The commentators and analysts I read all seemed to argue that this holiday selling season would be sub-par. They all trotted out the familiar stories of general economic malaise, lack of wage growth, the shrinking of the middle class, globalization, China, warm weather…
We’re now entering the home stretch of the holiday sales race as post-Christmas bargain hunting comes into full swing. What I find striking is that the results so far have been much better than the consensus had expected.
What catches my eye is the jump in online (and especially online mobile) spending, and the strength of Millennial categories like furniture.
The mismatch between projection and reality seems to me to suggest that the consensus is trend following, and because of that tracking the spending of Baby Boomers–who have dominated the retail scene over the past few decades. At the same time, it’s failing to capture the emergence of Millennials as an economic force.
The change may be as simple as that Baby Boomers no longer have gigantic home equity to tap to fund current spending. Or it may be more powerful than a subtraction of the Boomer excesses of the past twenty years. In either case, the overall economy is likely in better shape than the consensus believes. And Millennials may be emerging as economic drivers faster than most have thought possible.