Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Retail sales come in lower than expected

A week ago the media was all over a report that the Thanksgiving Day holiday weekend sales had been a blow out. I almost wrote about that then since my cynical nature is to not believe these reports.

It seems to me that every year, following Black Friday, there are reports that sales have been enormous. Shop, shop, shop, 'cause everyone else is doing it.

But how is it possible that in the middle of recessionary times – even if few are calling it technically a recession – that sales can boom?

Well, it turns out that retails sales are not exactly booming. The Commerce Department released new figures today that showed that sales grew, but only at 0.2 percent. And remember, last year wasn't exactly a boom year either.

I don't rejoice at the news, despite it confirming my instincts. No, I'd love to see a return to the late nineties boom years, despite the fact that the voters rejected those good years for a decade of income shifting to the rich.

But the report reinforces a criticism I've had of the media for many years: their cheerleading for holiday shopping that ends up distorting reality.

Want some examples, what John Gruber would call claim chowder?

November Retail Sales Show Black Friday Was Even Better Than Expected
– Business Insider

Black Friday sales hit record, says report – CNN

Much of this misinformation can probably be traced back to this press release: Black Friday 2011 Sets New Retail Sales Record.

I suppose the same media sites that claim that Apple quarterly sales were a disappointment because they came in lower than some no-name analyst's forecast can be expected to put out these retail shopping propaganda – but do they have to do it every year?

(For the record, retail sales grew in November of 2010 by 0.8 percent, CNN's headline was "Strong kickoff to holiday shopping season." Yikes, a less than one percent gain, and that headline. Come on.)