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Nielsen: One-Third of U.S. Consumers to Cut Holiday Spending

BY CSA STAFF

Schaumburg, Ill. More than one-third (35%) of U.S. consumers across all income levels said they are expecting to spend less this upcoming holiday season, according to The Nielsen Co. Only 6% said they expect to spend more and 50% of those surveyed expect to spend the same amount as last year’s holiday shopping season.

The survey indicated that economic concerns are also putting a damper on holiday spending among high-income ($100,000 plus) consumers, with nearly one-third (32%) of affluent shoppers planning on spending less this holiday season. Only 5% expect to spend more.

Of those consumers that intend to spend about the same as last year, half said they will make purchases at grocery stores, supercenters and mass merchandisers.

Nielsen also found that the holiday season may prove to be a bigger challenge for department and electronic stores, with almost one-third (28%) of consumers expecting to spend less in these stores this year.

Convenience and gas retailers may come out ahead this year with 12% of consumers expecting to spend more in these locations, likely related to a rise in pre-paid gas cards as gifts this holiday season.

Nielsen forecasts a 4.7% growth in dollar sales, or $98 billion, across grocery stores, drug stores, mass merchandisers and convenience stores, for the holiday shopping season.

The growth forecast, which is slightly higher than last year’s 4.5% gain, is in large part due to higher commodity prices. Nielsen projects unit sales, however, will be flat or down 0.8% vs. a year ago.

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Wal-Mart posts strong comps across all divisions

BY CSA STAFF

Wal-Mart Stores reported September net sales for the five weeks ended Oct. 3 of $36.23 billion, a 5.8% increase over $34.23 billion in September 2007. Walmart U.S. posted net sales of $22.48 billion, a 4.8% increase over $21.45 billion in September 2007; Sam’s Club had net sales of $4.39 billion, an 8% increase over $4.07 billion in 2007; and International net sales were $9.36 billion, a 7.3% boost over $8.72 billion in September of 2007.

Total U.S. comparable-store sales rose 2.4% without fuel, versus a 1.4% rise in September 2007. Walmart U.S. comps rose 2%, compared to 0.8% in 2007, while Sam’s Club comparable-club sales rose 4.6%, compared to 4.4% in September 2007.

The net impact of Hurricanes Gustav, Hanna and Ike on total U.S. comparable-store and club sales was approximately negative 0.4 percentage points.

"In spite of both the impact from the hurricanes and the recent challenges to consumer confidence as a result of the economic environment, Walmart U.S. had another period of solid comparable-store sales performance," said Eduardo Castro-Wright, Walmart U.S. president and ceo. "We continue to believe that the strong Walmart value proposition is bringing more and more customers to our stores. We are confident that the customers will continue to shop with us as we enter the holiday season."

Comparable-store sales during the September period were strong in both grocery and health and wellness. Sales in grocery were led by food and consumables. Children’s clothing was positive during the September period, while sales of discretionary items were soft.

September sales at Sam’s Club were driven by strengths in fresh food, with produce leading the category. Within general merchandise, apparel sales were strong, while housewares, furniture, video games and electronics saw softer sales. Within electronics, LCD TVs and small electronic devices, such as GPS units and digital audio, performed well.

"Sam’s Club members continue to search for value in this economy," said Doug McMillon, Sam’s Club president and ceo. "Food and consumables, including fresh foods, are driving increases in comparable-club traffic and ticket. While discretionary items are under pressure, members are reacting positively to new items. Price is the primary focus, but newness and quality still matter to them."

The Company expects U.S. comparable-store sales for the October four-week period to be between 1% and 2%, said cfo Tom Schoewe. "The September period included two first-of-the-month paydays, which generally benefit sales," Schoewe said. "However, the October period this year contains no first-of-the-month payday, and that is accounted for in our estimate. We maintain our current estimate for earnings per share from continuing operations for the third quarter ending Oct. 31, to be in the range of 73 cents and 76 cents per share."

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PacSun net sales drop 4% in Sept., 3Q

BY CSA STAFF

ANAHEIM, Calif. Pacific Sunwear of California reported net sales for the month of September, ended Oct. 4, of $91.2 million, a decrease of 4% from $95.1 million in September 2007. Same-store sales decreased 5%.

Net sales for the third quarter of 2008 were $254.3 million, a decrease of 4% from $265.1 million during the same period last year. Third-quarter same-store sales decreased 6%.

As a result of increased markdown activity, PacSun now expects fiscal 2008 third-quarter earnings to be at the low end of its previously announced earnings guidance range of 0 to 5 cents per diluted share.

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