Networks: Low Women's Clothing Sales Foreshadow 'Nightmare'

     Before you start getting some crazy idea about the holiday shopping season being on a positive track, tune into the network news for a reminder that the sales figures present an “ominous” sign.

     Why? Because sales of women’s clothing are down 6 percent.


     “CBS Evening News” reporter Anthony Mason kicked off the doom and gloom December 17, reporting that “sales of women’s clothing have dropped nearly 6 percent so far this holiday season. Women are usually the season’s biggest buyers.”


     ABC’s “Good Morning America” started the next morning’s show with a pessimistic headline: “Blue Christmas for Retailers? Sales figures show holiday slump.”


     Good morning! Christmas is a failure!


     “It’s a retailer’s nightmare before Christmas,” reporter Bianna Golodryga mourned. “After a promising start to the holiday shopping season, harsh weather and even harsher economic news has kept many consumers at home.” Ironically, it was less than a month ago that the media blamed warm weather for expected lackluster sales – which turned out to be higher than predicted anyway.


     So where did ABC go to ask consumers why they’re shopping less? The mall, of course! Mason did his man-on-the-street interviews in crowded stores, too.


     Over on NBC, the “Today” show’s Carl Quintanilla also headed to the mall for a live standup December 18. He told viewers there’s a “nagging feeling … the season’s not going to go as well as some hoped.”


     Like Mason on CBS and Golodryga on ABC, Quintanilla pointed to the 6-percent drop in women’s clothing sales over last year as a sign of a holiday sales slump.


     Mason called the women’s apparel figure an “ominous sign.” Golodryga called it “one of this year’s more worrisome trends” and Quintanilla insisted it was “a big deal because women tend to do most of the holiday shopping.” (But do they shop only for women’s apparel?)


     None of that analysis came from the company releasing the sales figures. The actual news release from Mastercard wasn’t nearly as gloomy as the networks made it out to be. It declared: “Most Industry Segments Post Modest Increase over Same Period 2006.”


     Special apparel was up 0.5 percent. Men’s apparel was up 4.5 percent. Electronics were up 5.8 percent. Luxury goods were up 10.8 percent. And Mastercard declared “extraordinary growth” for online sales, up 29.8 percent over the first 20 days of the season. Only women’s apparel and “specialty retailers” (-1.1 percent) were down.


     Mastercard Vice President of Research and Analysis Michael McNamara said the figures weren’t surprising. “Black Friday’s sales came in so strong that the pace was clearly not sustainable. The sectors have settled into some clear winners as well as some under performers.”


     To her credit, Golodryga noted at the end of the segment that the decrease in women’s apparel sales “isn’t necessarily an economic barometer. People are saying that’s also because styles haven’t been that great this year and women just don’t like what they see.” Her segment also included a comment from America’s Research Group founder Britt Beemer, who noted that “women’s apparel has been a disaster all year.”


     Online sales, however, weren’t broken down by category – so perhaps women bought clothes online this year.