Retail Forward Predicts Bleak Holiday

Two weeks after predicting holiday 2008 will be the weakest in 17 years, consultancy Retail Forward revealed its channel projections – with unwelcome expectations for furniture and home furnishings stores.

Sales in the furniture and home furnishings channel for the October-December are expected to fall 5.0% compared to last year, when sales were essentially flat at -0.6%. "The pace is likely to persist into 2009," said Frank Badillo, vp, senior economic and manager of Retail Forward's Global Retailing Program.

He also predicted heavier holiday markdowns for the sector. "Home goods inventories are still elevated, so they will face much more price-cutting pressure for holiday," said Badillo.

Retail Forward's year-over-year projections for holiday sales in other retail channels includes:

  • Discounters: -1.5%

  • Department stores: -4.5%

  • Home Improvement stores: -1.0%

  • Online stores: 9.0%

  • Small Format Value Stores (dollar stores and off-pricers): 3.5%

  • Supercenters and warehouse clubs: 9.0%

A survey of consumer intentions about holiday shopping found most planning to spend the same as last year, a few spending more and many spending less, noted Mary Brett Witfield, senior vp and director of the Retail Forward Intelligence System. However, she noted, the survey closed prior to the credit crisis and Wall Street banking meltdown.

Even then, 75% of shopping said they had significantly or somewhat changed their shopping behavior. The most frequently named adjustments included buying only what they need (65%), buying fewer things (55%) and shopping less often (54%).

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