Retailers hope big Saturday will clinch season

(Reuters) - Retailers had high hopes going into this weekend, the last before the Christmas holiday, despite initial lighter-than-expected shopper turnout.

The first day of the weekend, dubbed "Super Saturday" by retailers, got off to an unremarkable start on the Magnificent Mile, Chicago's popular downtown retail corridor.

In contrast to Black Friday, when the sidewalks on Michigan Avenue were thronged with literally thousands of bargain-hunting shoppers, the turnout mid-morning on Saturday was thin despite the cold, clear weather that retail analysts predicted would encourage last-minute buying.

In Secaucus, across the Hudson River from New York City, a day hyped as one of the busiest shopping days of the holiday season got off to an equally modest beginning, with uncrowded aisles and short checkout lines at the local Walmart.

So Lisa O'Neill, a 41-year-old real estate agent from nearby Nutley, New Jersey, who was finishing most of her last-minute shopping at the store, had no trouble getting what she came for: Christmas card pictures and a BlackBerry phone she bought as a gift for her daughter.

O'Neill said she had finished the bulk of her shopping on the trip, with about 25 percent left with a week to go. "This year I'm very far behind," she said. "Otherwise you would not see me here on a Saturday at Walmart."

Shopper traffic was picking up around noon at the local Wal-Mart Stores Inc outlet, but store employees said it was not nearly as busy as on Black Friday.

From a performance standpoint, it doesn't have to be. Although retailers have high hopes for "Super Saturday," this year's shopping season already appears to be on track to be the best in three years.

But investors are hoping for a big turnout today to help lift retail stocks, which have trailed the broader market since Black Friday, the traditional day-after-Thanksgiving kickoff to the holiday season.

The Standard & Poor's Retailing Index is up 2.6 percent since Black Friday, trailing the 4.7 percent increase of the Standard & Poor's 500 even as industry forecasts for holiday sales have been on the rise.

The National Retail Federation now expects sales to rise 3.3 percent in November and December, up from its prior view of 2.3 percent.

Analysts said that a strong holiday season had been priced in by investors even before Thanksgiving, so it will take a strong finish to the season to push those stocks higher.

"We need packed malls," Wall Street Strategies analyst Brian Sozzi said when asked what would move retail stocks.

Richard Hastings, a consumer strategist at Global Hunter Strategies, said retail stocks in general can rise another 5 percent in the next month or so if Christmas turns out to be a bigger bonanza than expected. But they can also slip 3.5 percent if December disappoints.

No comments:

Post a Comment

IndianEyeNews respect your feedback and responses, we consider your feedback as a reward. Thanks..