Retailers have been hoping that this holiday season would at least be as good as the disastrous one in 2008. But early numbers from retailer associations, the federal government and private research firms show brick-and-mortar store sales running flat compared to last year. The National Retail Federation is forecasting that sales for the holidays will be down 1%.The weather could change final sales figures for the worse, driving retail revenue below what the industry is hoping for. A huge storm has moved up the Middle Atlantic coast and will dump snow as far south as the Carolinas, as far north as New Hampshire, and as far west as Chicago. Major cities, including New York, Washington, Boston and Chicago, could get enough snow to keep shoppers away from stores. From Washington to Philadelphia, the snow could be over a foot-and-a-half deep.
By Sunday, there will be only four shopping days until Christmas Eve. That may not be enough time to make up for a two day period when store traffic is light due to the weather.
The storm puts more pressure on the performance of e-commerce. Most numbers from Comscore and other online research firms show online revenue up 3% or so through the second week of December. Shoppers who cannot get out due to bad weather may turn to their PCs. E-commerce may end up being the critical factor for whether overall retail sales are up or down for the 2009 holidays.