purchase or sell such securities).