The shopping malls have been quiet during the last few weeks. So, it looks like the result of a recent Gallup public opinion poll for this holiday season is about to ring true.
On average Americans spent $866 dollars on Christmas last year. However, there will be more room under the Christmas tree on December 25th because the average American plans to spend only about $616 this year.
In fact, declining retail sales have been a story for months. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, retail sales dropped 1.8 percent from October to November. The drop marked the fifth consecutive monthly decline in sales. November 2008 sales, were 7.4 percent below retail sales when compared with same month last year. The report said total sales for the September through November 2008 period were down 4.5 percent from the same period a year ago.
The only exception to the declining trend in retail spending was in electronics. Retail Electronics and appliance stores saw a sales increase from October to November to $9.23 billion from $8.97 billion, or 2.8 percent growth.
The boost in electronics and appliance sales was tied to hot consumer electronic products like video game systems, flat-screen televisions, music players and smartphones. However, while electronics sales grew month-to-month, year-to-year sales were still down 4.7 percent in November compared to the same month a year before.
Of course, the ongoing decline in retail sales reflects a dramatic decrease in consumer confidence in the economy as the 2008 global recession continues. Employment in America fell by 533,000 jobs in November and one million people losing employment may well become a dubious monthly job statistic by next spring.
In tough economic times, consumer discretionary items are always a victim and this year will be no different. There may well be electronics and video games like Wii under the average Chistmas Tree, but Santa will also leave more empty space where presents in previous years used to be.
Look for several large retail business bankrupcy's in the first quarter of the New Year. Indeed, going out of business, liquidation sales, will soon advertise the demise of debt laden retailers. The economic recession of 2008 means there will be no holiday cheer in retail sales this year.