Christmas Shopping Season a 'Fizzle?'

December 27th, 2006 11:20 AM

     Even one day after Christmas, the big three networks were still playing Grinch – putting down a retail sales increase of about 6.5 percent as somehow inadequate. This from the same media that complained Americans were spending too much just one month before.


     “Stores need more than returnees to turn this so-so Christmas shopping season into one to celebrate,” said Bill Whitaker during the CBS “Evening News.” Later Whitaker added that “in December the sizzle fizzled.”


     Estimates by Visa put seasonal spending at 6.5 percent over last year, and SpendingPulse/Mastercard at 6.6 percent according to the broadcasts.


     But, as CNBC’s Scott Cohn said during NBC “Nightly News,” “[T]hat’s less than the industry hoped for and below the nearly nine percent increase last year.”


     During ABC’s “World New Tonight with Charles Gibson,” Gibson introduced Gigi Stone’s report saying, “[A]s stores reopened today, retailers were hoping post-Christmas sales would rescue Christmas sales.”


     Good news about gift cards and were minimized or not reported. Only ABC’s Stone went so far as to say gift cards “may be a silver lining.” Her segment was also the only one that mentioned’s “best holiday season ever.”


     And even though the NBC report did say that $25 billion in gift cards were purchased, a record number, the tone of the report was overwhelmingly negative. It included two retail analysts and one unidentified shopper who were pessimistic.


     The irony of the “so-so” reporting of this shopping season is that spending too much and not saving enough also made for negative news.


     On November 24, CBS “Evening News” reported that buying on credit was an “American tradition” that has some economists worried. In 2006, the personal savings rate average was negative 0.6 percent. “The personal savings rate hasn’t dipped so low since the Great Depression,” said reporter Sandra Hughes.