It seems a lot of Americans shifted the gift this holiday season. Early reports from retailers indicate this may well be the least shop-happy winter since the apocalyptic recession Christmas of 2008. And climate change sure isn’t helping.
Shares of retailers dropped sharply on Wednesday, helping drag broader indexes lower, as investors realized they were likely to be disappointed when companies start to report results in a few weeks’ time.
“The broad brush was Christmas wasn’t all that merry for retailers, and you have to ask what those margins look like if the top line didn’t meet their expectations,” said Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group.
Growth was always expected to slow this season, though an improving employment picture and rising home values had helped mitigate the worst fears. But then Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast in late October, mild weather blunted sales of winter clothing and rising concern about the “fiscal cliff” became more of a reality, dragging down already-pessimistic forecasts.
(T-minus how long until someone rebrands swimsuits as a great climate collapse fashion choice?)
Stores stand to scoop up nearly a third of their annual sales over the holiday season, so this drop could be significant — but could it be enough to push us closer to a more lasting shifting of the gifts?
Sales may be down on the whole, but they’re also moving from the brick and mortar world to the digital, leaving us with empty, useless retail spaces and dead, blighted malls from coast to coast. According to Atlantic Cities, shopping mall vacancy rates are now hovering around twice what they were 10 years ago. The head of a leading commercial real estate firm said of these ghost malls, “I don’t think we’re overbuilt, I think we’re under-demolished.”
But we shouldn’t be knocking these places down! We should save the energy and resources that would otherwise be needed to demolish and rebuild, and instead creatively reuse retail space for community centers and social services. But not for shark aquariums though, please. Please.