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Here’s yet another online-only WSJ column:  Season’s Subtotal. The WSJ will take a "regular look at how the holiday season is progressing at retailers, rounding up the latest takes from Wall Street, market-research firms and news reports."

I’ll point to it when I catch the updates; Here’s an excerpt:

And, they’re off! Retail-tracking firm ShopperTrak estimated that retail sales for Black Friday, so called because it marks a shift to profitability for many retailers, rose 11% from last year to about $8 billion. Saturday, however, "was weak and disappointing, so together it was only a modest two-day performance,” said Michael P. Niemira, chief economist at International Council of Shopping Centers.

Mall cornerstones J.C. Penney and Sears Roebuck reported solid sales, but a lack of deep discounts at Wal-Mart meant fewer rings of the retail giant’s cash registers. Analysts say discounters are likely to have a hard time this holiday season because lower-income customers have been hardest hit by soaring gasoline prices. Still, Mr. Niemira expects chain-store sales will grow 3% to 4% this holiday season from last year.

Early-Bird Specials: Goldman Sachs estimated that 50% of adult items at Gap were on sale this year, compared with 36% last year. Sales at Old Navy and Hollister were about the same, while there were fewer bargains at Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle. (The Gap and Old Navy chains are units of Gap Inc., while Hollister and Abercrombie & Fitch are units of Abercrombie & Fitch Co.) On the electronics circuit, Goldman said Circuit City Stores over the weekend ratcheted up the number of 0% financing deals it’s offering, topping those offered by Best Buy. Circuit City’s offers primarily focused on high-definition TVs, but the chain also put products in several other major product categories on sale.

The Longest Lines: Luxury and middle-income shoppers flooded stores this weekend, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers, while Wal-Mart’s more value-oriented customer opted to sleep in. High-end shops Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom did a brisk business over the weekend, according to Morgan Stanley. Banc of America Securites adds that department stores such as J.C. Penney and Kohl’s experienced some of the highest traffic on Black Friday. At Federated Department Stores’ Macy’s, the Polo Ralph Lauren shop had solid traffic, driven by sales on woven and crewneck sweaters. Demand for kids’ clothing and accessories was strong, according to Banc of America. Merrill Lynch analysts noted that cool weather in some parts of the country also fueled sales of outerwear and sweaters. Boot sales, however, were slow and tied to promotions, Banc of America said.

Are We There Yet? As of Sunday, the average person has completed 36.8% of his or her holiday shopping, according to the National Retail Federation. And, if you haven’t yet finished yours, you’re not alone: Only one in 12 consumers said they were finished with their holiday shopping. The average shopper spent $265.15 this past weekend, the group reported.

Nearly half of those surveyed purchased clothing or accessories, while 46% bought books, CDs, DVDs, videos and video games. Nearly one-third purchased electronics. The most popular toys for girls this season include Barbie and Bratz dolls, while videogames will top most boys’ Christmas wish lists. For grown-ups, the hot items are DVD players, iPods and other electronics.

Drummers Drumming, Bankers Banking: How much would it cost if your True Love bought you all the "Twelve Days of Christmas?" PNC Bank, which has been calculating the total bill for 20 years now, reports that this year it would cost you — with all the repetition — $66,344.46, up 1.6% from last year. The birds are the most volatile, with the cost of three French hens up 200%, and the price of two turtle doves down 31%. High fuel prices drove up the cost to deliver a pear tree. Outsourcing prevented a pay increase for unskilled laborers such as the milking maids, but the skilled dancing ladies managed a modest raise. The Internet is convenient but more costly due to shipping charges: you’d have to pay your pals $115,460.50 to buy all those items online.

Mall of E-merica: More shoppers are opening their wallets online this year – 13 million more, to be exact – according to Jupiter Research. Thanksgiving Day may be a small part of the year’s total online sales, but comScore Networks noted that online spending doubled this Thanksgiving to $133 million from $67 million last year, while e-spending on Black Friday jumped 41% to $250 million. EBay, Amazon and Wal-Mart rounded out the top three online shopping destinations, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, with unique visitors of 5.4 million, 2.6 million and 1.4 million, respectively, on Friday.

Source:
Season’s Subtotal
Most Retailers See Strong Start; Early Look at Abercrombie, Gap
November 29, 2004 5:06 p.m.
Cindy Perman
http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB110174490208685652,00.html

Category: Economy

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