Dec 82008 51% retailers surveyed report higher sales in November 2008 vs. November 2007

Last week and Forrester surveyed 96 member companies about their sales. The sample: a mix of multichannel retailers and pureplays. About 1/3 under $10mil, about 1/3 $10 to $100mil, and about 1/3 over $100mil in web revenue. Average web revenue $150mil.

The finding: half of the retailers surveyed reported November 2008 sales beat November 2007 sales.


(You need to be a member to read the report here. They might consider sharing the data beyond members if asked nicely.)

Now, that's half reporting a sales increase, not an earnings increase. Discounting likely played a big role. And if 50% of respondents enjoyed sales growth, then the other half didn't -- the "glass-half-empty" view. And many respondents were large store retailers, perhaps still showing strong y-o-y because they were late to the web.

Sure, sure, sure. A pessimist can spin these data negatively. Online sales could be stronger. Certainly.

But, as we've pointed out before here and here, despite the sky-is-falling stories in the popular press, we're not seeing utter collapse in online sales. Not across our clients. Not across non-client industry friends sharing numbers. And not across these 96 retailers.

Some retailers are having a very very tough time. Other retailers are seeing growth. The situation is quite mixed.

Stories of across-the-board retail catastrophe may drive news ratings, but they don't help the economy. And they don't reflect what's actually happening online.


5 Responses to " 51% retailers surveyed report higher sales in November 2008 vs. November 2007"
John says:
If the 50% with an increase in sales are in the sub 10million and 50% with a decrease are in the plus 100 million then we could have a problem. Also, as we know on-line sales increase as we move toward Christmas. Culminating in a huge Monday and Tuesday on Christmas week. You have to wonder what drives those final 2 shopping days. Is it expectations of a bonus or a 'we've done well let's add to our spend this year, or even end of year tax spend before leaving for vacation? - And how many of these stores are dealing in international sales and dollar conversions? A complete collapse of these 2 days will see alot of pain. E-commerce has never had a recession and with headwinds picking up next year including the already announced cull on credit card limits, increase in shipping fees, internet taxation to name a few. The last figure provided is that as of yesterday ecommerce has 0% increase in sales to December 5 -this after massive discounting, massive promotions (email) , inflation - the fact that multichannel retailers are driving web sales (better inventory management and less sales staff. Next year will see a retraction of retail on the street as banks pull their branches and other retailers fold there will be less reason to travel to shop ( a positive for e-commerce in the LR) . This is not about managing up its about managing down. Shop.Org can post what they wish. There will be no hidding in Feb 09.
John, you're bumming me out, man! You can add to your litany that online should be growing as some of that growth is simply cannibalizing brick and mortar sales. The fact that it's close to flat is a really bad sign for the retail sector as a whole. Also, some studies suggest that a much larger percentage of consumers say they're done with Xmas shopping compared to the same time last year. Chicken Little isn't crazy. There's plenty of cause for concern. That said, I remember back in the days when our summer weather forecast often called for "afternoon thunder showers." These have turned into "DANGEROUS THUNDERSTORM ACTIVITY" warnings that interrupt broadcasts and stream across the bottom of the screen. It's a pretty good rule of thumb to say that whatever the hysteria of the news media, we're guaranteed it won't be as bad as they say it will be. Brace for a 1981 - 82 style recession. No fun, but not the end of the world.
John says:
I have to admit the 'blurt' made me feel better. 'blurt' could be a weather pattern. You are right - the world is not ending, however, there is a fundamental shift (jolt) happening this quarter and that is the move away from margins and a focus on inventory adjustment. A pretty abrupt shift from supply-side issues to demand-side issues. In the long run e-commerce should be the beneficiary of shifting trends but we will see obvious pain in the meantime - at least we will see improved management capabilities in the e-commerce space and a final win for business in the IT versus business e-commerce driver battle. Nothing like a survival battle to burst the IT egos! I apologise for the negative post - but look at the bright side - I did post and there is plenty of fodder to feed your editorial. John
If the 50% with an increase in sales are in the sub 10million and 50% with a decrease are in the plus 100 million then we could have a problem. Actually, the survey reported there were gainers and decliners in all three size groups. In fact, the largest retailers were more likely to be "up" in this survey. (I take 'the biggest were more like to be up' as 'store retailers late to embrace web enjoying y-o-y growth due to weak 2007 comps', but still.) Sorry I couldn't just post the PDFs, but am respectful of the "confidential" stamp put on 'em.
John, I'm totally teasing! Thanks so much for your thoughtful commentary, it's much appreciated! As always, it's probably best for all of us to focus our attention on those aspects of our businesses we can control rather than the external stuff we can't, but knowing the weather forecast is an important part of the decision making process. George

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