With warmer weather putting pressure on apparel and boot sales in December, U.S. retail executives apparently pulled the trigger on pricing to generate lagging Holiday sales this year. After winning the waiting game for consumer dollars last year, U.S. retail executives panicked on pricing, according to the latest findings of the NRF Executive Opinion Survey, a monthly index by the National Retail Federation. After a fairly positive reading at the start of the Holiday shopping season, most indices moved lower in Decembers survey.
The Retail Sector Performance Index (RSPI) for December, while still in positive territory, was off 270 basis points from Novembers reading and was down 470 basis points from December last year. The Index, or RSPI, measures retail executives evaluations of a number of core retail performance metrics and is based on a scale of 0.0% to 100.0, with 50.0 equaling normal. The Operations Index was the key contributor to the positive reading for the month and the longer-term Demand Outlook, which is a six-month look-ahead index for retailers, also contributed to the better-than-average reading.
The Pricing Index fell 710 basis points for the month after dropping 11 full points in November, but it is important to note that the PI for December was still up 100 basis points from December last year.
The biggest drop came in Average Transaction per Customer, as that reading fell more than 14 full points from Novembers rather robust reading and 10.5 points from last December.
While the Demand Outlook stayed in positive territory, it was down 290 basis points from November and more than 10 full points from December. Hardly a vote of confidence for the coming year.