Retail analysts say consumers are dipping into savings

Steve Chiotakis Nov 15, 2011

Steve Chiotakis: We told you about some decent numbers at a few big chain stores. There’s official word today from the government that the nation’s retail sales were up in October by about half a percent. That’s positive sign just a little more than a week before the biggest shopping day of the year.

Marshall Cohen is a retail analyst with the NPD Group. And he’s with us from Long Island, NY. Hey Marshall.

Marshall Cohen: How are you?

Chiotakis: Doing well. And retail sales not that bad either. What’s behind these numbers?

Cohen: Well, we’ve got is a consumer that is — you know, despite all the issues that are floating around — they’re sitting there saying, “You know what? We’re going to go it alone. If the government isn’t going to help us get out of this economic downturn, we’re going to spend our way out of it.”

Chiotakis: All right, so we’ve got this good news and we’re headed into the holiday season. What are you expecting there?

Cohen: There’s not a lot of extra inventory in the stores to get a lot more growth. So, if things stay status quo and November 22 comes and the government figures out a way to get the debt ceiling resolution through, then we should absolutely have an uninterrupted modest growth holiday season. If things change and they can’t solve the debt ceiling problem, we may see some distractions that will pull back the consumer and the consumer may kind of spend a little bit less than we’re expecting.

Chiotakis: I know we’ve seen the holiday shopping season get pushed up earlier and earlier — some stores even opening on Thanksgiving late at night. I mean, is there a point where consumers just draw the line and say, “Hey, I’m not going to not shop at this time.”?

Cohen: Well, the interesting thing is that retailers have finally entered the 21st century. And what that really means is that with the advent of the Internet, the retail stores, the brick and mortar stores, have been almost at a disadvantage to some point. Because they’re not able to have the consumer shop in their pajamas. Well now, that 24/7, 365 day experience is going to come to everybody whether you want to shop online or in store. Retailers have finally recognized that old traditions need to be changed and you’re going to see some new traditions like opening up on Thanksgiving Day. Because it’s really about the early bird catching the worm.

Chiotakis: Marshall Cohen over at the NPD Group. Marshall thank you.

Cohen: Pleasure.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.