The Census Bureau released the Advance Sales Report for Retail and Food Services today (available here). While not stellar the nominal increase in sales, year-over-year, was three percent. The Conference Board also released their report today on Consumer Confidence, and it fell significantly (available here). This is why I posted that it matters more what people do than what they feel or say they will do in the future.
We are heading into the heavy sales seasons for many businesses and we are hearing many reports that expectations for sales are significantly lower (I saw a blurb on Bloomberg TV about Apple expecting weaker sales this holiday season). It is possible, maybe even likely, that holiday shopping will be off this year. There is plenty of weakness on display in the economy. Look at any region of the country and you can find sectors with significant weaknesses. This is always the case though.
Consumers defy forecasts built on sentiment and expectations time and again. They may feel “bad” about the economy or the prospects for recovery, and they probably should, but their spending is not usually in line with that prediction. I will be keeping an eye on early retail numbers and other spending variables before I pay serious attention to how individuals feel.