Consumers’ Self-Purchasing Bodes Well for Holiday, NRF Says

Consumers snapped up fashions and accessories for themselves during Thanksgiving weekend and still have to do most of their gift shopping, signaling holiday sales gains may be sustained, the National Retail Federation said.

Shoppers still had to finish more than 60 percent of their holiday buying as of Nov. 26, the same amount as a year earlier, while their spending in the past weekend jumped 9.1 percent to $398.62, on average, the Washington-based trade group said.

So-called self-gifting is an important source of growth for retailers during the holiday season, said market research firm NPD Group Inc. November and December can account for as much as 40 percent of a retailer’s annual sales.

“A lot of people were out buying for themselves,” Ellen Davis, NRF vice president, said at a Bloomberg Government breakfast meeting today. “A lot of people on Friday were out buying discretionary purchases, more fashion-forward goods, accessories. That was very encouraging.”

Shoppers were taking advantage of steeper discounts and earlier opening hours at retailers including Macy’s Inc. (M), Wal- Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) and Toys “R” Us Inc. Strong sales of shoes and menswear at Macy’s flagship store in Manhattan on Black Friday suggested self-purchasing, Chief Executive Officer Terry Lundgren said in an interview last week.

“Without it, growth is nearly impossible,” Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst of NPD, based in Port Washington, New York-based market research firm, said earlier this month.

Sales Lull

Retailers likely will see a sales lull in the coming weeks and a burst in spending just before Christmas, as usually happens, NRF President Matthew Shay said at the Bloomberg event. The NRF, which in October forecast a 2.8 percent gain in holiday sales in the November-December period -- almost half the pace of 2010 -- won’t consider revising that projection until the Commerce Department releases November retail sales figures on Dec. 13, Shay said.

The NRF would prefer to see a sustainable gain of as much as 5 percent rather than a faster acceleration, Shay said.

Sales at stores open at least a year likely rose 3.5 percent to 4 percent in November, the International Council of Shopping Centers reported yesterday. The nation’s retail chains report their latest monthly results tomorrow.

Consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy, grew at a 2.3 percent annual rate in the third quarter, the fastest pace of 2011, the Commerce Department said Nov. 22.

Self-Gifting Gains

The portion of consumers planning to shop for themselves rose to 19 percent from 17 percent a year ago and 16 percent a year before that, according to a survey that NPD released in October. That’s all still down from the 27 percent who planned to self-gift in 2007.

Aneeb Sharif, a 23-year-old labor union researcher who was shopping in Georgetown in the District of Columbia on Black Friday, bought different colored merino wool V-neck sweaters for his father, his brother and himself for a total of $105. The sweaters would have been $180 at full price, he said.

"It’s OK for me to splurge on myself because I have not spent so much this year," Sharif said.

Coach Inc. (COH), the largest U.S. luxury handbag maker, was optimistic self-indulging consumers would come through.

The company expects an “excellent holiday season,” partly due to shoppers’ “strong interest” in accessories for self- purchase, Chief Executive Officer Lew Frankfort said on a conference call.

To contact the reporter on this story: Cotten Timberlake in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Robin Ajello at

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