Everyone was stunned by the headline earlier this week: “Weakest Holiday Retail Sales Growth Since 2008.”
Everyone, that is, except Lairig Marketing readers. We predicted in our “Crack Friday” post that the holiday season would be a “bloodbath,” and showed you the early, confirming data from the Thanksgiving week in our “Crack Friday Cracked Up” post.
While Sir Richard Branson was urging you to be happy.
It was all downhill from there. But that didn’t stop our friends at the National Retail Federation, the industry trade association whose holiday sales “growth” mythology we have tracked throughout 2011 and 2012.
On December 13, the NRF released two press releases. The first trotted out its typical survey of consumers (the NRF never surveys its member retail companies), asking how they were doing so far in the shopping season.
Remember, several data sources were already showing that sales were off to a horrible start.
“According to NRF’s latest holiday survey…the average person has completed 56.5 % of their [sic] shopping, up from the 46.5 % this time last year…‘Having made a list and checked it twice, holiday shoppers have been out in full force these last few weeks…’ said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay.”
In full force? ShopperTrak had already shown that traffic to stores on Black Friday was down from the growth rate of 2011.
In full force? ShopperTrak would also soon show retail store traffic for the week ending December 15 actually declined on an absolute basis from 2011.
The second December 13 press release from the NRF was a bigger farce:
“According to the National Retail Federation…November retail sales increased 0.8 % seasonally adjusted from October and increased 4.4 % unadjusted year-over-year.”
Except that this was not NRF data. It came from the U.S. Census Bureau (Department of Commerce). By passing this off as its own data, the NRF added “thief” and “liar” to its resume.
And, then this: “With this news, NRF is still expecting holiday sales to grow 4.1 % over last holiday season.”
Mythology to the nth degree. ShopperTrak projected last week that holiday sales growth would be 2.5 % at best this year. And then we got ShopperTrak’s updated data from the week leading into Christmas Day – foot traffic down 3.3 % and sales estimated to be down by 2.5 % (both compared to the same period in 2011).
What has the National Retail Federation had to say about all this, since its two December 13 press releases?
Not. A. Thing.
Which, as we have told you a dozen times, is par for the mythological course the NRF follows. It has never ever – ever – compared its forecasts to actual sales results. As we speak, the NRF is no doubt busy cooking the books for a 2013 Valentine’s Day sales forecast of 11% growth over 2012.
Anyway, the NRF has bigger things on its mind right now. Come mid-January, it will hold its annual “Big Show” – five days of speeches from the biggest talking heads in retail. And not a single minute devoted to a discussion about the U.S. economy.
But if you manage to hang in there until the end of day 5, you can witness the teaming of two of the great myth tellers of all time – the National Retail Federation and Carly Fiorina, the CEO who ran HP into the dirt and has absolutely zero retail experience.
Her topic? “Doing Well By Doing Good.”