Economy's Holiday Wish List: Buy Big-Ticket Items

Several large retailers are hiring ten of thousands of people for the upcoming holiday shopping season. But analysts say sales of small-ticket items won't give the economy the jolt that big-ticket items would.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Warning. It's only September and we have a story about holiday shopping. Large retailers like Wal-Mart and Toys 'R' Us are hiring tens of thousands of people for the upcoming holiday shopping season.

But NPR's Ailsa Chang reports that this seasonal hiring is not the best measure of how well the economy is doing.

AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: This holiday season, Toys 'R' Us is predicting one of its hottest sellers is going to be the Doc McStuffins doll by Disney. She's a girl who gives medical check-ups to her stuffed animals and toy fire trucks.

(SOUNDBITE OF AUDIO)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (as Doc McStuffins) Hmmm, Lenny, has anything else been bothering you?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as Lenny) Well, I've been feeling kind of tired and my head sort of hurts sometimes?

CHANG: To meet demand for Doc McStuffins and other big-name items, Toys 'R' Us has announced it is adding 45,000 jobs. That's a jump from the 40,000 seasonal workers it hired last year.

Wal-Mart is expecting to hire more than 50,000 people, also an increase from the last holiday.

But before you think that means consumer confidence and retail sales are bolting up, economists say think again.

Mesirow Financial's Diane Swonk says what you really want to see is an upswing in sales for big ticket items.

DIANE SWONK: Vehicle sales, home sales, everything you fill a home with, appliances, furniture, carpeting. And that's what's really been missing in the retail picture for some time now.

CHANG: Swonk says small ticket items just aren't a good indicator of the overall health of the economy.

Also, while Toys 'R' Us and Wal-Mart will add workers this Christmas, Target says it's going with fewer employees than last fall.

Ailsa Chang, NPR News, New York.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.