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Stores Hope Super Saturday Lives Up to Holiday Expectations: The Week Ahead

Will shoppers shop on Super Saturday, or will the Grinch make a surprise visit?

The second half of December turned somewhat frosty as U.S retail traffic saw declines due primarily to storm systems across parts of the U.S., a Cowen Pulse on Retail report said. The Grinch seemed to target clothing retailers, as traffic to domestic apparel stores decreased 11.5 percent for the week ended Dec. 14, on top of a decline of 10.3 percent in the week ended Dec. 7. The two-week average decline of 10.9 percent compares with November traffic of down 4 percent.

All hope might not be lost as Super Saturday weekend could force last-minute shoppers to ditch their procrastinating ways.

Super Saturday and the final weekend before Christmas is typically when holiday consumers holding out for the best deal finally take the plunge and make their last-minute purchase decisions. The National Retail Federation earlier this week said it expects 147.8 million U.S. consumers to participate this year, up 10.1 percent from the 134.3 million participants in 2018.

“This last Saturday before Christmas has become the biggest shopping day of the year, and we expect an impressive turnout by procrastinators and those who just want to take advantage of really good deals,” Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the retail trade group, said.

Craig Johnson, president of consultancy Customer Growth Partners, expects to see this year’s overall total sales for Super Saturday to hit $34.0 billion. “It’ll be the biggest day of retail, both for holiday 2019 and ever,” said Johnson, who is estimating “in-store sales to total $26.5 billion and online purchases for the day to reach $7.5 billion.” He added that online purchases made by Saturday should arrive by Tuesday, without extra charges for Christmas Eve delivery at most e-commerce venues.

Morgan Stanley retail analyst Kimberly Greenberger thinks the shopping pace will pick up beginning on Super Saturday and continue over the weekend through Monday. And shopping is also expected to pick up on the Friday and Saturday after Christmas. That’s when holiday shoppers armed with gift cards are on the hunt for deals in the post-holiday shopping period. Consumers looking for bargains for themselves are also likely to hit the malls and online sites.

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The latest reading from the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Survey, which on Friday rose modestly to 99.3, could further fuel retail optimism. That level represented its highest since May, whereas the reading a year ago was 98.3.

“Inflation expectations declined in the December survey, with both the year-ahead and five-year expected inflation rates falling. For the year-ahead, an annual inflation rate of 2.3 percent was expected,” Richard Curtin, the University’s Surveys of Consumers chief economist, said. President Trump’s impeachment hearing had only a very slight impact on economic expectations, as it was mentioned by just 2 percent of survey respondents, he noted in the latest survey.

On Wednesday, the full House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump on two charges, one for abuse of power and the other for obstruction of Congress.

Trump, for his part, earlier this month said a “phase one” trade deal with China has been reached. “Had a very good talk with President Xi of China concerning our giant Trade Deal. China has already started large scale purchaes (sic) of agricultural product & more. Formal signing being arranged. Also talked about North Korea, where we are working with China, & Hong Kong (progress!),” Trump tweeted Friday morning. 

“Both the U.S. and Chinese markets and the world have responded very positively to [the first-phase economic and trade agreement]. The U.S. is willing to maintain close communication with China and strive to sign and implement it as soon as possible,” said Xi Jinping, China’s president, according to the country’s state-run media agency Xinhua shortly after Trump’s tweet.