Holiday 2011: Anyone out there with a crystal ball?

In a cycle of negative economic news, RetailWire panelists recently took their turn forecasting 4th quarter sales. Here’s my perspective:

There are a lot of mixed messages about what kind of holiday shopping season lies ahead. Today’s Wall Street Journal paints a bleak picture of forecasted sales, but the numbers this year don’t bear it out. Most observers would agree that BTS shopping was more robust than expected, especially in the specialty apparel segment.

So the best predictor ought to be each store’s own cautiously optimistic forecasting that was probably done many months ago. Holiday 2009 is an anomaly, because 2008 sales fell off a cliff and most retailers were understandably leery of too much inventory. At the same time, inventory management tools are doing a better job getting the right goods into the right stores…perhaps even more important to successful sales and margins than the “macro” inventory number.

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