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12/15/2011

Happy holidays?

I'm no shopper. My only real ventures are two weekend trips to the local home improvement store (the first one to get what I think is the right item, and the second to return that item and get the correct one). One thing I am good at is noting traffic—both on the roads on the way to the store and inside the store itself. My unscientific observation is that it's been rather heavy this holiday season.

What do our more thorough observations tell us about consumer spending this holiday season here in the region? Preliminary results from our latest monthly poll of District retailers reveal a rather positive level of activity. Nearly two-thirds of respondents said sales were up over year-ago levels, and three out of four said after-Thanksgiving sales were at or above 2010 results. With regard to overall holiday sales expectations, two-thirds expect them to be up slightly.

We also surveyed our directors on how they saw early holiday sales. Seventy-three percent replied that they were better than year-ago results to date, 21 percent said they were on par, and only 6 percent found them to be worse than a year ago.

These results appear to match broader measures of holiday sales. The Wall Street Journal has been posing a "Daily Spend-o-Meter," which reports results from Gallup on the daily average dollar amount Americans spend or charge (not counting the purchase of a home, motor vehicle, or normal household bills). It shows that national consumer spending is running above 2010 levels:

gallup daily graph

I'll be continuing my informal assessment this weekend—I have to replace a broken faucet. I'm planning on more than two trips for this one.

Photo of Michael Chriszt By Mike Chriszt, an assistant vice president in the Atlanta Fed's research department

December 15, 2011 in Retail | Permalink

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