Economic Outlook: Shoppers up close

By ANTHONY HALL, United Press International  |  Dec. 2, 2009 at 7:28 AM
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An analysis of U.S. shoppers in November shows the month was sharply divided among retail sectors with luxury goods down but Internet sales brisk.

SpendingPulse, which monitors spending for MasterCard Advisors, said e-commerce rose 12.3 percent in November, compared to the same month of 2008. Jewelry sales were also up, climbing 4.6 percent, while electronic goods rose 6.6 percent, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Overall, sales rose 2.7 percent from a year ago, when sales dropped 7.8 percent in the midst of a prolonged recession.

But not every category fared well this year, with the sale of luxury goods down 7.3 percent and clothing sales down 5.7 percent.

"It's a somewhat optimistic start, even though the numbers are relatively flat," said SpendingPulse vice president for research Michael McNamara.

The numbers point to "electronics and online shopping," as the "big winners during the launch of the post-Thanksgiving holiday season," International Council of Shopping Centers chief economist Michael Niemira said.

The Washington Post said Internet shopping traffic rose 8 percent on Cyber Monday, with sales rising 19 percent from 5 p.m. to midnight, when shoppers were home and free to browse electronically.

"This was the largest and most important Cyber Monday yet," Executive Director of Shop.org Scott Silverman said.

The numbers for online shopping include a 47 percent sales boost at Amazon.com and an across-the-board surge in cyber-shopping of 33 percent, marketing firm Mercent said.

A Gallup poll released Tuesday said shoppers through the week spent an average of $69 per person per day through the Thanksgiving holiday week -- a figure that includes everyone, including those who did no shopping at all. In contrast, research firm Coremetrics said shoppers increased their online buying to $180.03 per person Monday, compared with $170.19 a year ago.

With about 700 online merchants offering discounts Monday, "we are seeing good online buying momentum because people are looking for the very best deals," said Coremetrics strategy officer John Squire.

Markets were mostly higher in Asia Wednesday and lower in Europe.

The Nikkei 225 index in Japan added 0.38 percent, while the Shanghai composite index in China rose 1.06 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong rose 0.8 percent, while the Sensex in India dropped 0.16 percent.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.92 percent.

In midday trading in Europe, the FTSE 100 dropped 0.41 percent, while the DAX 30 in Germany fell 0.28 percent. The CAC 40 in France lost 0.14 percent. The DJ Stoxx 50 dropped 0.22 percent.

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