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US Retail: Steady Rise In Sales, Holiday Spending To Increase

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Layaway programs are being offered by retail giants to help promote consumer holiday spending. (Photo: Gisela Royo)
Layaway programs are being offered by retail giants to help promote consumer holiday spending. (Photo: Gisela Royo)

BUSINESS

  • Holiday shopping expected to increase 2.8%
  • US retail sales up 1.2% in October, biggest increase since March
  • E-commerce sales in the US increase 13% to $36 billion

Many retailers are clamoring to attract holiday shoppers through a variety of offers, including earlier Black Friday hours, better-than-usual sales and a variety of e-commerce shopping alternatives.

Additionally, with the economy still struggling, some retailers are reinstituting, promoting and/or expanding ever-popular layaway programs. Perhaps that is why forecasts from the National Retail Foundation for 2011 holiday shopping predict a 2.8% increase overall in sales this year.

In fact, according to a survey from consulting firm Kurt Salmon even consumers with struggling finances are still on target to spend about the same as they did last year.

The resurgence of layaway programs back on the shopping scene is no coincidence and definitely a defining factor in anticipated increased holiday sales. Among the retail giants currently offering holiday layaway plans are: Kmart, Sears, Wal-Mart and Toys’R’Us. Layaway lets cash-strapped consumers reserve an item while making payments over a certain number of weeks until it is paid off.

October Retail Sales Up 1.2% 

Despite a lagging economy, a continued increase in retail sales during the last few months has created the speculation that the recession may be behind us. In a report issued earlier this week by the US Commerce Department, retail sales went up 1.2% in October, reflecting the largest increase since March.

This growth in sales marks the fourth-straight monthly gain in retail expenditures. According to financial analysts, they feel the increase in retail sales may well be a sign of a gradually improving US economy after a slow spring.

E-Commerce Spending Hits Over $36 billion

In recent studies from comScore, a solutions-based organization that measures trends in the digital world and digital marketing intelligence, e-commerce spending in the US exceeded $36 billion for Q3 2011. This marks a 13% increase from the same time last year.

Additionally, a new retail CEO study conducted by PwC Canada Retail Consulting Services shows that 47% of retailers envision e-commerce to encompass 6% to 10% of sales in the next five years.

According to comScore’s chairman, Gian Fulgoni, despite high unemployment rates and a lagging economy, "more consumers than ever before are relying on the online channel for product and pricing information, which along with the internet's fundamental appeal of convenience and attractive pricing, are contributing to the sustained upward momentum in e-commerce spending."

Key Statistics – Retail Growth Initiatives for 2012 (source: PwC)

  • According to a recent retail CEO study from PwC Canada Retail Consulting Services, due to innovative retail strategies, retailers remain relatively unscathed regardless of economic conditions.
  • Perhaps the largest driver in retail sales has been the increased surge in online shopping. Retail e-commerce businesses anticipate an increase in sales as much as 5 to 20 times more than traditional stores.
  • Over 50% of retailers feel that current inflation has had a modest impact on their business and just under half of retailers indicate zero impact.
  • Contrary to popular belief, over half of retailers report that unemployment has had only a moderate effect on sales.

By Laurie Juliano-Bachara for
Laurie Juliano-Bachara is a Chicago-based writer who covers the latest topics in professional services, entertainment and business news.

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