U.S. holiday sales on track amid online boost: NRF survey

Mon Nov 30, 2015 4:22am EST
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By Nathan Layne

(Reuters) - U.S. holiday shopping is on track for a modest 3.7 percent rise this year after strong turnout during the Thanksgiving and Black Friday weekend and thanks to strong online sales, the National Retail Federation said on Sunday after releasing an annual consumer poll.

The industry group’s poll this year uses different methodology than last year, and it did not estimate total sales for the four-day weekend. But its broad conclusions added to other research showing that in-store shopping was about the same as a year ago and that online shopping had jumped, putting total sales ahead of last year.

Black Friday is considered the kickoff to holiday shopping, and retailers will change strategy based on the weekend’s sales. Last year, retailers continued Black Friday-level discounts into December, sparking a buying rush in the week before Christmas.

NRF Chief Executive Officer Matt Shay said that he was encouraged by signs of improving consumer sentiment, helped by low unemployment and cheap gas. He said retail executives he had spoken to were generally pleased with how the weekend went.

"Consumers are in a good place to get us to a very good holiday season," Shay said on a conference call. "I think we are in a very good place based on the results of the last few days to be right in that range."

Discount sellers such as TJ Maxx and Ross Stores Inc (ROST.O: Quote), as well as J C Penney Co Inc (JCP.N: Quote) and Toys R Us Inc performed well, said analyst Burt Flickinger, whose Strategic Resource Group surveyed shoppers all weekend.

People on average bought more and paid less for it, said Craig Johnson, principal at retail consultancy Consumer Growth Partners. He projected total weekend sales would be up 2 percent from last year, as rising online sales balanced out slowing in-store demand.

By changing its survey methodology, the NRF threw a curve ball for analysts and media that closely watch its spending numbers for the Thanksgiving weekend.   Continued...

A shopper takes part in Black Friday sales at a Target store in Chicago, Illinois, United States, November 27, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young   - RTX1W5G7