Personal spending rose less than forecast in November
Washington, D.C. — A report released Friday by the Commerce Department showed that U.S. consumer spending edged up 0.1% in November, less than forecast and reflecting an economy that continues to struggle.
Incomes also grew 0.1% in November, the weakest in three months, after a 0.4% rise in October. The median estimate for spending in a Bloomberg News survey of economists called for a 0.3% advance.
“In the absence of a significant pickup in income, we won’t see a big boost in spending,” Yelena Shulyatyeva, an economist at BNP Paribas in New York, told Bloomberg. “The momentum will slow in the fourth quarter, but the economy is still growing.”
Projections among the 79 economists in the Bloomberg survey for spending ranged from increases of 0.2% to 0.6%.
Wages and salaries decreased 0.1% after a 0.6% gain.
Walmart enjoys record traffic online
Increasing shopper traffic in stores was a challenge for Walmart throughout 2011, but it was a different story online. The retailer surged to number 18 on the November ranking of the top 50 U.S. Internet properties compiled by online measurement firm comScore.
Walmart.com registered 58.5 million unique visitors in November, a big lift sequentially from October when it had 45.2 million visitors and, more impressively, well above November 2010 when comScore showed Walmart.com with 51.8 million visitors.
If the company converted even a fraction of that traffic to sales it was a Merry Christmas indeed, as every week throughout the holiday season comScore reported another new record for online sales. The most recent figures from the firm put online sales during the Nov. 1 through Dec. 18 period at $32 billion, a 15% increase from the same time period the prior year. In addition, there were an unprecedented 10 days when total online retail sales exceeded $1 billion, according to comScore.
In terms of traffic, Walmart easily outdistanced rival Target, which had 40.2 million unique visitors during November and was ranked 26. While that is a major sequential improvement from October when Target.com had 27 million visitors, the figure has to be regarded a major disappointment, as Target.com experienced a late summer, glitch-laden relaunch and November traffic was essentially flat with the prior year when Target.com logged 39.8 million visitors.
Overall, the rising tide of online traffic during the holidays tended to lift other retailers’ boats. Best Buy and Sears don’t normally crack the top 50 ranking, (most months Walmart.com is the only conventional retailer in the top 50) but during November Best Buy was ranked 29 with 36.5 million unique visitors, and Sears was ranked 38 with 31 million unique visitors.
The gift that keeps on giving
Walmart and the Walmart Foundation give away so much money it is hard to keep track of it all and this was certainly evident during the holiday season.
On Thursday, the company announced another round of grants totaling $200,000 to 10 nonprofits groups as part of its “12 Days of Giving” Facebook campaign. Those grants mark the culmination of an innovating corporate giving campaign that integrated social media and resulted in a total of $1.5 million being awarded to 145 organizations in all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.
Regarding recipients of the grants, Julie Gehrki, senior director at the Walmart Foundation, said, “Every community needs a hero, someone who is willing to take extraordinary and selfless action to help those in need. We are honored to give these inspirational community heroes the recognition they deserve and do a small part to help them achieve their mission.”
Walmart’s call for nominations for its “12 Days of Giving” campaign resulted in more than 5,400 nominations from Facebook users who shared photos and short descriptions of a nonprofit’s impact in its local community. A panel from the Walmart Foundation reviewed submissions and selected nonprofits with a focus on organizations that are providing basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing and baby supplies.
Including the Facebook campaign, the Walmart Foundation this holiday season provided more than $19 million in grants.