The Holiday Shopping Outlook Retail sales dropped 1.2 percent in September, nearly double what was expected. We talk to shoppers about how much they are planning to spend this holiday season. Then, we talk with a retail analyst about a glimmer of hope on the retail horizon.
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The Holiday Shopping Outlook

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The Holiday Shopping Outlook

The Holiday Shopping Outlook

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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This is Day to Day. I'm Alex Chadwick.


And I'm Alex Cohen. In a few minutes, how school children have become part of the campaign against same sex marriage.

CHADWICK: First, consumer spending. You know, it's the backbone of the American economy, and the season to spend is here. But with all the troubles going on, shoppers are buying less at the mall. Retail sales are down now for three consecutive months, something that hasn't been measured in more than 15 years. And the state of the economy has a lot of people thinking about shopping, thinking hard.

Ms. ROBYN LEVINTHALL: I'm Robyn Levinthall (ph). I'm a graduate student at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. I would say definitely more crafts this year.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JASON GORDER: Medical device sales. I think that we'll probably look towards places that would have stuff on sale, less expensive (unintelligible) going to a shopping mall, maybe a Marshalls or a Target or something along those lines.

Mr. ERIC DENBY: I own and operate a Brooklyn Flea Market. Actually, I think I'll probably spend more this year than I did last year. This is a new business, and our business is, in an interesting sense, going well. I think flea markets sort of have an upturn during a downturn, and so part of me sort of feels an obligation to sort of feed that money back into the economy.

Ms. JENNIFER BURDETT: My name is Jennifer Burdett (ph), and I'm an administrative assistant. We usually do about 1,500. This year, we haven't really set a budget, but we do know there will be cutbacks.

Mr. LEWIS BROWN: I am Lewis Brown, and I'm in real estate development. I think my wife and I probably won't exchange gifts. She doesn't know that yet, though.

CHADWICK: Shoppers to be from Connecticut, New York, West Virginia, and Kansas City. So, the Christmas stocking will be a little slack this year. How slack? With us is Marshall Cohen. He's chief industry analyst for the NPD Group, that's a market research company in New York. Marshall, what were your projections for the fourth quarter of this year?

Mr. MARSHALL COHEN (Chief Industry Analyst, NPD Group): This is the first time in 10 years that I've actually said that we will see a decrease in holiday revenue.

CHADWICK: So, you are expecting things to go down. But earlier in this year, what were you expecting?

Mr. COHEN: Earlier in the year, it was really an interesting dynamic because the consumer, no matter what we kept throwing at them, whether it be gas prices, whether it be the banking and credit slow down, whether it be the stock market drop, the consumer kept hanging in there. They kept showing growth.

It took all the way until the last month to really see the consumer slacking off. So, we had a decent enough early start to the year, but the loss in momentum in the fourth quarter for the retailer is just too big of a loss for them to be able to show any kind of growth.

CHADWICK: Don't retailers have to plan months and months ahead because, well, you got to figure out what the toy is, and then you've got to call China and ask them to make it for you in some way and then ship it over? So, the planning for this retail season, this holiday season must have been what, back in January and February?

Mr. COHEN: Yeah, generally, the day after the holiday is when the next holiday planning season starts. Literally, the next, very next day. So that year in advance has little room for error, but what has happened is many retailers have gone back to manufacturers six months into the year and said, we're going to cancel off some of the orders. And the manufacturers are the ones that are really kind of taking it on the chin here. We're just now starting to hear some of the repercussions of this as toy factories in China are being shut down.

CHADWICK: Who still looks good in the holiday season? Who do you think is going to be OK?

Mr. COHEN: I think it is really going to be challenging for every category in every industry, but you've got to look at the electronics market, which still continues to outmaneuver a lot of the other industries. They are just the only area that seems to be introducing new - while there isn't a new technology item, there are new looks to those technology items.

So, for example, the iPod now being offered in nine colors in the nano, and they just introduced four new colors to the shuffle, the smaller one. So, what we're seeing is the opportunity to be able to update your products. And that consumer can say, well, I may not really have anything in particular I want this year, but you know what? Maybe I'll buy a new one because of the new color and give my old one to someone else. So, there really isn't an industry that's stepped forward at this point, with the exception of probably the video game business and the electronics market.

CHADWICK: Marshall Cohen, chief industry analyst for the NPD Group, that's a market research company in New York. Marshall, thank you.

Mr. COHEN: My pleasure.

COHEN: So, Alex it sounds like electronics are doing OK this season, but everything else not so much.

CHADWICK: Not so much indeed, though some hot new product might show up and boost sales in some other sector as well.

COHEN: And who knows what the economy is going to do next and how that might help or hurt retail.

CHADWICK: Day to Day is going to track retail sales through the holiday season. It's one way to measure what is going on in the economy. And we will let you listeners know what we learn.

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