This holiday season’s feel good story is that retail is back for the US consumer.
Stories abound on the renewed consumer confidence and how that translates into growing sales, which rose 4.9% from Nov. 1 through Christmas Eve, compared with a 3.7% gain in the same period last year, according to the Mastercard“It started with a bang in the week leading up to Black Friday,” Sarah Quinlan, a senior vice president of marketing insights at Mastercard told the Wall Street Journal.
And while confidence and wage gains have increased slightly, there still is a broad swath of Americans not participating in the Christmas parade.
Take this nugget from the same story:
“Fewer people are living paycheck to paycheck,” said Chris Christopher, executive director of economic-research firm IHS Markit . “There is a lot more spending from the lower- and middle-income groups, while the upper-income groups are splurging.”
Which is then followed up with this statistic:
Consumer credit-card debt reached its highest level since the end of 2008, jumping 11% from a year earlier to $757 billion in the third quarter of 2017, according to Experian PLC, a credit-reporting agency. This time around, the surging debt levels are due to economic confidence, said Alan Ikemura, a senior product manager with Experian’s analytics unit.
I still believe that this credit card data is showing people are buying “needs” not “wants” with their credit cards. A look inside the purchases will show vast areas of the country putting food purchases on their credit cards from grocery stores.
While the analyst sees “fewer people are living paycheck to paycheck” is that a product of wage growth or a reduction in lower wage jobs?
The idea that consumer debt is now rising over “wants” not “needs” this quickly, I feel is a canard, which will come to light very soon when retailers begin to report earnings early next year.