Consumer Holiday Spending Up 5.5 Percent

Jan 06, 2004
George Anderson

By George Anderson

According to Chicago-based ShopperTrak, consumer spending for the 2003 holiday season was up 5.5 percent over the same period the year prior.

Although, as a piece in the Boston Globe points out, “the jump doesn’t catapult Christmas 2003 into the ranks of blockbuster holidays, it does make it the best holiday for retailers since the economic heydays of 1999.”

Some say the best is yet to come.

John Bitner, chief economist at Eastern Investment Advisors of Boston, said, “This Christmas was better than the last few Christmases. But perhaps better Christmases lie ahead.”

Mr. Bitner is forecasting consumer spending to increase around five percent in 2004 compared to last year’s numbers.

Michael Niemira, chief economist for the International Council of Shopping Centers, said, “A strong holiday season is historically associated with strong economic growth and consumption the following year.”

Moderator’s Comment: What strikes you most about how consumers spent their money this past holiday season? Does it
provide insights into what we can expect to see in 2004?

We were struck by several things but we want to mention only one here.

For us, this past holiday season accentuated the increasing polarity of the retailing and consumer goods markets.

High-end luxury retailers have been practically gushing over how well they did over the holidays.

Retailers catering to those of more modest means, such as Wal-Mart, also grew, although at a slower clip than they had hoped for.

Those in the middle, Sears, JCPenney, etc., were forced to discount more than they probably planned and still did not draw nearly enough customers. [George
Anderson – Moderator

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