Holiday Retail Secrets Revealed: Not So Happy Returns, Fewer Jobs

Behind this year’s positive Black Friday sales numbers hides a dirty secret: more sales equals more returns.

According to the National Retail Foundation, returned goods reached record high numbers at $462.8 billion this holiday season, a 4.25 percent rise as compared to last year’s numbers.

How did this happen? Consumers caught the shopping bug from Black Friday and its deals. Many spent too much money during the first shopping weekend. After taking a deep breath and looking at a pile of receipts, buyer’s remorse hit them, followed by returns.

Not helping consumers is the amount of money that was probably spent on their credit cards.

Retailers don’t have to fear shopping patterns this season, instead the smart ones jumped on a growing trend. Macy’s (NYSE:M) widened and localized its stories, reeling in those consumers that stopped shopping at higher-end stores such as Saks (NYSE:SKS) and Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN).

Luxury goods retailers haven’t been hit too badly either. Retailers such as LVMH (LVMH),  Tiffany & Co. (NYSE:TIF),  Burberry (BRBY) and Hermes (HRMS) are seeing great sales thanks to a global demand for luxury goods from shoppers in Russia, India and China.

But there’s more secrets lurking underneath this season’s positive sales.

Employers are continuing to let workers go at a slower rate, not creating jobs that American workers need. The numbers don’t paint a true picture as long-term unemployed workers have stopped looking for work during this time of year. Look for January filings for unemployment claims to go back on the rise.

On a final note, when looking at this season’s holiday numbers, a better picture can be painted by looking at sales numbers from November and December. Black Friday is just one component of the season; the shopping season really runs through the Saturday before Christmas.

Once all these different numbers and factors are put together, the holiday sales numbers may look a little less rosy this year but better than 2010.

Further Reading: U.S. Retail Sales Rose 4.5% in Week Before Christmas>>