Investors took a dim view of early holiday season sales on Monday, with shares of Best Buy
Overall, the Standard & Poor's Retail index <.RLX> rose 0.1 percent as early data from the U.S. Thanksgiving weekend showed that consumers on average spent less than a year ago, but that more of them showed up to shop.
Many of the biggest U.S. retail names traded lower, with discounter Wal-Mart Stores Inc
Women's apparel retailers also suffered, with shares in Talbots
Amazon, which also reported a record sales month for its Kindle electronic reader in November, rose 2.3 percent. Strong sales of discounted electronics helped Best Buy rise 1.6 percent while American Eagle gained 2.3 percent.
The numbers weren't bad, they weren't out-of-the-park good but then again nobody expected them to be good, said Marc Pado, U.S. market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald & Co. in San Francisco.
Consumers stuck to searching for discounts and buying only according to plan as double-digit unemployment and tighter credit limits put a crimp in spending.
The thing I've seen is people very much have lists and are sticking very much to buying what's on that list, said Scott Tuhy, analyst at Moody's Investors Service.
But while sales may be lackluster, analysts credited stores with sticking to smaller discounts than in 2008. That strategy, along with a move to cut down inventories, should help retailers protect their margins this holiday season.
Yes, there were some attractive door busters, but pricing (flat-screen TVs) ... pricing on netbooks and as always pricing on Apple products held steady and specials were of limited quantities, Credit Suisse analyst Gary Balter said in a research note.
Consumers said they will have spent nearly 8 percent less on average, or about $343 per person, over the weekend that includes Thanksgiving, Black Friday and ran through Sunday, according to the National Retail Federation.
Traffic to stores and websites rose to 195 million people from 172 million in 2008, and total spending rose 0.5 percent to an estimated $41.2 billion from a year ago.
Consumers also did more spending on the Internet. Analytics firm comScore said Sunday that U.S. online spending on Black Friday was the strongest it has ever been, up 11 percent over the prior year, with $595 million spent online.
Consumer spending makes up roughly 70 percent of the U.S. economy and economists and analysts are watching the holiday shopping season to see if consumers that have been battered by a recession, high unemployment and a credit crunch were ready to let loose and spend a little more this year.
Investors will now look for a clearer picture of the month when retailers release November sales later this week.
(Additional reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak)
(Reporting by Brad Dorfman, editing by Dave Zimmerman)