U.S. has 40 square feet of retail space for
every person in America...
MOST IN THE WORLD
By: Ann Zimmerman, Justin Lakhart and
Wall Street Journal
American shoppers expanded their year-end purchases this holiday season by the biggest margin since the boom year of 2005, but retailers still face daunting challenges in the new year, from rising gasoline and cotton prices to an overabundance of stores.
U.S. retail sales, excluding automobiles, rose 5.5% between Nov. 5 and Dec. 24 compared with a year ago, according to MasterCard SpendingPulse, a unit of MasterCard Advisors that tracks sales by all types of payment.
Last year, sales rose 4.1% during the 50 day period, but those results were easy comparisons against the recession in 2008, when sales fell 6.1%.
"To sum up, the holiday season is a joyous one," said Sherif Mityas, a partner in the retail practice of A.T. Kearney, a global management consulting firm. "Consumers are looking to spend again. They are more confident than they had been."
The numbers were not reflective of a late December storm, which did not hit most of the East Coast until Christmas Day or later. The day after Christmas is traditionally one of the season's biggest shopping days but retailers are expecting that shoppers will simply delay their purchases, not abandon them.
Just how long retailers' confidence will last for shoppers and stores alike is the big question.
Couple of interesting FactoidsOver the past four quarters, consumer spending accounted for 68.6% of demand in the economy, up from 66.5% in 2007. The reason: With housing contributing less to the economy than at any time since World War II, and with businesses spending also down sharply, consumer spending is taking a larger piece of the overall pie.
Even if shoppers continue to loosen purse strings in the year ahead, the retail landscape is still littered with too many stores for all to prosper. The U.S. now has some 40 square feet of retail space for each person—the most per person in the world. Read on Garth