Monday, November 27, 2006

Sales Up 19%. Sorry, That's 6%

It's funny how numbers are frequently used to promote a specific agenda. The National Retail Federation released spending figures yesterday for Black Friday weekend. Several media outlets jumped on one figure and put it in their headlines: "Retail Sales Jump 19%."

It would truly be astounding if retail sales actually increased 19% in one year. Of course, that is not what happened. The 19% increase refers to the average amount of money spent by shoppers. This year, shoppers spent an average of $360.15. A year ago, they spent $302.81. That's the good news. The bad news is that there were an estimated 5 million fewer shoppers this year; and sales on Black Friday were up only 6% from a year ago. That's still an impressive rate of growth, but no where near the 19% figure highlighted in the headlines. In fact, the NRF is sticking with its forecast of 5% overall growth this holiday season.

Some retailers will be having a very Merry Christmas. Apparently, Wal-Mart is not one of them. The nation's largest retailer said November same-store sales are down 0.1%. On-line retailers are expected to do very well. The on-line market is still small compared to bricks and mortar stores, but on-line is where the real growth is.