Trends in consumer spending are usually skewed in November because, in the days after Thanksgiving, the holiday shopping season begins. Nonetheless, the data for the month tells a story of its own about consumer confidence and their willingness to spend. With the economic recovery progressing at a still anemic pace and the late date of Black Friday causing retailers to begin offering promotions earlier in the month, the annual kickoff of the holiday shopping season was weaker-than-expected.
Over the course of the weekend, consumers spent approximately $1.7 billion less on holiday shopping than they did last year, according to the National Retail Federation, even though 141 million people — 1 million more than in 2012 — shopped between Thursday and Sunday. Key to the lower spending number was the fact that the average amount spent per person decreased to $407.02 from last year’s $423.55. “There are some economic challenges that many Americans still face,” Matthew Shay, the retail federation’s chief executive officer, told the New York Times. “So in general terms, many are intending to be a little bit more conservative with their budgets.”
With that reality staring them in the face, executives at Wal-Mart and Target have lowered their yearly forecasts recently, citing slow wage growth, stubbornly high unemployment, and depressed consumer confidence as causes for their concern. “The retail environment, both in stores and online, remains competitive,” Wal-Mart Chief Executive Mike Duke in an audio recording released with the earnings report. “At the same time, some customers feel uncertainty about the economy, government, jobs stability and their need to take care of their families through the holidays.”