ShopperTrak RCT Corp says that retail sales on Black Friday rose 8.3% according to a report at Bloomberg. "It's an extraordinary number, beyond what we anticipated,'' Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak, said in an interview with the news service. The research firm says that sales on Friday are usually about 5% of all holiday sales.
What the report fails to say, but should concern retailers, is how much they had to give up on pricing to get customers into stores. If foot traffic was not high enough for some chains, it is likely that they will move prices down on some items again in an attempt to clear out inventory by the end of December.
The National Retail Federation in Washington only expects sales to rise 4% in November and December, a number that is not enough to support any real recovery in the retail sector, which has been hurt by both fuel prices and softness in the housing industry.
If late November sales are running better than expected, it may cause a turnaround in Wall Street's expectation for the holiday and lift shares in companies like Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT). It would also point to unanticipated strength in consumer spending.
Economists still expect that, if there is a recession, the consumer, who has kept the economy afloat for so long, will lead the fall into negative growth. The theory is that he has simply carried US spending on his back for too long.
What if he actually has the strength to carry it further?
Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 247wallst.com.