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PSW Holiday Retail Survey

OK, we can now move on the phase 2 of the survey!

Now that you’ve seen what you got and what you gave – how do you rate Christmas?

We’re hearing some horrible retail sales numbers with luxury goods down 35% and electronics off 27% nationwide.  As I expected per comments below, people were right to wait as an entirely new markdown cycle is on us already as retailers are desperate for this weekend to save them or they will be sitting on a whole lot of dead merchandise in January.

Gift card sales were down 40%, this may not bode well for January retail sales either so let’s hear your impression of the holidays – was the turkey smaller, was the wine cheaper, were the gifts more restrained?  If you review the comments we had so far, you’ll see how we were right on target with our observations.  As I often say, I’ll take the casual comments made by our group over and dozen "analysts" on CNBC anytime!





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Comments (reverse order)

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  1. Do no comments mean retail is completely dead ?

    A colleague of mine bought a $1500 flat screen TV on Amazon today ….

  2. Visiting my folks in Lancaster, PA and visited the Park City Mall around 5 PM. This mall draws people from a 30 mile radius and has recently been trying to move up scale with the new outdoor "Fountain Shoppes" which include a Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, Wiliams and Sonoma, Coldwater Creek, etc. Inside, an Apple store recently opened as well.
    All stores had huge sales of 30-40% off selected items. The ANN Taylor store was completely EMPTY, which was disappointing. Coldwater Creek was a bit better with a few people in line. The BR store seemed to be doing okay, but it was a tiny store with limited selection. The Apple store, however, was completely mobbed with people looking at all the items and asking about the 1-day sale prices. I didn’t get a chance to get a sense of how many purchases were actually being made though.
    All in all — AAPL seemed to be doing quite well and ANN and CWTR were not. Overall mall traffic was high, but not excessively congested as in past years (though it was 5 PM, so maybe things had slowed down already).

  3. Fort Worth, TX – I didn’t go near any of big malls today, but I did some shopping on AMZN and Hannah Montana stuff (DIS) must be selling well because a couple of things I picked out for gifts sold out before I completed the transaction. 

    Friday afternoon I decided to venture out:

    HD – Home Depot was quiet, too quiet – - I picked up some a couple of things and there was no waiting at the checkout lines.

    LOW – went to Lowe’s since HD didn’t have everything on my list.  More upbeat, but certainly not a rush.

    CNK – based on Cinemark parking lot observations, quite a few people went to the movies, but not nearly as much as holiday traffic I’ve seen in prior years.

  4. Didn’t make it to the AAPL store yesterday… but I should be there Sunday. Went to a couple of Willamette Valley (OR)wineries instead. The brand new one was full and the older, established one was way over capacity, thanks to a couple of never-before-seen touring vans.

  5. Carlsbad, CA – wife went out Friday to the Carlsbad Mall and a few other places.  While they were busy, she found a parking place right away.  Macy’s was hustling, but by no means overcrowded.  Fri nite went to an outdoor mall where BBY was packed but the good bargans were still available (humm), BBBY was a ghost town, AAPL was busy, but not crowded, other places were moderate.  Saturday nite at dinner time, the outlet mall was packed.  Some buying going on, but not sacks upon sacks as in years past.  The deals for mens/womens clothes at Geoffry Beane, Van Huesen, etc were outrageous (70% off) – dress shirts were $12-17, but again, no lines to final purchase.  Even Rubys diner was busy, but no lines out the door.

  6. I was at the Palisades Center Mall in NY, 20 miles from NYC, 2nd largest in America I think.   It was just a kids trip to Dave & Busters so I didn’t really shop but the mall was about as crowded as a typical Sunday, not more so.  I was struck by the lack of lines in the restaurants and especially by the lack of line to see Santa. 

    Dave & Busters was emptier than usual with people avoiding their ridiculously expensive bar, which is usually crowded.  They are giving away 35% discounts on game play but it’s still a lot of money for playing video games when we pretty much have better stuff at home.

    I did hit the bar at BWLD and the wings there are great, very authentic Buffalo wings and that place was pretty crowded but it was Sunday and they are a sports bar (Giants clinched playoffs!).  I was kind of surprised at how many people were chowing down on their .70 wings, which seems crazy to me as I still remember 10-cent wing nights but I told my kids that and they told me that’s crazy because you can’t even get gum for a dime anymore…

    Speaking of inflation – The cost of buying all the gifts for the 12 days of Christmas went up 10.4% this year, slightly ahead of the CPI…

  7. Kalamazoo, MI – Grocery stores seemed to have demand consistent with previous years.   The number of shoppers at TGT and HD and general mall traffic seemed lower this year.  Wiis and electronics are still on many Christmas lists.   Happy Holidays!

  8. Went shopping to Albany Oregon .  GI Joes sales outdoor clothes and equipment.  Picked up a nice goretex rain jacket on sal.  many things were 40% off and no lines and parking lot spaces available.  Went across the street to TGT and the mall.  Fairly empty inside.  But about 2PM on a Sunday.  Maybe I missed the AM crowds.  Lots of stuff on sale at 30-40%.  No lines at TGT.

  9. I went to bestbuy in Scottsdale on Sat morning – completely empty.  more workers than customers.  Lady at register said they were twenty deep at register all day friday.  kind of odd, that sat was empty.  costco on sat morning was equally empty.
    Went to dinner on Sat at a nice french place at Kierland Commons which is a pretty nice outdoor mall in Scottsdale.  The waiter said that they were really hurting.  Thats kind of bad – good restaurant, great area, good demographic – think of how all the other restaurants are doing.

  10. Downers Grove, IL (Chicago west suburb) – Friday went to Walmart, Best Buy and Kohl’s late morning.  Stores seemed crowded and shelves showed signs of sale stock moving.  I bought a bunch of $2 DVD’s at Walmart.  Don’t know how much they will make on under $10 items going out the door.  Went back to same stores Saturday and "crowds" seemed more like any other day.  Surprised at the drop off in customers.  I guess anyone willing to buy did it all Friday and were done – maybe for the season.

  11. The best bargain I saw all week was buy one car and get the second one for a penny!!

  12. aapl had a one day sale 11/28 both on-line & in stores. don’t remember if they had one last year or not, if not then it is perhaps significant.
    also the crazy ultra early mall sale perhaps gave me a feeling of it being just a good friday afternoon as opposed to a great one.

  13. DECK
    Two shoe stores in St.Paul
    ( Walking Company ) said they only had a weeks supply of products no discount, all other brands had a 10% discount.
    (Shoeology )  said they had received the allocation of boots  for the year and only had a few pairs . NO Discount
    UGG will not kill sheep to make the boots, so when the hides are used that’s the production for the year.

  14. I was at Office Depot at 6:00 am and at Best Buy at 6:15 am.  Office Depot had a long check out line, but Best Buy at 6:15 am had already tidied up the check out line.  Past years, the lines used to stand for hours on, but this time.

  15. I was looking for a nice ski jacket and noticed that several brand names had listed on their card a Ipod holder.  Good market penetration by AAPL.  I don’t  what you will do if you have a Zune.

  16. Roosevelt Field Mall, Garden City (Long Island, New York) – This was crowded. Typically during holiday season, there is a large crowd from Queens,New York who go shopping here. Stores looked crowded. Macy’s (M) had fast moving lines at their checkouts. A cursory glance indicated folks are not purchasing large number of items. Aeropostale (ARO) was crowded, I was on the line for more than 20 mins to pay for my stuff.  Sent the family away ( I hate shopping :-) ) and sat on one of the couches and watched folks shopping.
    Interestingly, people carried shopping bags. But to me (very empirical) they seemed far fewer than those without bags, but the crowds looked enthusiastic. Especially the young.
    The rain in the afternoon did not help. But I must say inside the mall, the mood was quite upbeat. I saw reasonable crowds in the stores. (Victoria Secrets). Even Sony Style had folks.

  17. Not sure if this is the place, but the RiteAid (RAD – penny stock) stores are just as busy as ever- midtown Manhattan.

  18. Late report:

    Went to Washington Square Mall (Portland, OR) on Sunday, November 30th just to visit the AAPL store, so I didn’t have time to observe much about the mall in general… Walked through Macy’s, which was busy with people but I didn’t see the registers. The mall corridors were packed. Lots of families. 
    AAPL: I was underwhelmed by the AAPL crowd. It was certainly busy, with all the demo machines being fiddled with, but it wasn’t shoulder to shoulder like I’d expected. The sales guy said a lot of people came on Black Friday asking about the online sale. My friend came to get a new MacBook ($1299 – edu discount). The sales guy downsold her from the upgraded model ($1599) but then sold her on the Mac Care support ($249?), MobileMe (69/year?) when she asked about them. She also got Mac Office.

  19. Has anyone else noticed a lack of kiosks in the malls.  Usually around this time of year, our malls in the NY/NJ area are barely walkable as they rent out every available spare space to seasonal vendors but this year I’m seeing very few, not even the ones that I clearly remember from last year.  No brand names I can think of except ZUMZ and CROX, who used to be featured on stands at two of our malls but aren’t now but the Banzai tree guy is not there, the engraving people are not there, the one that had Chistmas ornaments for every sports team….

  20. The wife went to an Anne Taylor Loft on Sunday in Alexandria, VA  just outside of DC.  She said the sales were amazing.  But not crowded there.  We got the tree at Lowes early Sat am.  There was a line but not outrageous.  Other then that I nursed a pinched nerve in my back by drinking copious beers on the couch.

  21. UTC mall in La Jolla was busy, but not bustling.  Nordstroms (JWN) was DEAD….People were looking for deals.  Macys was busy, but not crowded.  Best Buy (BBY ) was hoppin’ though.  Ann T, Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel were all busy, but no lines for buying.  
    Costco in Carlsbad, CA was busy as usual (always is on the weekend).  Too bad In ‘n’ Out is not public, that place is always busy….

  22. I had people over at the house yesterday watching football and most are "done" shopping already.  That’s kind of scary.  It seems people are buying less this year and did get out early, grabbed things on sale and won’t be picking up those 3rd, 4th and 5th gifts for people.  There was an article in the papers that they are teaching the mall Santa’s to tell the kids they will "try" to get them what they as for but not to promise anything because so many parents can’t afford the big ticket toys.

  23. Phil: I believe people are buying less: but at Best Buy it was very crowded, Staples few people, Macy’s crowded. LOTS of discounted merchandise, you can get stuff for low prices, I filled up my gas tank for  22$, hard to believe.
    Prices for food, beer are very high, much higher,
    when can I ask you some trading question ??

  24.  Tried going to COST the other day in West LA, CA.  Parking was so awful I decided I wasn’t saving anything by waiting for a spot and hit up TGT instead for my household needs which was a bit less crowded but still had crowds.

  25. hey group , thought I would add my two cents.  I’m a general contractor in the Houston area.  Construction business is strong in this part of the country due to Ike. I am invarious Home Depots and Lowes every day and the  traffic is weak, traffic has not pick up due to Christmas and even Lowes hasshort  lines, very short. What I’m trying to say is there are no lines. I’m shorting Home Depot and Lowes………

  26. From the little I’ve seen, stores are not too busy in WA state.  However, it is snowing, freezing, and I don’t know that I could get my car out of the garage even if I wanted to.  And if I can’t/won’t by Christmas, I’ll do a few I.O.U.s… (I may not be representative of a typical person, I don’t enjoy shopping and really don’t like being cold.) – Ilene

  27. I was pretty shocked by the lack of lines at the mall on Saturday.  That seems to be the theme this year – the mall (Palisades Center, 2nd biggest in the country) was packed with people (going by parking, as the place is so big it’s hard to judge what crowded is) but the people weren’t actually buying much.  I was picking up some things in Brookstone, who were really crowded (Sharper Image is out of business) but still no line at the check-out and people seemed to be buying mostly knick-knacks, not a lot of big ticket items.

    Also interesting in Brookstone was the lack of variety.  There were no stereos and TVs – it looks like they’ve given up that business to BBY.  No personal DVD players, which is something I used to always check out there.  In fact, it looked to me like an effort was being made to keep everything under $100 (they still have the $2,000 massage chairs but I imagine they are stuck with thousands of those).  Also shocking to me was the fact that we went into a Hallmark card store, bought a card and went to one of the 3 open cash registers, paid and left.  I have NEVER, ever, ever not waited for ages in the Hallmark store on a holiday.  In fact, the kids and I usually take turns standiing in line and looking for cards as that’s how long it takes so I was very disturbed by the difference.

    Interestingly, BWLD was packed for lunch and the sushi place we ate at was packed for dinner.  Possibly just a function of the sheer volume of people in the mall.  The kiosk food places were not that crowded like the $5 smoothie stand, the expensive coffee thing and the really good pretzle stand that usually has a line.  Hagen Daz has a kiosk and those kids looked lonely. 

    Also I noticed something about the sales people.  They seemed beaten.  Usually they press the extra purchases with enthusiasm but there was very little effort made across the board to get us to buy something else.  I doubt it’s because the stores have dropped tried and true training methods (something I used to consult on), more likely the salespeople themselves are both identifying with the struggle of the average customer and have had so much negative reenforcement at this point from customers who simply can not or will not buy one more thing that they have given up.  I’d say a combination of negative feedback and a lack of or pullback in spending by the companies on training is probably the case.  In a reasonable market, even if saless plan A isn’t working, you retool and roll out plan B by Christmas week!  This year, plan B seems to be cutting prices and praying.

    ZLC was a bad scene too.  No one there at all and there was a huge selection of things that were 70% off and THEN you can take another 20% off and of course it wasn’t pick of the litter but there were some nice things there and it was the front of the store display (usually they make you walk past everything else to get to sale items) and while I looked over some things for about 15 minutes about a dozen people looked and walked away without a single question to any of the several salespeople who hovered around.  I looked at a nice diamond charm that was marked down from $2,000 to $400 and I was going to buy it for $320 but the lady said that $400 was already the 70/20 discount.  This was contrary to what the sign said and I didn’t buy it out of principle but I could tell she had no flexibility left on that price.  Again, her attitude was one of a beaten sales person and she almost agreed with me when I said, I would come back after Christmas and then buy it for $320…

    That’s a big issue for big ticket items.  There were so many big discounts at the jewlery stores that I didn’t feel like this was a "one-shot" opportunity and I do have deflationary expectations that it (or something like it) will be cheaper after Xmas and will make a nice Valentine’s day gift instead.  Stocks are like that too, keep them down long enough and have enough headline sell-offs and people will think there is no particular reason to buy anything now and very likely if they wait a while, stocks will get cheaper…

  28. [...] expected as much as we’ve been running our annual PSW Holiday Retail Survey for a month and our channel checks across the country painted a grim picture for retail BUT – is it [...]