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What do today's retail numbers mean for the holiday season?

The Amazon homepage appears on a screen in Washington on September 3, 2010.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: The latest retail numbers for November show some robust sales at stores all across the country. The Commerce Department said today the holiday season started strong and shoppers bought more this year than last.

What does that mean for the rest of the holiday season, and for retailers looking for a bump from some abysmal sales during the recession?

Marshall Cohen is chief retail analyst with the NPD Group. He's with us live from New York. Good morning, Sir.

MARSHALL COHEN: Good morning.

CHIOTAKIS: Your initial response to the latest retail data?

COHEN: The good news is that the consumers are clearly looking for bargains. Retailers offered up early discounts and continuous discounts, and the consumers seem to really respond with some pent up demand, and even some self-purchasing.

CHIOTAKIS: Which sectors, Marshall, are doing well and which ones aren't doing quite so well?

COHEN: The apparel business is doing well, the toy business is doing well. Electronics are doing well in units but not necessarily in dollars because product is less expensive this year. But the real surprise is the footwear industry. Somehow, some way, all of a sudden footwear has now become a hot holiday gift.

CHIOTAKIS: People are shopping and you mentioned discounts Marshall, but this frugal consumer is looking for the deal. How does a retailer operate in this environment?

COHEN: When you look at the successful retailers, they're the ones that really use the online in conjunction with their stores. They got the consumer to learn about what I call "pre-search." Learning where the best deals were so the consumer could go online or get sales either emailed to them, or even digital media reaching them and telling them about the deals. Knowing what to get, where to get it, and even when to get it.

CHIOTAKIS: And they're shopping online. Not only looking for the deals but actually purchasing things on the web, quickly.

COHEN: Well one ot he great things is when a consumer goes online to learn about the deal and they find out that there's free shipping or a really good deal online, they take advantage of it. Why bother to go out in a storm if I can buy it at home in my pajamas?

CHIOTAKIS: Marshall Cohen, thanks.

COHEN: Glad to be here.

CHIOTAKIS: Marshall Cohen from the NPD Group in New York.

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