This is why retailers are terrified of the holidays

November 18, 2013

If you've been listening to retailers talk about their plans for the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas — which can make up 40 percent of their sales — you'd think Santa was just planning to take the week off. Consumer confidence is low, the season is a few days shorter than usual, and the big boxes (with a few exceptions) have announced they'll open earlier than ever on Thanksgiving. Stores like the Gap and Forever 21 are already doing deep discounts to get people in the doors, and Black Friday competition is fierce.

Well, the projections aren't all that bad. Wells Fargo says that overall holiday spending is actually expected to grow 3.7 percent -- not as much as last year, but more than the pace of the economy overall. At the same time, though, on a per capita basis,  consumers are expected to spend $737.95 this year to last year's $752.24, which is the first decline since 2009. That's in line with Morgan Stanley and the National Retail Federations' equally bleak forecasts.


(Wells Fargo)

Also depressing prospects? Continuing catfights out of Washington over the budget.

"With federal government funding set to run out in mid-January, December likely will be another politically contentious month of debate that could have negative spillover effects on consumer spending," Wells Fargo wrote.

One more point on the board for yes, Congress is killing the economy.

Lydia DePillis is a reporter focusing on labor, business, and housing. She previously worked at The New Republic and the Washington City Paper. She's from Seattle.
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