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CE Retail Sales Slower Than ’06

New York — Consumer electronics dealers fared better than most merchants during Holiday 2007, but all of retail felt the pinch of a stingier Santa this Christmas.

“We finished in line with the national numbers,” reported John LaRegina, senior TV and video buyer for P.C. Richard & Son, the country’s largest independent brown- and white-goods chain. “We entered the period with cautious optimism because of the weak economic news, and the holidays met our expectations.”

National same-store sales were generally in the low single-digit range, compared with the high single-digit comps enjoyed during Holiday 2006. According to MasterCard Advisors, the professional services arm of MasterCard Worldwide, retail sales for the period between Black Friday and Dec. 24 grew by a seasonally adjusted 3.6 percent year-over-year, as soaring energy prices, a weak housing market and more rational price promotions put a crimp in consumer spending.

“Overall, sales came in just above the lower end of the range we were expecting, maintaining the slower, modest growth we’ve been seeing throughout the year,” said Michael McNamara, the group’s research and analysis VP. “Anyone who was looking for this holiday season to kick-start a new wave of growth would find these numbers falling short of expectation.”

Like most product categories, CE sales surged on Black Friday, lagged midseason and rallied to the finish line as last-minute shoppers flocked to stores the weekend before Christmas. MasterCard Advisors, which lumps major appliances in with CE, said electronics sales grew 15 percent on Black Friday, 5.8 percent by midseason and ended the period with a “very moderate” 2.7 percent gain, although McNamara acknowledged that results would have been higher minus the impact of majaps.

In fact CEA’s 14th annual CE Holiday Purchase Patterns study, released in mid-October, predicted a 7 percent gain in CE sales at retail.

CE was the go-to category for gift giving this holiday season, with GPS systems, digital picture frames, LCD TVs and notebook computers enjoying double- and triple-digit growth, The NPD Group reported.

While brick-and-mortar retailers experienced moderate sales growth, their online counterparts enjoyed a banner holiday season. According to market research firm ComScore, e-tail sales from Nov. 1-Dec. 21 rose 19 percent to $26 billion, while Mastercard Advisors pegged online growth at 22.4 percent for the period between Black Friday and Dec. 24.

MasterCard said the biggest sales spike came on Dec. 13, although ComScore cited Dec. 10 as the heaviest individual spending day of the season with $881 million in sales.