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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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