US consumers shopping over the Thanksgiving weekend spent 18.9 percent more than they did last year as retailers slashed prices to attract holiday shoppers.
Consumers spent an average US$360.15 each from Nov. 23 through to Sunday, up from US$302.81 a year earlier, the National Retail Federation said in a statement. Fewer people shopped, with about 140 million visiting stores during the four days including Thanksgiving, down from 145 million last year.
Shoppers limited much of their spending to sale items such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc's US$997 37-inch LCD TV and Sears Holding Corp's discounted jewelry and toys, said consultant Howard Davidowitz. The discounting may threaten profit margins during a quarter when retailers collect a third of their annual earnings.
"The retailers made their own bed here," said Patricia Edwards, a Seattle-based money manager at Wentworth, Hauser & Violich. "It's almost this mentality of `Don't worry if you're losing money on every transaction, because you'll make it up on volume.'"
The company manages US$8.2 billion, including Wal-Mart, Nordstrom Inc and Chico's FAS Inc shares.
Sales on Nov. 24, called Black Friday because retailers once considered it the day they turned profitable for the year, rose 6 percent from last year to US$8.96 billion, according to estimates by research firm ShopperTrak RCT Corp.
The growth in weekend sales outpaced last year's gain, when consumers each spent an average 14.2 percent more than in 2004.
US consumer confidence is close to a 15-month high as gasoline prices decline and unemployment remains at its lowest in five years.
Online shopping on Friday totaled US$434 million, a 42 percent jump over last year, consulting firm ComScore Networks Inc. said. Consumers spent US$8.31 billion this month through Nov. 24, a 23 percent increase over last year, ComScore said.
The NRF said sales this month and next month may rise 5 percent to US$457.4 billion.
About 33 percent of shoppers bought electronics over the weekend, including flat-panel television sets, Microsoft Corp's Zune digital music player and video-game consoles such as Nintendo Co's Wii and Sony Corp's PlayStation 3, the NRF said.
Laura Brown, a 38-year-old nurse in Atlanta, bought a 42-inch Panasonic plasma TV for US$1,000 at a Best Buy Co store the day after Thanksgiving. The set was marked down from US$1,700 and was "my gift to me," Brown said.
"It was shocking because people were only buying doorbusters," said Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates. Employees with his New York-based consulting firm visited 50 retailers this weekend. "You can't have people just come in and buy doorbusters and leave." Wal-Mart said on Saturday that this month's sales at US stores open at least a year fell 0.1 percent, the worst performance in a decade and lower than the company's forecast of unchanged sales.
The retailer marked down toys, electronics and appliances while cutting prices on generic drugs in 38 US states.
"First Wal-Mart wanted to go upscale, now they're going back to cutting prices across the board," said Walter Todd, who helps manage US$850 million at Greenwood Capital in Greenwood, South Carolina. "I think things are a bit loosey-goosey right now." Todd sold Wal-Mart shares this year on concerns over slowing sales.
Walmart.com, Wal-Mart's Web site, was working intermittently on Black Friday because of unexpectedly high traffic, spokeswoman Amy Colella said. The company posted Black Friday specials online on Thanksgiving Day and ran advertisements during college football games to direct users to the site.
Amazon.com Inc experienced a 15-minute slowdown the morning after Thanksgiving for promotional items such as a US$100 Microsoft Corp. Xbox 360. The video game console sold out in 29 seconds, Amazon spokesman Craig Berman said.
ONGOING PROBE: A former Military Intelligence Bureau colonel, major general and another colonel, as well as five other people, have been questioned by prosecutors The Taipei District Court yesterday ordered that a retired colonel from the Military Intelligence Bureau (MIB) calling himself Taiwan’s “first special agent” be detained and held incommunicado as part of an ongoing investigation into espionage allegations targeting at least three former bureau officials. The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office was seeking to detain former MIB colonel Chang Chao-jan (張超然) over his alleged involvement in introducing retired agents to Chinese national security authorities and passing confidential documents to China. Chang’s actions, if proven, would contravene the National Security Act (國家安全法), which carries a prison term of three to 10 years, and the National Intelligence
The US House of Representatives’ China Task Force, launched by Republicans earlier this year, yesterday proposed the China task force act, a package of 137 pieces of legislation, seven of which involve Taiwan, in the hope of getting it passed before the 117th US Congress convenes on Jan. 3. The act encompasses a wide range of issues, including combatting Beijing’s influence around the globe, establishing the US’ dominance in determining 5G network standards and means for bringing UN members to task for abusing their influence within the UN system. The seven acts involving Taiwan address concerns such as the Taiwan Assurance Act
Chinese health authorities investigating a COVID-19 outbreak have said that they discovered live coronavirus on frozen food packaging, a finding that suggests the virus can survive in cold supply chains. The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday said that it had found traces of live COVID-19 on the outer packaging of frozen cod in the eastern city of Qingdao, marking the first time that live coronavirus has been detected on the outside of refrigerated goods. Researchers were investigating the source of a cluster of cases linked to a hospital in Qingdao. Genetic traces had previously been found in samples of
A Chinese soldier apprehended earlier this week by the Indian Army after he strayed across a tense de facto border was on Tuesday night handed back to China, an Indian government source in New Delhi said yesterday. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldier had on Monday been captured in the Demchok area of eastern Ladakh, the Indian Army said in a statement. The Chinese military also released a statement, saying that Corporal Wang Yalong was handed over early yesterday. New Delhi on Monday said that it had detained Wang after he crossed into Indian-controlled territory, while China announced that Wang had gotten