Holiday Sales: Good For Consumers But Bad For Retailers?


Retail sales in the U.S. rose a paltry 2.1% in November. Now the race is on to capture valuable holiday shopper dollars before the end of the season. But are the discounts being offered to lure customers into stores shaving too much off the retail industry’s profit margins? Marshall Cohen – chief retail analyst at NPD Group – seems to thinks so. But Patricia Edwards of Wentworth Hauser and Violich--disagrees. Michelle Caruso-Cabrera had them both on “Morning Call” to talk it out.

Discounts Slashing Profits

Don’t be fooled by the early surge – says NPD’s Cohen. What we saw starting Black Friday was more an “urge for self-indulgence,” he says. According to Cohen – “The consumer clearly was out there over 50% more this year buying for themselves rather than starting their holiday shopping, and it’s all price related,” he says.

WHV’s Edwards agreed there were lots of deep discounts this season, but she noted retailers who are doing a lot better on full-price selling than they are on discounting – specifically Nordstrom and Target . “They seem to be doing just fine,” she says. “They are cutting some prices, but not too many too far.”

Cohen sees J.C. Penny and Kohl’s as the success stories this year. Who’s the biggest loser of the season? Both analysts agree it’s Wal-Mart .