Notes: Black Friday and Holiday Season Prognostications
Three days before Black Friday, the National Retail Federation predicts that sales during the 2009 holiday shopping season will fall 1% while the International Council of Shopping foresees sales rising 1%-2%. An AlixPartners survey found 87% of consumers plan to spend the same or less than they did last year, according to the New York Times.
"Retailing veterans expect stores to be bustling on Friday as frugal consumers hunt for bargains with newfound purpose," the Times wrote. "Retailing professionals are also cheered that stores have less inventory today than they did this time last year."
As a result, Michael McNamara at SpendingPulse called discounting this year "more strategic in nature" than last year's panic discounting.
So far in November, the Times said, retail categories with declines have included women's clothing, down 3.3%, and luxury goods, off 9.2%, while electronics rose 6.1% and online sales are up 19.4%.
For its part, the Wall Street Journal called consumers "generally cautious heading into the critical holiday shopping season" and noted that "electronics sales may be solid while sales of apparel, particularly women's styles, could get pummeled."
And a Conference Board survey of 5,000 families, quoted by the Journal, found that "U.S. households are expected to spend about 7% less on gifts this season, shelling out an average of $390."
"Retailers have to dig deep and pull out their A-game right now, because it is a very competitive environment," Mark Snyder, chief marketing officer of Kmart, told the paper. "Whereas you might have given something more trendy in the past, a down comforter is relevant to what is happening right now."
In a front-page article today, the New York Times called the Amazon.com-Wal-Mart pricing battles part of a long-term war. As Fiona Dias, executive v-p of GSI Commerce, put it: "The price-sniping by Wal-Mart is part of a greater strategic plan. They are just not going to cede their business to Amazon."
The article included a picture of Stephen King signing books at a Wal-Mart, which for a time was selling his Under the Dome for $9.
Play by Play, the St. Paul, Minn., drama bookstore that stocks stock new and used theater books and scripts, gift items and a substantial selection of "opening night" cards (Shelf Awareness, July 30, 2009), has opened.
Owner Shelly Schaub told MinnPost.com: "We've got such a smart, great theater scene here, but when you go to the big box bookstores, they maybe have one shelf of theater books and one shelf of Shakespeare. That leaves out nearly everything.... I know bookstores are struggling. There's a really slim margin in books. But you're not going to find the kind of books I've got on my shelf anywhere else. And outside of New York, you're not going to find a more passionate theater community. Everyone here has some connection to the theater."
Following the January closing of the last B. Dalton Bookseller stores, Laredo, Tex., a city of 200,000 on the Mexican border, will no longer have a general-interest bookstore, according to the Houston Chronicle. The nearest will be 90 miles away.
Veronica Castillón, who works in the city's school system, told the paper, "We try to encourage our kids to go to college. To be successful in college, they need to do a lot of reading. To do a lot of reading they need a lot of libraries and bookstores."
Sad news from Southern California: last Saturday, Tyson Cornell's job as director of marketing and publicity at Book Soup, Los Angeles, was eliminated. Much-loved, he had worked at the store nearly 10 years.
Vroman's is in the process of buying Book Soup, whose founder and owner, Glenn Goldman, died early this year.
Cornell may be reached at 213-440-1365 and firstname.lastname@example.org.