In mid-November, I wrote a piece about the Obama recovery in consumer spending, specifically, retail sales. This past weekend was the nation's biggest retail sales weekend of the year, also known as the black Friday weekend. So what's happening? Is the retail sales growth continuing, indicating a continuing desire of consumers to spend? It certainly seems that way.
The National Retail Federation released data showing strong improvements in retail shopping trends over last year.
According to a National Retail Federation survey conducted over the weekend by BIGresearch, more shoppers visited stores and websites over Black Friday weekend – and spent more – than a year ago.212 million shoppers is almost the entire population of the United States that shops. Not only did more people shopped this weekend than a year ago, notice that the average amount spent also went up, despite retailers offering incredible deals. This suggests that while people are not yet entirely secure about the economy, they are secure enough to spend money if they find value in a product. The additional spending also means shoppers are buying more "luxury" items while last year was essentially a year of necessity items.
According to the survey, 212 million shoppers visited stores and websites over Black Friday weekend*, up from 195 million last year. People also spent more, with the average shopper this weekend spending $365.34, up from last year’s $343.31. Total spending reached an estimated $45.0 billion.
After a holiday season of blue jeans and coffeemakers, shoppers demonstrated that they were in the mood to purchase more discretionary gifts this year. The number of people who purchased jewelry over the weekend rose substantially, from 11.7 percent last year to 14.3 percent this year. Additionally, more people purchased gift cards, toys and books and electronic entertainment than a year ago.That trend is also born out by the fact that consumers went for products with value, not just discounts.
According to the survey, both department stores (52.0% this year vs. 49.4% last year) and clothing stores (24.4% vs. 22.9%) saw healthy increases in traffic, while the percentage of people who shopped at discounters declined 7.2 percent, from 43.2 percent last year to 40.3 percent this year.These are all signs of growing consumer confidence, if not in the wider economy, in their own economic security. And in what might be the best sign of all, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that card (credit and debit) spending has reached pre-recession levels.
Card spending growth on Black Friday returned to prerecession levels, according to electronic-payments processor First Data Corp., which said consumers responded favorable to aggressive marketing campaigns.Business week is reporting that holiday online sales as a whole are also poised to reach pre-recession levels.
That trend resulted in year-over-year same-store dollar volume growth of 12%, First Data said, while transactions grew 10%. Americans also substantially increased their Thanksgiving-related travel and food consumption. Overall, dollar volume growth was particularly positive in light of solid spending in the year-ago Black Friday.
This is not all happening by accident. The economy is still fragile, but more and more, we are seeing signs of recovery. And the recovery with a growth in consumer confidence and retail sales means that jobs are likely to follow (as I showed in the article linked in the first paragraph). Would this recovery have been possible if our financial system had been allowed to collapse, plunging us into a second Great Depression? Would it have been possible if President Obama had not intervened to save the American auto industry and 1.4 million jobs in it (by the way, GM had the largest IPO of any US company in history)? Would it have been possible without the Recovery Act that saved over 3 million jobs? Would it have been possible without sustained extensions of unemployment benefits? Would this have been possible without the hard work by President Obama and the Democratic Congress to bail out the states to save the jobs of teachers and public safety officers?
I don't think so. This is no accident. This is a result of policy. Policy that is helping the economy come back from the brink of total disaster. Policy that helped save jobs. Policy that helped the unemployed make end's meet while they looked for work. Policy that prevented a run on the banks. Policy that made an American car the motor trend car of the year. Policy enacted by a president facing unified political opposition on the right, astroturfing, and withering attacks from left puritans refusing to understand legislative reality. But the results are clear. While right wing unified opposition prevented even faster recovery, America is coming back, thanks to President Obama's policies.