US dept stores gain, discounters lose traffic
today Nov 28, 2010
NEW YORK/CHICAGO, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Sales for the Black Friday weekend rose an estimated 6.4 percent per person but discounters, the darlings of recent holidays, lost ground at the kick-off of the 2010 season, according to a closely watched survey from a retail trade group.
Total retail traffic will have risen 8.7 percent to 212 million shoppers from Thanksgiving Day through Sunday, compared with the same period in 2009, according to the survey from the National Retail Federation.
Shoppers will have spent $45 billion online and in stores over the four days, according to the survey, which includes estimated spending for Sunday. That compares with $41.2 billion in 2009.
Spending per person rose to $365.34 from $343.31 a year earlier, NRF said.
But while traffic and spending showed gains, it is still too early to say whether retailers will be winners this holiday season, especially if early online and store deals have already gotten consumers to complete the bulk of their shopping.
"It remains to be seen for the consumer how much more spend they have in them," said Chris Donnelly, senior executive in consulting firm Accenture's retail practice.
He said he expected more affluent consumers to continue to spend money this season, particularly because those shoppers are not typically focused on Black Friday deals, while less affluent consumers remain budget-conscious.
Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of the U.S. economy, and Black Friday weekend -- so named for the day when retailers historically became profitable each year, is a closely watched gauge to see if the economic recovery can show more traction.
After a frenzy of shoppers seeking out deals on toys, electronics and other gifts for friends, family and themselves, the shopping blitz naturally mellows as the weekend progresses, but retailers that can lure shoppers out again on Sunday stand to ring up big gains.
"Today is the opportunity for retailers to generate some big growth over last year," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for NPD Group. "Last year on Sunday, you could roll a bowling ball down the halls of the malls and not even hit anybody, it was that quiet."
Traffic to stores on Friday rose 2.2 percent from a year ago, according to ShopperTrak, but sales rose by a mere 0.3 percent, which shows that where shoppers made purchases, it was often on discounted items.
SHOPPING EARLY, ONLINE
The difference between those tepid numbers and the larger gains seen in the NRF survey could be indications of how much more shopping for the holidays is being done online and on Thanksgiving Day as more retailers open their doors on the holiday itself, Accenture's Donnelly said.
The NRF survey, conducted by BIGresearch, showed that 52 percent of shoppers surveyed said they planned to go to department stores, up from 49.4 percent a year earlier. Clothing stores also gained, at 24.4 percent versus 22.9 percent a year earlier.
But discounters fell, with 40.3 percent saying they shopped at those stores, compared with 43.2 percent last year.
On Saturday, many shoppers went to outlet stores or malls, likely boosting sales for department stores like Macy's Inc (M.N), J.C. Penney Co Inc (JCP.N) and Kohl's Corp. (KSS.N)
Shanell James, who was shopping on Sunday morning in Manhattan's Harlem neighborhood at a Marshalls store operated by TJX Cos Inc (TJX.N), said the weekend's discounts were less steep than a year ago, but also that her own finances were improved.
"The prices went up from last year," James said. "It doesn't affect me much but it will affect a lot of low-income families."
The average store discount was around 50 percent off on Friday and 40 percent on Saturday, Cohen said, which is less of a discount than last year. He said some retailers will be offering 30 percent off on Sunday.
By Martinne Geller and Brad Dorfman
(Additional reporting by Phil Wahba, editing by Matthew Lewis)
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