The early returns on the 2009 holiday shopping season show a minor gain over last year's abysmal retail sales, and next year will affirm that retailers are successfully adapting to a consumer environment that's very different from years past.
However, 2010 will be difficult for retailers as they contend with high unemployment, tight credit, and aggressive competition.
Retail sales gained 3.6% year-on-year from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24, SpendingPulse, a unit of MasterCard Advisors (NYSE: MA) said earlier this week. But an extra day between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year may have skewed the data anywhere from 2% to 4%, SpendingPulse said. Sales in the same period last year declined 2.3% as consumers reeled from the financial meltdown that occurred in the fall.
"The latest holiday shopping season wasn't a rip-roaring success, but at least it met or slightly exceeded expectations," John Lonski, chief economist of Moody's Capital Markets Research Group (NYSE: MCO) told The Associated Press. "Consumer spending is indeed in a recovery mode, which brightens prospects for 2010."