U.S. holiday sales rise 0.7% as Washington hurts confidence

Bypassing Malls

“Instead of having 50-to-70-percent off that the retailers had on Black Friday, it was buy one, get 50 percent off,” Flickinger said. “Shoppers didn’t see the bargains. And the shoppers are bypassing the shopping center, mall-based stores to shop at Amazon.com and other online providers.”

ShopperTrak, a Chicago-based researcher of store traffic, on Dec. 19 trimmed its forecast for November-December holiday sales to a gain of 2.5 percent from a prior estimate of 3.3 percent.

The National Retail Federation has said holiday sales will rise 4.1 percent to about $586.1 billion this year, compared with a 5.6 percent gain in 2011. Sales for November and December account for 20 percent to 40 percent of U.S. retailers’ annual revenue, according to the Washington-based trade group. Last year’s fourth quarter generated 59 percent of Cincinnati-based Macy’s 2011 profit.

Lewis said he views even marginal growth as good news given the headwinds in the fourth quarter.

For the retail industry, “it’s not going to be, ‘Let’s all break out the champagne. This is an incredible year,’” Lewis said. “It’s: ‘We had a good year, all things considered.’ The consumer was the little train that could.”

Bloomberg News

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