Can we please put a moratorium on all the gloomy news? Duke just released a study of CFOs where the key finding is that we’re in for at least another 12 months of stagnation. Will someone acknowledge that there is a glimmer of hope in, of all places, at least one part of the retail world which according to conventional wisdom, should just be getting pummeled? I’ve been maintaining that eCommerce is insulated from the worst of it because there continues to be channel shift because it’s just easier to shop online and perhaps most compelling, it’s a channel where consumers can easily find the best price for anything they want to buy. I have two sets of datapoints to support this. The first is the Chase Paymentech Pulse Index which captures actual transactions from 25 of the top web merchants. Through Tuesday, December 9, the last 33 days of online shopping have actually been great. In fact, consumers have, when measured on a YOY calendar basis, spent 15% more this year than last year. This is remarkable given that Thanksgiving fell later in November this year and we’ve had fewer days to build upon the momentum that Black Friday always creates. Our second set of datapoints come from a survey that Forrester did last week with Shop.org. About 90 retailers responded, and over half of them said that sales have been up in November (including Cyber Monday which happened to fall on December 1 this year). The average November increase for these retailers was actually a hair over 7%–again, remarkable given that we had a very late Thanksgiving this year and we’re just now in the heart of the online holiday shopping season. As for the winners in all this, it’s not surprising that the better performers tend to be larger retailers with multichannel operations. Also, sellers of certain products like the iPhone and iPod no doubt experienced better sales than otherwise because of the popularity of those items.
Now if I had a dime for every time someone asked me if we were going to revise our forecast downward (back in October, we said that holiday sales would be 12% higher than last year), I’d be very wealthy. And after looking at these figures, we feel vindicated for sticking to our guns.