As I expected, consumers simply aren't buying Christmas goods in the same quantities or at the same pace as in years past. They're just plain tapped out. They don't have the disposable income to spare.
There were plenty of forecasts about this. For example, the Wall Street Journal wrote:
Retailers are ringing bells as they head into the holiday shopping season—alarm bells, in many cases.
“Corporate earnings from big apparel retailers have been shockingly bad,” say economists at BNP Paribas. Some have reported inventory backups that suggest demand is slowing, a threat to fourth-quarter economic output after a third quarter that turned out to be better than initially estimated.
. . .
Retailers’ warnings have coincided with weak retail sales in the government’s official figures, confirming a broader slowdown in the sector despite cheap gasoline, strong job growth and early signs of faster wage growth. Retail sales have largely stalled in recent months, extending the lackluster streak this year. Americans have curbed discretionary spending lately on items like electronics and appliances, and in its most recent report the Commerce Department said shoppers more than halved their spending at retailers in November from a year earlier.
That pullback is showing up in corporate earnings reports and it’s prompting downbeat forecasts for the holiday quarter.
. . .
The results underscore the challenges of the economic expansion, which has been plagued by weak demand and slow wage growth for most Americans.
There's more at the link.
After enough time to gather and analyze the data, those forecasts have proved to be correct. For example, Investment Research Dynamics reports:
Total sales in the US on Black Friday fell 10% to $10.4bn this year, down from $11.6bn in 2014, according to research firm ShopperTrak.
Store-based sales dropped $1.2 billion, while online sales increased $150 million. The media is going to highlight the increase in online sales. But remember, online sales represent only 6% of total retail sales. The plunge in brick-and-mortar sales was nearly 10x greater in total dollars than was the increase in cyber sales.
Again, more at the link.
I've been watching closely to see how traffic looks at major shopping centers in the Nashville area. Weekends are a madhouse at places like Opry Mills or the upmarket shopping centers south of the city in Brentwood; but a lot of that appears to be people coming in from out of town to shop at the big centers. On ordinary weekdays, and at smaller shopping centers, there isn't much of a crush at all. I'm also seeing people buy less in the way of frills and fripperies, and more in the way of real household needs. I suspect a lot of kids may be getting new bedding or clothes, rather than toys or baubles.
For ourselves, Miss D. and I have bought each other a house in Texas. That's all the Christmas present we'll need!