The Retail Economist-Goldman Sachs Weekly Chain Store Sales Index fell 0.4 percent for the week ended November 28, but year-over-year sales were up 3.4 percent.
Still, analysts’ consensus estimate for fourth-quarter comparable-store sales is significantly below last year while high inventory levels remain a concern — especially for department stores. But at least one analyst firm is noting that retailers are not hitting the panic button just yet.
Regarding weekly sales, Michael P. Niemira, chief economist of The Retail Economist LLC, said shoppers’ “response to the panoply of 2015 holiday promotions offered by the nation’s retailers yielded less intense and concentrated buying over the past Thanksgiving week than in prior years as promotions were again rolled out earlier than Black Friday, online offers were more widespread — even ahead of Cyber Monday sales with holiday-week ‘online doorbuster’ deals — and many retailers again were opened on a portion of Thanksgiving Day.”
Niemira said overall, it was a “decent week for sales, but one that largely was driven by the strength of online demand.” The economist also said that historically, the sales performance during Thanksgiving is “often is a poor predictor of the overall holiday season” as shoppers key into bargain-hunting bigger-ticket goods for themselves and conduct less gift-giving. “As a result, the upcoming early December strength may be more instructive of the overall season’s performance,” he added.
Meanwhile, Thomson Reuters said same-store sales growth for the holiday season “is modest at best.” The consensus is for same-store sales growth for the fourth quarter to show a 1.4 percent gain against last year’s 2.8 percent increase. “The jewelry, home improvement and beauty supplies sectors are expected to perform better than last year,” Thomson Reuters analysts said. “But department stores saw weak traffic in the third quarter and have the weakest [fourth-quarter comps] estimate at -1 percent.”
The firm also noted that department stores also have the highest inventory levels, and it expects Macy’s Inc. and Sears Holding Corp. to post same-store sales declines of 2.2 and 4 percent, respectively. In the specialty sector, Thomson Reuters said “Zumiez, Aéropostale and Gap continue to face weak mall traffic.”
But the analysts at Telsey Advisory Group said in its weekly holiday check-in on department stores that the “promotional cadence” has been stable, and the firm sees it “as a positive sign suggesting retailers are comfortable with current sell-through trends of excess merchandise and inventory positions at this stage of the game.”
The analysts added that “we do not believe retailers have hit the panic button.” And based on observations both in-store and online, “we expect key winners this Black Friday weekend were Kohl’s, J.C. Penney and Macy’s,” the analysts said in their report.