The National Retail Federation (NRF) reported on Tuesday that the holiday shopping season got off to a good start with a record 196.7 million Americans shopping in-store and online over the Thanksgiving weekend.
Despite the record number of shoppers in stores, retailers face a number of headwinds, including a potential railway strike, which “would be devastating to our economy at a time like this”, said NRF CEO Matt Shay on a call with reporters on Tuesday.
Congress moved quickly to intervene and block the strike by next week’s deadline. House Speak Nancy Pelosi said the House would pass a bill adopting the tentative agreement reached between unions and the railroads in September — without poison pills or changes to negotiated terms — and send it to the Senate.
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The “R” word
Still, the potential catastrophic disruption of a railroad strike to the economy has industry leaders concerned.
“The only R-word I focused on was the railroad strike. I think that’s the biggest near-term threat,” Shay said when asked about the outlook for a recession.
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Shay stressed that their concern is not just the direct impact of a work stoppage on retail, but “the broader impact on other sectors of the economy that would impact the employment, consumer spending, confidence levels…”.
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“Any halt to the shipment of goods by rail … would cost our economy billions of dollars a day,” Shay said. Not only that, but the economy “shuts down if we can’t move things by freight rail,” he added.
Shay praised the Biden administration for calling on Congress on Monday to move quickly to resolve differences between the railroads and their unions. On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters that a bill to avert a strike would hit the floor as early as 9 a.m. ET Wednesday, according to multiple reports.
Consumers are only halfway through their purchases.
Despite the looming threat, NRF had an optimistic view of holiday shopping and reported that the total number of Cyber Monday Thanksgiving Day shoppers marked the highest figure since the retail group began. to track this data since 2017. It also increased by 17 million compared to 2021. .
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“It is important to note that while some may argue that retail sales gains are the result of higher prices, they should recognize the historic growth of consumers shopping in-store and online over the holiday long weekend. from Thanksgiving and into Cyber Monday,” Shay said in a statement. “Consumer demand is driving growth.”
Not only was there a high number of shoppers overall during this five-day period, but there was a resurgence in in-store shopping. About 123 million people visiting physical stores, up 17% from 2021. There were more than 130 million online shoppers, a 2% increase from 2021, the data showed.
Consumers also spent more than $325 on average on holiday-related purchases over the weekend, up from $301.27 in 2021, NRF reported.
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However, consumers are only halfway through their purchases.
On average, consumers say they’re only 47% done at this point, “leaving plenty of room for additional purchases in the remaining weeks of the year,” said Phil Rist, vice -Executive President of Strategy at Prosper Insights & Analytics.
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