US Holiday Spending Down, But Asian Retail Sector Way Up, Despite Emerging Market Turmoil

 @natrudy
on September 17 2013 5:33 PM
Shopping Mall San Francisco 2012 2
A woman walks through a shopping mall in San Francisco. Reuters

American shoppers are expected to visit fewer stores this holiday season, with less overall traffic, even as the retail landscape in Asia has remained strong, according to retail researchers.

Shopping analytic firm ShopperTrak said Tuesday that retail sales will rise 2.4 percent from 2012 levels in the United States. But the firm added that total retail traffic looks set to decrease by 1.4 percent in November and December.   

“Although the economy continues to recover slowly, consumers remain cautious about spending and are not ready to splurge,” ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin said in a statement. “Even though online buying increases each year, brick-and-mortar sales remain retail’s largest profit opportunity.”

Contrast that to the retail landscape in Asia.  

On Monday, market researcher Euromonitor International said in its review of 14 Asian economies that sales by the region’s top 500 retailers grew 5.4 percent in 2012, almost double U.S. growth in 2013. And that “muted” retail sales growth happened even as the dollar weakened against several Asian currencies, like the Japanese yen.

Euromonitor also noted tremendous recent interest in Internet retailing by Asian retailers, and highlighted strong performances by Alibaba Group Holding Limited (HKG:1688) of China and Rakuten Inc. (TYO:4755) of Japan, companies that weighed in as the top two regional e-retailers.

In the U.S., meanwhile, Martin estimated that well over 90 percent of retail sales still happen in brick-and-mortar stores.

Last week, the U.S. Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index hit its lowest reading since April 2012, indicating consumer pessimism in late August and early September. Economics researcher IHS Global Insight wrote in a statement: “Consumer sentiment has been turning sour due to lackluster wage gains and a more pessimistic outlook on economic growth.”

“It is very obvious that Americans are still cautious and their mood has soured recently.” The consultancy expected consumer spending growth of 1.5 percent in the third quarter, with “relatively modest” retail sales in September.

Citigroup Inc. (NYSE:C) analysts also noted soft August sales, but were more optimistic about a positive trajectory for U.S. retail sales in the third quarter.

Share this article