Holiday weekend sales dip on discounts; e-commerce jumps

Sun Dec 1, 2013 5:44pm EST
 
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By Phil Wahba

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Heavy discounting took a toll on U.S. retail sales during the Thanksgiving weekend as shoppers spent almost 3 percent less than they did a year earlier, according to data released Sunday by an industry group.

That could be an indication of a more difficult season for many retailers. One bright spot this weekend, according to the data, was e-commerce as online sales soared.

The National Retail Federation estimated the average shopper spent $407.02 over the weekend, or 3.9 percent less than during the same weekend last year, because of lower prices it said would persist through the rest of the season.

"Retailers will continue to aggressively promote their in-store and online offerings, looking to entice today's very budget-conscious and value-focused shopper," said NRF Chief Executive Matthew Shay.

The NRF said 141 million people went shopping at least once during the holiday weekend, up from 139 million last year. But total spending was expected to reach $57.4 billion for the four-day period - which includes Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year - down 2.8 percent from $59.1 billion over the same weekend in 2012.

The big deals will also dent profit margins, analysts said.

"Sales will go up, but gross margins are going to be down. Doorbusters were what people were shopping for, more than the regular-priced stuff," said Ron Friedman, retail practice leader at the consulting firm Marcum LLP.

The Thanksgiving weekend is an early gauge of consumer mood and intentions in a season that generates about 30 percent of sales and nearly 40 percent of profit for retailers.   Continued...

 
A shopper looks at items on sale inside of a JC Penney store during Black Friday sales in New York, November 29, 2013. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson