UPDATE 4-US shoppers spent less over Black Friday weekend

Sun Nov 29, 2009 7:59pm EST

Related Topics

 * Black Friday weekend spending down 8 pct per person -NRF
 * Some 195 mln shoppers on Black Friday weekend -NRF
 * Retail shares may head lower on weekend data
 * Wal-Mart, Target, Saks among stronger performers
 * Total weekend spending up 0.5 pct from yr ago -NRF
 (Adds America's Research Group data)
 By Nicole Maestri and Brad Dorfman
 SAN FRANCISCO/CHICAGO, Nov 29 (Reuters) - U.S. consumers
spent significantly less per person at the start of the holiday
season this weekend, dimming hopes for a retail comeback that
would help propel the economy early in 2010.
 The lackluster spending could pressure retail stocks on
Monday as some investors were looking for a stronger showing
compared with a year earlier, when consumers were being
hammered by the recession and credit crunch.
 "There may be a bit of a pullback, a little
disappointment," said Patricia Edwards, chief investment
officer at Storehouse Partners.
 While shoppers turned out in force as early as U.S.
Thanksgiving Day on Thursday, many said they had zeroed in on
highly discounted items, would buy only what they needed and
would walk out of a store if they did not find a good deal.
 "Shoppers proved this weekend that they were willing to
open their wallets for a bargain," said National Retail
Federation Chief Executive Tracy Mullin in a statement on
Sunday. Retail chains "know they have their work cut out for
them to keep people coming back through Christmas."
 Store chains that may have done better than their peers
include discount retailers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) and
Target Corp (TGT.N), teen apparel retailers Aeropostale Inc
(ARO.N) and American Eagle Outfitters (AEO.N) and higher-end
chains like Saks Inc SKS.N, analysts said.
 A clearer picture of retail performance will be seen when
many U.S. retailers report November sales on Thursday.
 Consumers said they will have spent nearly 8 percent less
on average, or about $343 per person, over the weekend that
includes Thanksgiving, Black Friday and runs through Sunday,
according to the NRF. [ID:N29405002]
 Traffic to stores and websites rose to 195 million people
from 172 million in 2008, but shoppers were focused on buying
low-priced items, like $10 toys and $9 books, the NRF said.
 Total spending for the holiday weekend rose to an estimated
$41.2 billion, up 0.5 percent from a year earlier, NRF said.
For a graphic on U.S. holiday sales trends, click here
 HOW QUICK A RECOVERY?
 Consumer spending makes up roughly 70 percent of the U.S.
economy and will help determine how quickly the country can
recover from a recession that began in December 2007, said
Torsten Slok, an economist at Deutsche Bank.
 "The good news this weekend is that consumers are no longer
hibernating like they were a year ago, and that in itself is
important for the economy," Slok said, referring to the higher
traffic.
 The NRF has forecast a 1 percent decline in holiday sales
this year, which would mark an unprecedented drop for two
straight years after a global financial crisis erupted in 2008.
 Total retail sales edged up just 0.5 percent to $10.66
billion on Black Friday, which is often the single-busiest day
of the holiday season, ShopperTrak said. [ID:nN28399866]
 Online retailers, however, enjoyed an 11 percent jump in
Black Friday spending to $595 million, with Amazon.com (AMZN.O)
and Walmart.com enjoying the biggest surges in traffic,
according to comScore (SCOR.O). [ID:nN29396405]
 Retailers had warned investors they would take a
conservative view of holiday sales and have cut inventory and
reduced expenses to compensate. [ID:nN1864284]
 "You're clearly down on a two-year run rate," said Bill
Taubman of mall operator Taubman Centers Inc (TCO.N). But he
added, "margins are going to be extremely good because
(retailers) have been careful about what they bought."
 DISCOUNTERS ATTRACT
 Shoppers interviewed across the country by Reuters over the
weekend said they were lured by bargains, but would stick to
pared-down budgets.
 "If they don't have rebates and sales before Christmas, I
don't think people are going to go back shopping after Black
Friday," said Joel Wincowski, a higher education consultant
shopping at a Best Buy (BBY.N) store in Plattsburgh, New York.
He bought an Xbox 360 game console for $299.
 In fact, 71 percent of consumers who planned to shop over
Black Friday weekend said they expect prices to fall further
before Christmas, according to a survey for Reuters by
America's Research Group. [ID:nN29412714]
 Discount chains like Walmart, department stores and
higher-end chains like Saks Inc SKS.N seemed to have lured
more spending and avoided steep discounts, retail consultants
and executives said on Sunday.
 "The market has had a negative bias toward the state of
consumer spending," said Bill Dreher, senior analyst at
Deutsche Bank. "We continue to believe that there are pockets
of strength with discount retailing doing very well, with
select luxury retailers doing very well, like Nordstrom (JWN.N)
and Saks, which have brought down their price points."
 Specialty apparel chains, however, may face another tough
year as they relied on heavy promotions to draw shoppers.
 "Going through the mall on Friday, the stores that had not
been doing as well -- AnnTaylor (ANN.N), Limited, Gap (GPS.N)
-- were very aggressively promoting," said Jeff Edelman,
director of retail and consumer advisory at RSM McGladrey.
 Edelman expects holiday sales to be flat this year, but he
said he expected profits for most retailers to be higher.
 The NRF said shoppers' destination of choice appeared to be
department stores, with nearly half of holiday shoppers
visiting at least one. A little more than 43 percent of
shoppers said they went to a discount retailer this weekend.
 (Additional reporting by Jessica Wohl in Chicago, Emily Kaiser
in Washington and Phil Wahba in New York; Editing by Michele
Gershberg, Matthew Lewis and Maureen Bavdek)
 ((See blogs.reuters.com/shop-talk/ for Shop Talk --
Reuters' retail and consumer blog.))
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