The bigger influence on retail: Black Friday, or Sandy?

People crowd the first floor of Macy's department store as they open at midnight to start the stores' 'Black Friday' shopping weekend.

New retail sales numbers were released today. One question is how much of all that shopping was caused by Black Friday and how much was a result of disaster-related spending created by Hurricane Sandy?

There's no doubt that some stores got a bump in sales after Hurricane Sandy -- places like Home Depot.

"I'll give you an example." says Home Depot merchandise manager Dave Moore. "Where we might send in two trucks of drywall to a store, we are sending in 5 to 10 trucks per week."

Moore says many of the 400 plus stores in the Northeast are doing more business than normal. But Sandy-related spending, says Bernard Baumohl, is a much smaller piece of the pie than Black Friday sales.

"Because Sandy affected mostly the Northeast, but we're talking about sales nationwide."

Baumohl is chief economist at The Global Economic Group. He says overall, consumers are much more cautious this year, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are not ready to spend more. "I think there's a huge amount of pent up demand in households."

Once a decision is made on the Fiscal Cliff. Baumohl says, "We could see a boomerang reaction where all that pent up demand gets unleashed."

So if you're disappointed in that Christmas gift, just wait.

About the author

David Weinberg is a general assignment reporter at Marketplace.

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