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CE Retail Declines Moderating: Feds

11/16/2009 12:39:27 PM Eastern

Washington - Retail sales of consumer electronics fell 7 percent in October, according to the U.S. Commerce Department's monthly retail sales report, but edged up 120 basis points over September's 8.2 percent decline year over year.

The improvement is even more marked over August, when CE sales fell 10.8 percent, figures from the Commerce Department's Census Bureau show.

Compared sequentially, October CE sales were essentially flat from September, down 0.6 percent month over month, although September CE sales grew nearly 1 percent from August.

Still, CE sales lagged the total retail marketplace, which fell only 1.3 percent in October year over year (excluding gas stations, restaurants and car dealerships).

"Though the October numbers show some signs of optimism for retailers, the industry is still not out of the woods," observed Rosalind Wells, chief economist for the National Retail Federation (NRF), an industry trade group. 

NRF continues to forecast a holiday sales decline of 1 percent for the holiday sales period of November and December.

Separately, a survey by accounting and consulting firm BDO Seidman shows that chief marketing officers at leading U.S. retailers expect Black Friday sales to grow 1.8 percent this year. "Retailers plan to focus on promotions for the entire holiday season so there will less emphasis on Black Friday ... than in years past," observed BDO partner Ted Vaughan. Although he said the heavy discounting necessary to get consumers out and shopping on Black Friday will preclude retailers from reaping major sales gains, "The fact that most retailers do not expect to see a decrease in sales on these days is a sign that the economy is stabilizing."

Another report, from America's heartland, provided an even more heartening holiday outlook. ABC-TV affiliate KETV in Omaha, Neb., reported that the aisles have been packed with shoppers at iconic hometown retailer Nebraska Furniture Mart. "This year is going to be a much better selling season," divisional merchandise manager Mark Shaw told the TV station,  citing a 33 percent drop in average TV selling prices from Holiday 2008.

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