November retail sales figures are coming in for the discount chains, and according to a report by TWICE, the news is a bit grim. WalMart posted a 6.5 percent gain over last year, with consumer electronics, clothing, and home goods doing well.
So much for the good news. Costco was down 3 percent, and sales were down 6.1 percent at Target. The report also cites data from MasterCard for the first two weeks of November, in which consumer electronics and major appliances were down 22.1 percent over last year, following a 19.9 percent drop in October.
Now, these statistics are based on total dollars, which changes the picture a little. With prices for some electronics falling 10 to 20 percent this year, the same level of unit sales will produce a smaller total revenue. We’ve also seen evidence of buyers scaling down their expectations, and choosing to purchase smaller TV sets than in prior years.
But I think that the fact that WalMart posted the gains is a telling detail. People are looking to stretch their dollars as far as possible, and that means leaving the specialty stores behind. WalMart provides one-stop-shopping for deeply-discounted products in just about all categories, including top brand flat panel HDTVs. Everyone has been tightening their belts — including the retailers — which means that the bargains are going to stick around for a while.