The Christmas decorations are already out at Costco.
No matter that the charcoal embers are still hot from yesterday’s Labor Day barbeque, or that we’re still two days away from the regular NFL season. The holiday selling season is now officially upon us, although merchants and manufacturers have been mired in yuletide planning and Black Friday prep for weeks.
The good news, according to several economic seers, is that the tea leaves bode well for a robust fourth quarter. According to a report in yesterday’s L.A. Times, the chief economist for the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), a commercial real estate trade group, is projecting a 3.5 percent rise in retail sales for November and December, while Michael McNamara, research and analysis data service VP at MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, finds solace in the solid August sales figures, which rose 4.4 percent for major chain stores.
“We’ve been seeing consistent spending occurring even in discretionary sectors,” he told the Times. “This is just a consistent thing that has not correlated with the deterioration in consumer confidence. It’s been an interesting phenomenon in 2011.”
Unfortunately, little of this spending has spilled over to traditional consumer electronics categories like computers and HDTVs this summer, and an industry cannot live on tablets and smartphones alone. Whether vendors, dealers and distributors can take Santa’s reigns and develop sufficiently compelling programs and promotions to drive traffic and close sales remains to be seen. But as Jeannette Howe, executive director of Specialty Electronics Nationwide (SEN), told TWICE for our own holiday forecast this summer, “Americans love Christmas and we’ve always had one, even in the recession.”