Early Holiday Season Sales Provide Mixed Bag

According to retail groups and Wall Street analysts, slightly more shoppers were out and about than last year, but per capita spending was down a bit.
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The first full week of the holiday selling season kicked off on Nov. 26, Cyber Monday, following large Black Friday weekend crowds with mixed results. According to retail groups and Wall Street analysts, slightly more shoppers were out and about than last year, but per capita spending was down a bit.

The typical shopper (for all products) spent $348 last weekend, on average, compared to $360 last year—representing the first few days of the year’s biggest selling period that has several weeks to go. According to the most recent Gallup Poll, the typical American household estimates it will spend a total of $866 this season, which are the highest Gallup numbers in eight years. (At the same time, that hardly leaves enough dollars for an HD set in non-HD homes, unless no one else in the house is getting any gifts this year!)

As of Nov. 27, several brand names of 42-inch plasma, LCD and DLP flat-screen HD units remained at or below the $1,000 level—dipping to $750 for a 42-inch LCD set at Staples, as well as $798 for a Polaroid 1080p LCD unit at Wal-Mart. Meanwhile, smaller-screen LCDs (mostly 19 inches) were listed as low as $198 (Wal-Mart), according to an array of retailers’ Web sites and TGIBlackFriday.com.

Overall, “the numbers were disappointing,” said Andrew Beck, a portfolio manager with Aston Funds, on Fox Business Network. Beck said while the heavy price cuts last weekend were nothing new, “This season the tone feels different to us—it does feel weak.”

Kicking things off last week, early shoppers had been greeted with some sizeable, one-day-only price slashes for HD sets (notably at Sears and Wal-Mart), with some 24-hour reductions seeing nearly 50 percent cut off standard price points, including some big sales that began days in advance of Black Friday (HD Notebook, Nov. 21, 2007).

Several analysts seem to concur that this season, more than most, it’s simply too soon to predict exactly what type of sales period it will be for CE and other products, especially since about half of all sales of all products usually occur within the 10 days just prior to Dec. 25.