Holiday sales may be worse than thought: researcher

Mon Dec 1, 2008 11:22am EST
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By Brad Dorfman

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Holiday sales are likely to be worse than thought based on surveys taken over the Black Friday weekend, according to America's Research Group.

The group's founder and CEO, Britt Beemer, had already forecast 2008 would see the first decline in sales in almost a quarter century of holiday spending surveys as the U.S. economy shrinks.

Beemer told Reuters on Sunday he expected to lower his forecast this week after seeing how consumers responded to his group's survey during the three days following Thanksgiving, the traditional kickoff to the holiday shopping season.

Beemer will release his new forecast and full survey results later this week.

But questions asked exclusively for Reuters gave a hint as to why he planned to lower his forecast further from a previous view of a 1 percent decline in holiday sales.

Of the 809 people surveyed, 38 percent said they spent less over the weekend this year than in 2007 and 18.9 percent said they spent more. The reminder said they spent about the same.

"There's no way retail sales could be up when twice as many consumers spent less than more," Beemer said.

Also, while retailers aggressively cut prices to lure consumers into the stores, 30.2 percent of those surveyed by America's Research Group said they thought sales and discounts were not as good as last year, while only 20.5 percent said they were better. The rest said the deals were about the same.   Continued...