Storm May Deliver Better Deals for Consumers

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On Monday, SpendingPulse in its latest report said that total U.S. retail sales -- excluding auto sales -- during the 2010 holiday shopping season grew 5.5 percent compared to the same period last year.

The report, which is issued by MasterCard Advisors, stated that there was big growth was in apparel and a noticeable return in spending on the larger ticket items like jewelry, luxury and even furniture.

This holiday season marked the biggest bump since 2006, and the largest total since a record $452 billion was spent in 2007.

It remains to be seen what adverse impact this week's Northeast snowstorm could have on the overall numbers. Some experts said it would divert holiday sales from December to January, but others expressed cautious optimism that it would not affect the bottom line.

Planalytics, which studies the economic impact of weather on the retail market, predicted no significant damage from the storm to retailers.

National Retail Federation spokeswoman Kathy Grannis said the impact would be confined to the Northeast, and it would have had more of an adverse effect had it occurred before Christmas, as was the case in 2009.

Internet shopping will also boost numbers, as they tend to rise when people are home experiencing cabin fever.

"One of the things we've noticed in the past five to 10 years is the rise of Iinternet shopping. It has been a big factor when consumers can't get out of their homes, especially when they are big bargain hunters and they know there are good sales," Grannis said. "If there are people who are snowbound but want to take advantage of a good deal, online shopping has become increasingly popular."

Shopping traffic declines considerably in the winter months between January and March, thanks to the frigid temperatures, while Internet shopping numbers rise.

In the summer, the opposite trend is observed, when warm weather pushes people away from online shopping and out to stores and malls.

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