Christmas Sales Looking Only Somewhat Jolly



Retailers should expect a decent but not great holiday this year, according to leading analysts who cite a shaky economy and cautious consumer mood. Even so, most predict that Christmas sales will be up—if less so than last year.

The International Council of Shopping Centers was first out of the gate with its forecast, estimating sales will rise 3.5 percent this holiday season. ICSC chief economist Michael Niemira tells JCK that, despite all the mixed news about the economy, shoppers haven’t shut their wallets.

“We see lots of worry and concern, but when you look at the actual spending trends, the picture looks relatively good,” he says. “The holiday season should be a continuation of this pattern. Short of some kind of major ­confidence collapse, more so than we have already seen, we don’t see any change in the relatively good patterns.”

Niemira notes that in many sectors, including jewelry, the high end of the business is doing the best. “We have seen a pickup in jewelry sales,” he says. “Part of that is from higher prices, but overall spending through the stores themselves has been relatively healthy.”

Nielsen, the market measurement firm, was a little more upbeat, particularly with respect to jewelry. “We feel jewelry could do very respectably this holiday,” says James Russo, the company’s vice president of global consumer insights. “I think jewelers will be pleasantly surprised.”

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Russo says his data shows that­ jewelry has “across-the-board appeal,” attracting both high-end and middle-income consumers. But he thinks the demographic profile of the jewelry consumer is changing: Asian-Americans, African-Americans, and Hispanics are proving more interested in ­­jewelry than Caucasians. 

Consulting firm Deloitte is projecting a 2.5–3 percent increase in holiday sales from November through January—a relatively small boost compared with last year’s 5.9 percent gain.

ShopperTrak released a similar forecast, predicting that holiday sales will rise 3 percent in November and December. That falls below last year’s 4.1 percent gain, the company noted. Although ShopperTrak didn’t single out ­jewelry and watch sales, the firm predicts the apparel and accessories category will see a 2.7 percent sales increase despite a 1.1 percent drop in foot traffic.