The Holiday Sales Mirage (M)(SHLD)

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The news about what will happen to retail spending ends at December 31. All of the analysis is focused on the period from November 1 to the end of the year.

So far the news about consumer spending for the holidays is not too awful, at least compared with predictions.

Retail sales at many chains are off 5%, in some cases less. Most analysis of e-commerce spending shows buying is flat from last year.

Beyond Christmas, things could actually get worse for the industry. National chains which do only marginally well in 2008 could be pulled under in 2009, or at least forced to cut expenses sharply again. Operators like Macy’s (M) and Sears (SHLD) may only post relatively small losses for the last quarter of 2008. They may post deep losses next year.

According to Reuters, "A total of 44 percent of consumers surveyed by America’s Research Group said they planned to cut back spending further after the holidays. That number would typically be in the low-to-mid 20s."

That is likely to add to the number of companies in the industry that do not see the 2009 holidays.

Douglas A. McIntyre