Buy, buy, buy: Holiday shopping 2010 may break records
This year's holiday shopping season is on track be the biggest ever. Americans are surpassing pre-recession spending to break new consumer ground.
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Stores headed into the season with angst that they would have too much inventory. That's because they placed most of their orders in the spring when the economic recovery looked stronger than it seemed later in the year.Skip to next paragraph
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But stores struck the right notes to get careful holiday shoppers to buy more. They rolled out discounts starting in late October to cater to shoppers who wanted to stretch out their buying.
Merchants called it right in anticipating that gift givers would scrimp less and buy nicer, more traditional presents, like sweaters rather than pots and pans and other utilitarian gifts that were popular the last two years.
Free shipping was practically a given for online sales, which rose 15.4 percent, according to SpendingPulse. Stores stayed open later and some pulled all-nighters.
Americans didn't have to carelessly spend to make merchants happy. If every household bought one extra gift, that collective effect boosts retail sales.
The National Retail Federation predicts spending this holiday season, Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, will reach $451.5 billion, up 3.3 percent over last year. That forecast was upgraded earlier this month based on a robust November. That would be the biggest increase since 2006, and the largest total since a record $452.8 billion in 2007. The NRF forecast excludes revenue from restaurants, gas, autos and only looks at online sales from physical stores.
Strong after-Christmas sales could make this year the biggest holiday sales period of all time. After-Christmas sales make up about 15 percent of holiday sales. The blizzard cut some stores' hours Sunday and Monday, but some analysts think shoppers will be undeterred given the new resiliency they have shown this season.
"The storm is more of a nuisance. So some consumers will put off their shopping for day or two, but by and large, stores will be able roll past this storm without too much concern," said Madison Riley, a strategist at Kurt Salmon Associates, a consulting firm.
Taubman Centers had to close four of its 26 malls early on Sunday, but spokeswoman Karen MacDonald said those that were open were much busier with new sales than with gift receipts. Based on a sampling of stores at a number of malls, 80 percent of the transactions were purchases, while returns and exchanges each accounted for 10 percent, she said.
"There are many people who are off this week; if they don't get out today, we expect a strong and long weekend," MacDonald said. "We feel very good."
AP Retail Writer Michelle Chapman contributed to the report.