Retail sales growth for the fourth quarter holiday period will be half of what it was last year, according to Kantar Retail. The predictions are not a question of whether holiday sales will be weak, but rather how weak in the wake of declining consumer and business confidence.
Kantar Retail forecasts growth of 2.8 percent for this year's holiday season, compared with 5.6 percent last year, in the key holiday retail segments combined. The holiday segments included are home improvement stores, catalogs, online sales and the key retail sectors such as conventional and discount department stores; supercenters and warehouse clubs; apparel stores; and specialty stores that carry items such as furniture, home furnishings and consumer electronics.
The holiday outlook is even weaker in unit volume or inflation-adjusted terms. Volume growth is forecast to be flat for the holiday with significant risk of turning negative by year-end or the start of 2012.
"If unit volume or inflation-adjusted growth turns negative for retail sales, it would likely coincide with a recession in the overall economy," says Frank Badillo, senior economist for Kantar Retail. "While the outlook isn’t negative for all retail sectors, it will be driven by the degree to which declining confidence affects spending decisions, particularly for businesses."
Despite these predictions, feedback from shoppers about holiday shopping remains better than last year. More shoppers plan to spend more, fewer plan to spend less and half of all shoppers plan to spend about the same as last year.
As households curb spending in discretionary categories, the home goods and soft goods retail channels will be the focus of the holiday growth slowdown with flat nominal growth for these channels, while inflation-adjusted growth is predicted to be negative in several channels including apparel, home improvement and furniture/home furnishings stores.