Hol­i­day shop­pers re­ward NC re­tail­ers on­line and in stores

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Local - BY CRAIG JARVIS AND BROOKE CAIN [email protected]­sob­server.com [email protected]­sob­server.com Craig Jarvis: 919- 829- 4576, @CraigJ_NandO

Shop­pers in North Carolina re­flected a na­tional en­thu­si­asm for spend­ing over the hol­i­days.

Master­card Spend­ingPulse, which tracks both on­line and in-store spend­ing across all pay­ment types, re­ported this week that re­tail sales in the U.S. rose 5.1 per­cent be­tween Nov. 1 and Dec. 24 from a year ear­lier. Over­all, con­sumers spent over $850 bil­lion this hol­i­day sea­son. (Those num­bers do not in­clude au­to­mo­bile sales.)

That trend seems to hold true for North Carolina re­tail­ers as well.

“It was a strong hol­i­day sea­son for North Carolina re­tail­ers, which was helped by a strong econ­omy and lower gas prices,” Andy Ellen, pres­i­dent and gen­eral coun­sel of the N.C. Re­tail Mer­chants As­so­ci­a­tion, said in an in­ter­view the day after Christ­mas. “Re­tail­ers have re­ported brisk sales and foot traf­fic that ex­ceeded pro­jec­tions.”

Some of the big­gest cat­e­gories for spend­ing, ac­cord­ing to the Master­card re­port, were in ap­parel and home im­prove­ment. De­part­ment store sales were down over­all, which Master­card at­trib­uted to store clos­ings across the coun­try, but on­line sales for de­part­ment stores were up 10.2 per­cent.


Amer­i­cans en­thu­si­as­ti­cally em­braced on­line shop­ping this year, which meant a 19.1 per­cent in­crease across the coun­try com­pared to last year’s num­bers.

Ama­zon, the king of on­line re­tail­ers, an­nounced a record-break­ing hol­i­day sea­son.

The Seat­tle-based com­pany said in a news re­lease that it sold “mil­lions more Ama­zon de­vices” this year com­pared to last, and that cus­tomers also opened “tens of mil­lions” new Ama­zon Prime mem­ber­ships or free tri­als this sea­son. Ama­zon also said that more than 50 per­cent of the items sold on Ama­zon dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son came from smal­land medium-sized busi­nesses that sup­ply their prod­ucts.

Some of Ama­zon’s big­gest sell­ers this sea­son, in ad­di­tion to Ama­zon de­vices such as the Echo and Ama­zon Fire TV, were toys, such as the L.O.L. Sur­prise! Glam Glit­ter Se­ries Doll and the LEGO Cre­ator Mighty Di­nosaurs; elec­tron­ics, such as the Bose Qui­etCom­fort Wire­less Head­phones; and ap­parel, par­tic­u­larly items made by Carhartt, which sold more than 1 mil­lion items on Ama­zon over the hol­i­day shop­ping sea­son.

The in­crease in on­line sales is good for North Carolina’s cof­fers, since the state be­gan re­quir­ing on­line re­tail­ers to pay sales tax here start­ing Nov. 1, even if those com­pa­nies are not phys­i­cally lo­cated here. That di­rec­tive, meant to level the play­ing field for brick-and­mor­tar stores pay­ing taxes in the state, was sup­ported by the N.C. Re­tail Mer­chants As­so­ci­a­tion.

Ama­zon be­gan col­lect­ing and pay­ing sales tax in North Carolina in 2014, even be­fore it set up dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ters in the area.

Ellen said that while on­line shop­ping has con­tin­ued to in­crease, most gift re­turns are still made at the store level, even if the items were pur­chased on­line.

“Both in­de­pen­dent and chain brick-and-mor­tar re­tail­ers con­tinue to de­velop an omni-chan­nel pres­ence to best reach their cus­tomers,” Ellen said.


Many ex­perts, in­clud­ing those at the N.C. Re­tail Mer­chants As­so­ci­a­tion, credit the strong econ­omy and good job mar­ket for the hol­i­day’s con­sumer con­fi­dence, but some warn that those good feel­ings may not last.

Apart from the con­cern­ing Wall Street roller coaster rides, the U.S. econ­omy has in­deed been strong this year, on track to see the econ­omy grow about 3 per­cent for all of 2018.

But chal­lenges — such as the gov­ern­ment shut­down, a pos­si­ble trade war with China and higher bor­row­ing costs from ris­ing in­ter­est rates — could see the econ­omy slow next year, the As­so­ci­ated Press has re­ported.

In ad­di­tion, a re­cent study by Duke’s Fuqua School of Busi­ness showed that a ma­jor­ity of global CFOs sur­veyed think a re­ces­sion is on the way.

But both John Gra­ham, a fi­nance pro­fes­sor at Duke’s Fuqua School of Busi­ness, and Mark Vit­ner, a se­nior econ­o­mist at Wells Fargo in Char­lotte, said that if a re­ces­sion oc­curs, North Carolina’s econ­omy is likely to fare bet­ter than most, be­cause of its pop­u­la­tion growth and di­verse pop­u­la­tion.

TRAVIS LONG [email protected]­sob­[email protected]­sob­server.com

Park­ing spa­ces were lim­ited Wed­nes­day at Crab­tree Val­ley Mall as hun­dreds of shop­pers re­turn and ex­change gifts at Raleigh re­tail­ers.

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