All Wasn't Doom and Gloom: Holiday Sales Results Show a Mixed Bag

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All Wasn't Doom and Gloom: Holiday Sales Results Show a Mixed Bag

Nielsen analysts proved prophetic with a U.S. October holiday forecast that called for a holiday dollar sales gain of 4.4 percent or $98 billion across grocery stores, drug stores, mass merchandisers and convenience stores. The final numbers proved forecasts to be nearly on target – within 1.4 percent of actual results -- for all channel dollar values ($99.5 actual vs. forecasted $98.2 billion). Unit sales, while on par with the -0.5 percent predicted decline, actually fared better than expected -- increasing 34% percent year-over-year with total volume levels reaching 36.6 billion, vs. the forecasted 36.3 billion. The slightly lower predictions reflect a conservative set of economic assumptions, and an even more pronounced rise in commodity prices than anticipated, which bounced pricing up and units down.

The categories that drove the highest sales spikes during the 2008 holiday season were as predicted -- chock full of gift-giving items and holiday baking confections. Musical instruments and accessories topped the list with more than half (52 percent) of the purchases for the year made in the eight weeks ending December 2008: women's and children's fragrances, baking supplies/ingredients and computer electronics products were also perennial holiday favorites.

All in all, marketers who remained sensitive to consumer sentiment, delivering either a substantive value or comprehensive experience, fared well during the holidays. Consumers were willing to spend money in categories that delivered on the product promise, satisfying a deep-seated consumer need or want at a fair market price. Moving forward into 2009, this is a lesson well learned to remain competitive as the economy continues its downward spiral.

For the full report by James Russo, VP of marketing, The Nielsen Company, click here: