“Sales at stores open at least a year declined in November at major American store chains, including Macy’s, Nordstrom, Kohl’s and Target, sending a shiver through the retail world Thursday.

The reporting period included Thanksgiving and Black Friday, the official kickoff of the critical holiday shopping season. Early reports regarding those days had been mixed, and the individual retailers’ dim results suggest a big challenge in the coming weeks for retailers.”



Thomson Reuters tracks major retailers actual sales results — not surveys — and the most recent data was disappointing. Sales at stores open at least a year gained 1.6% increase in November. This is far below the nonsensical 13% number the National Retail Federation (NRF) trumpets to gullible journalists. It was even below the 3.3% increase consensus of analysts.

The NYT rounds up some of the sales figures, and they are not pretty:

Kohl’s sales -5.6% (vs expectations of +1.9%)

Target -1% (vs +2.1%)

Nordstrom -1.1% (vs +4.3%)

Macy’s -0.7% (vs + 1.5%)

There were a few winners:

Costco +6%

Limited  +5%

Gap +3%

We won’t get the final holiday sales figures til January, but you can be pretty comfortable with the premise that there will not be an increase of 13% of retail sales this holiday season.

The lesson here is pretty stark. Be very aware of what you accept as a data source. Understand the differences between hard numbers — i.e., sales receipts — and squishy emotional guesses produced by surveying consumers.

The bottom line:  The NRF is an industry shill group that produces nonsensical spin that misleads investors, fools the public, and bamboozles incompetent journalists. Any writer who uncritically reprints their nonsense deserves to be fired; any media outlets that publishes their junk should be put quarantined and put on your DO NOT READ list.





Black Friday Skepticism (Finally!) Goes Mainstream (November 23rd, 2012)

Black Friday’s Media Hall of Shame (November 28, 2012)


Sales at Nation’s Retailers Fell Short of Expectations in November
NYT, November 29, 2012

Category: Consumer Spending, Really, really bad calls, Retail

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

18 Responses to “November Sales Disappoint; What Happened to Black Friday’s 13%?”

  1. Lukey says:

    But, but, but, what about that 2.7% Q3 GDP report? I thought happy days were here again? Of course, anyone who read the whole article and not just the headline knew it was the result of inventory accumulation, which may end up actually reducing Q4 output (as Barry’s reporting on holiday sales would suggest). So far my guess is the new normal (2% GDP growth and 8% unemployment) remains in effect amid growing indications that the economy likely falls back into recession in 2013 (thanks to fiscal cliff austerity and shrinking corporate profit margins).

    I saw this morning that the President’s approval rating is already down to 49% (and probably headed lower). Nothing kills a “mandate” quicker than low 40′s on your approval rating.

  2. Savage1701 says:

    Well, I was waiting for what the real numbers were since 13% sounded ridiculous. Appreciate seeing them here. Thanks.

  3. some things should be (re-) Read..

    The bottom line: The NRF is an industry shill group that produces nonsensical spin that misleads investors, fools the public, and bamboozles incompetent journalists. Any writer who uncritically reprints their nonsense deserves to be fired; any media outlets that publishes their junk should be put quarantined and put on your DO NOT READ list.


    also..”…Be very aware of what you accept as a data source…”

    so, very, akin to..”…The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance…”

  4. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    “The lesson here is pretty stark. Be very aware of what you accept as a data source. Understand the differences between hard numbers — i.e., sales receipts — and squishy emotional guesses produced by surveying consumers.”

    An even more stark lesson is that there has been no economic recovery. All of the numbers — governmental and otherwise — are fictional/wishful.

    The reality is that we are not only still in recession, but that it is getting worse.

    There are solutions to this mess, but as long as the majority of the population can be baffled by the BS, none of them will be tried.

    We are fast approaching, in economic terms, the same condition we find ourselves in when it comes to global climate change: the threshold of actually doing something to fix the situation might just pass us by unrecognized by most and blissfully ignored by those who see the sleeping gorilla in the living room, but who are too afraid to wake him and put him back into his cage.

  5. Winston says:

    Thank you for answering my question of two days ago. I have been wondering where one could find information that can pass scrutiny.

  6. theexpertisin says:

    BR is spot on filtering through muddled surveys that are bent to produce a desired outcome.

    But BR’s best call over the long haul (sans investment scenarios) is the housing situation in our country. He has been superb chopping through the crap from the NAR and their minions to present a true picture of this sector for readers to digest.

  7. crease123 says:

    There are three sure things in life: death, taxes, and BR going on a week long tirade about Black Friday sales reporting every year after Thanksgiving.

  8. constantnormal says:

    Are we looking at just same store sales, or sales by chain, and do those include web sales?

    There’s an awful lot of opportunity to spin stories (in either direction) by reporting on one segment of the retail marketplace vs another.

    The hapless consumer is bombarded by uncertainties on all sides … the fiscal cliff is coming! the fiscal cliff’s a scam! … the only thing they can count on in uncertainty … they surely KNOW by now that the Congress is not going to do anything to help them (unless it’s to help put the spit through the consumers, so they can be slowly turned over the basis-pointers’ cooking fires) …

    Think CEOs are uncertain? Holding back spending? Imagine the plight of the middle-class consumer.

    If Bananamerica wants to see its consumer economy thrive again, they’re gonna hafta look to Henry Ford … cut the work week to a 4-day, 6-hour day week, and increase hourly wages such that the weekly take-home pay is about 15% higher, HIRING additional full-time staff to fill in the gaps from this, and pushing the retirement age LOWER (after reinstating defined benefits pensions to make sure they will be able to retire). Repeat the 15% compensation increase annually, for about a decade … THEN we’ll be able to sustain a consumer economy once more.

    There are a lot of other structural changes that desperately need to be made … we need to reform Social Security, transitioning it from a generational transfer mechanism to a same-generation funded pension plan … we need to REGULATE the health care industry, stripping away the profit motive as the end-all and be-all from health care, returning it to its former not-for-profit modality (doctors have never been wanting, even when they made house calls to the poor for free), and I guess our education system is taking care of itself, deconstructing itself via the internet.

    Until such a time, we remain the largest banana republic on the planet, sliding into poverty with an ever-thinning needle of ultra-wealthy owning and running things …

  9. NoKidding says:

    This is at least the third year in a row BR has correctly nailed the same sources for delivering the same misinformation through the same outlets.

    I don’t think the theoretical “man in the street” is so foolish as to believe these phony press releases. Instead I think he is oblivious. Makes me wonder – for whom are these annual Potemkin reports written? It leaves me trapped between cynicism, existentialism and outlandish conspiracy theories.

  10. lisarose says:

    These seem fairly predictable to me… things like KORS will do well. Things like TIF won’t. TJX and COST will. JCP, Macys… department stores won’t. These aren’t hindsight predictions. This reflected my portfolio and I’ve done remarkably well. The thing is: rich people still have all their money. But the rich who spend are young and fashionable. TIF is over. But the rich spending in general stays. Poor people have no money at all. So: dollar stores will go down, cheap department stores will go down as these are where the poor fritter spending money and they have none. No one who is interested in good value for dollars spent will go to a dollar or department store. They WILL go to TJX or COST which have high quality products. No one can afford to just spend anymore. We are spending for quality, for exactly what we want, or not at all. Prediction people need more women economists who shop.

  11. louiswi says:

    If you’re looking to invest in a retailer, then NRF data is BS. If you’re looking at the impact of consumer spending then NRF data is incomplete as it doesn’t show online sales.

  12. Greg0658 says:

    constantnormal I like that 9:08am post with a big caveat .. food and energy that the world needs also – putting our ship on course without passing on a full plan abroad is trouble

    so I add a metric that I’ll term “hedonism and paper pushing jobs” – and request a metric lower in activity for them till the Roaring20′s return


  13. Julia Chestnut says:

    Anecdotally, I don’t see it. My commute takes me through the thicket of one of the biggest malls in my area – and puts me between the bus lines/subway entrance and the shops. In the morning, no problem – the stores aren’t open yet. In the evening, I get a really interesting look at who is streaming into and out of the mall, and at the added traffic level over normal on the roads.

    For the past two years, holiday shopping has added a good 10 to 15 minutes to my commute. I don’t know if those people are buying, but they were definitely looking for some entertainment and cheer at the least. In the past, the increased traffic was marked from the week of Thanksgiving forward, and died off after the first week in January.

    No added foot or car traffic so far this year. Nothing above my normal commute. It’s practically eerie.

  14. whskyjack says:

    Had to go to Walmart black Friday afternoon for some dog food. I noticed a lot of people coming out of the store empty handed. With Walmart being such a general goods store I had to wonder about the effectiveness of the black Friday promotions for them.
    If the dog hadn’t been out of food I wouldn’t have been there.


  15. VennData says:

    I was surprised to see that NRF was off. They are solid citizens, want tax cuts for rich folks like me and you.

    – Jack Welch

  16. george lomost says:

    Not so fast Barry. The economic numbers for the last few years were terrible yet, as you have repeatedly pointed out, equities have doubled. Those of us who looked at the data missed the runup. Those who listened to the happy talk have doubled their money. If your investors have done well by you then you obviously did not practice what you preach.


    BR: Happy talk? Since March 2009, I’ve given quantitative, monetary and sentiment reasons for the ongoing rally — not spin.

    Your statement “The economic numbers for the last few years were terrible” is similarly false — data has ranged from bad to mediocre to good.

    But the key issues are a) Have I ever suggested that economic data (or media reporting thereof) as a primary driver of equity prices?; and b) Why are you defending a media shill group and incompetent reporting?

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