Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Tue July 15 2014 20:11:24

Merchants, Please Weigh in: Is Consumer Confidence Growing?

By: Ina Steiner

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A new report from financial firm CIT Group called "Retail's Changing Landscape" says consumer confidence is on the rise.

Burt Feinberg, President of CIT Corporate Finance, Commercial & Industrial, a division of CIT Group Inc., said an upswing in the housing market will play a role: "Big box home hard goods players and home furnishings are doing well as the real estate market has improved. New households being created has also helped home furnishing stores." And, he said, retail is still appealing to private equity.

Retailers are on the front lines and can get a unique perspective on consumer confidence. I've been impressed with readers' ability to correctly peg the state of the economy (some of you were among the first to identify the Great Recession before the experts confirmed it.)

It's always interesting to predict what kind of holiday season retailers and online merchants will have. Will there be any must-have consumer electronics products or children's toys this year?

What are you seeing out there in your dealings with shoppers? Or have security breaches hampered your ability to judge consumer confidence this year?

Are you being conservative with your holiday inventory purchases, or are you expecting a sell-out season?

Anecdotal stories are welcome!




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Readers Comments

Perminate Link for Merchants, Please Weigh in: Is Consumer Confidence Growing?   Merchants, Please Weigh in: Is Consumer Confidence Growing?

This user has validated their user name. by: bitbybit

Tue Jul 15 21:09:52 2014

Any corporation can pay any entity to get the results they want. Those in the trenches including the consumer know the hard truth and reality.

As a seller, I am trying to prepare for one of the worse holiday seasons as far as ebay is concerned. Other sites should fair much better. As a buyer I am not seeing economic growth and have become very guarded..frugal in my spending. Just stating consumer confidence is growing does not make it true. I don't see it and certainly don't feel it.

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by: tony bonn This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Tue Jul 15 21:21:07 2014

someone is selling hopium. 1/3 of home sales are cash meaning hot money, house flippers, and commercial interests are the momentum in the market, and they are making for the exit.

that blather about housing formations is laughable. there is no household formation in the younger cohorts and the baby boomers are on the precipice of a major dump of assets with insufficient qualified buyers.

retail sales have been dismal since 2008 and the second dip of the great recession began late last year, showing up as 2.9% 1st quarter gdp contraction.

if consumer confidence is growing, it is because someone is polling the top 10%. was it here where I read that midnight shoppers waiting for ebt refills stalk Wal-Mart, who is complaining about flagging sales?

the bottom line is that the market is highly bifurcated into a 90-10 split. if you fudge your sample populations, you can snort hopium.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Tue Jul 15 21:28:27 2014

One of many undesirable consequences of ebay's highly and probably illegally manipulated search that includes all sorts of secret seller limits and throttling, it's impossible for most sellers to assess ANY season.

Further I don't know what effect 90 days returns is going to have if I decide to sell during the holidays. One of the pitfalls is this cretinous plan is that items sold during November and December and then returned in January will unfairly affect two tax years.

This will be quite beneficial to ebay -- and may in fact be the underlying reason for this asinine TRS requirement -- and quite possibly could save The Ho's job for which he singularly undeserving.

I personally see no indication of improved consumer confidence on ebay except improved buyer confidence in their ability to scam sellers with ebay acting as a crim inal co conspirator of fraud.

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by: Santini This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jul 15 22:40:39 2014

Reminds me of a story on CBS yesterday:

CEOs of Walmart and other large chains are saying America is in a "retail funk" after watching sales slip
http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/is-america-in-a-retail-funk/

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This user has validated their user name. by: Ric

Wed Jul 16 00:41:11 2014

I am projecting a significant decrease in year over year sales for our 2014 holiday season, not due to economic conditions but rather due to eBay's decisions.

I have cleared all the hurdles to qualify as a Top Rated Seller 60 days after the program started, and have been fortunate enough to maintain my status uninterrupted ever since.

eBay's new policy that denies sellers discounts on sold items which do not offer a 90 day return policy during the holidays is a hoop I have no intention of jumping through.

As a result of eBay's severely flawed requirement, I refuse to offer 90 day returns and as such I will be delisting a significant number of items for the holidays.

I would rather list those items and sell them on other sites this holiday season than allow eBay to literally steal back the discount I worked so hard to earn by setting unreasonable return policy requirements.

I will begin withdrawing items in mid September. Since I will have significantly less items live on eBay, I will have no need for my eBay store and will be cancelling my subscription starting on Sept 14.  I will not resume having a store until January 2015. ( So happy I did not fall for the annual subscription trap eBay set in an attempt to prevent this.)

In looking back to 2013 and applying my new eBay holiday listing strategy, I fully expect eBay will see 60% less revenue generated by my account this holiday season based on last years sales.

I will recover a portion of the lost revenue from sales on other platforms as well as from some business buyers who have started purchasing directly from me because they no longer feel secure purchasing through eBay.

I am sure there will be other sellers who will willingly sell less instead of continuing to list normally and allowing eBay to turn their business into a rental operation.

Come January, I expect eBay management will be asking themselves if their mandatory 90 day return policy was such a smart thing to do given the reduced inventory and lost revenue from sellers who refuse to participate.

Wall Street will be wondering as well.

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This user has validated their user name. by: The End

Wed Jul 16 02:12:19 2014

No. Uncertainty in Health Care, winter heating fuel prices (FERC), and an overall negative outlook on "economic survivability" has diminished all activity. Most of my income is now derived from yet a THIRD job working for people with government jobs. But it will get even worse. I'm fortunate to have a diverse intelligence that will allow me to survive at the very basic level.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Wed Jul 16 06:23:37 2014

As peoples' property taxes, utility bills, grocery bills, gas and transportation prices and kids' education expenses continue to rise, yet their salaries remain stagnant, I wonder how consumer confidence can ever improve.

Seems like only the CEOs and C-level officers at companies in this country are truly being rewarded for their "hard work".  (One must laugh at the thought of these CEOs working hard---hardly working is more like it.)  Even when they bankrupt a company they are still well compensated and land unscathed with their golden parachutes.

Henry Ford understood that a successful middle class was needed to drive a strong economy.   Today's business and political leaders are too greedy to adapt that line of thinking.

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by: rhawk This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jul 16 06:43:03 2014

We are heading in to the last two years of the most destructive presidential administration to ever control the country.  There is no confidence in anything,....other that the US is an utter mess.  Fear will continue to drive the average US consumer to spend less on everything except health care, groceries, and heating costs.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Wed Jul 16 06:56:39 2014

I agree with all above: both on the economy and online sales.


No foundation for ''happy, happy, joy, joy'' news about anything the media puts forth on the economy. As mentioned above, any joy is to those closer to the top 10% bubble of income/wealth than for the middle to lower earners.


The unemployment rate is meaningless and deceptive. When I see employment figures on the millennial generation, I don't see much joy for them. And their wages/taxes are supposed to keep social security going???


Housing:  Lots of foreclosure activity still going on here. Some flippers getting caught, too. Any WHY is it that any joyous statistic seems to get revised downward when the real data comes in.


Families giving up their pets: I just follow ONE single breed / rescue org. It is inundated as many owners are giving up their critters to rescue due to 1) lost their home and either will be homeless or apartment will not allow pets. 2) dog has become ill, many times quite fixable, but family cannot afford the vet.  3) family had downward financial change  and cannot afford even basic food & care for dog.


Relative who has worked at Walmart several years has been saying for a while that sales are down and management is stressed. As Rexford says - groceries and utility bills are climbing but income is not.


Medical Care - Insurance uncertainty: The ACA in its early stages is still in a flux in many areas - The regular insurance market is in a spin. Higher costs for most unless lucky enough to be eligible for a subsidy for ACA. Loopholes find many NOT eligible for subsidy. Many plans have a high monthly premium, but now have become high deductible plans, too, with no co-pays. So even with budget killing monthly premium, one illness with tests can accumulate another budget killing balance due before insurance ever pays. I won't even mention the penalty for those who fell through the cracks and still could not afford insurance.


I don't sell in a holiday oriented category - but I used to sell quite a bit to people going on cruises.  Starting about 2009 my last quarter started being lower. I have been TRS steadily, but plan on  losing the TRS plus discount since 90 day returns make absolutely no sense for anyone who sells clothing.

Our spending, including holiday spending has been frugal and will remain frugal. Frankly, THAT has become a way of life.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Wed Jul 16 09:25:16 2014

"We are heading in to the last two years of the most destructive presidential administration to ever control the country."

Hmmmm.  And I thought the Bush years were behind us.  : )

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by: lucask7 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jul 16 10:18:28 2014

What kind of B.S. is that finance firm trying to feed us now? They must be on another planet! The economy has not gotten any better, in fact it is getting worse, especially on e-bay. The people are getting wise to e-bay's scamming and unfair practices! e-bay destroyed me along with thousands of others and you think that's ok? Get off the phoeny Bull!!!

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by: rhawk This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jul 16 11:53:42 2014

@Rexford.

Yes, the bush years are 6 years behind us.  No excuse for what is going on today. :)

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by: Paul W This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jul 16 23:48:25 2014

In both my eBay stores, one with collectibles and one with commodities, I am seeing larger average orders in the last month or so, so I would have to say yes.

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by: topdog This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jul 17 07:28:16 2014

This will continue to be a tepid-to-bad year for retail.
While the report is probably correct overall, the numbers are greatly skewed by the growth in big ticket item sales. These are hot because of the extremely low interest rates - buy a car with zero down and zero percent interest? The problem is, these purchases are having a Dracula effect, sucking the lifeblood and money out of the rest of the economy. Earlier this week the CEO of The Container Store said essentially the same as Walmart - retail is down and will stay down for a while.
Meanwhile in DC the politicians spin these "positive" economic reports (with the economists in lock-step), touting how great of a job they are doing. At the same time there is a hostility to businesses, with the thought being that they are ripping off the American people with their "high profits". Problem is, those are mostly large corporations, making most to all of those profits overseas. However, small business are the backbone of the country, and they are on life support. Another (far more chilling) statistic - for the first time, more businesses are closing than opening. That should be the death knell for any thought of "economic recovery", but they continue to serve the Kool-Aid.  

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by: FREDDY This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jul 17 07:30:02 2014

NO confidence in this household. Just the opposite is true.

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by: Runs.With.Scissors This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jul 17 08:46:34 2014

    My 2014 sales trends, January through present:

Overall consumer confidence = still trending down, IMHO

ebay sales= down (had trended down all year, but accelerated down after the hack incident + Google's restrictions on ebay).
eCrater sales = still trending down all year
Bonanza sales = still trending down all year

 Notes:
I have approx. 8,500 online sales transactions per year, overall.  In May/June/July, I slightly increased my number of items listed on ebay, eCrater, & Bonanza, in an attempt to counter the declining sales trends.  It has not worked.  Trend is still declining, and the purchased quantities per transaction have declined as well.

        Sites left out of my trend analysis:
Atomic Mall sales= too light and erratic to measure .. not much traffic there.
Webstore sales= still non existent (not much traffic, and way fewer listings there.)
eBid sales= small/erratic/inconsistent (traffic is OK, but way fewer items listed there)
Amazon sales= although they were trending down Jan. through April, they're now UP for the past few months, which I directly attribute to my tripling my number of items listed there.

>>>>>>>>>>>

Gas prices UP .. which makes some other prices go up due to transportation costs,and, reduces amount of consumer's spendable income.

Food prices UP .. which reduces amount of consumer's spendable income.

Medical Insurance UP .. (for many, but not all) ... higher deductibles and/or premiums, and/or increased co-pay requirements to the insured.

Utility Bills UP (especially electric bill rates)

Real Estate Taxes UP (at least, for me)....

Income: not up for most people, and in many cases, down.

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by: Tornad0sRul This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jul 17 11:08:30 2014

Pfffttt.  What a joke.  Every poll, study, or statistic can be easily manipulated to indicate results which are not truly accurate.  Most of these supposed "polls" or "studies" are uncontrolled.  There are many factors that contribute to the end result of these types of studies and most of the time there is a "factor" or two that were not considered.

I don't see any changes in the job market, the housing market, or the economy in general.  In fact from what I have personally seen OBamaCare is making affordable healthcare scarce which will cause even more financial burden to Americans.  So I see the economy getting worse, not better.  Our government is only attempting to spread false rumors and false hope in an effort to kick start our economy because everything else has failed.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Thu Jul 17 11:28:25 2014

Microsoft to lay off 18,000 - stock up nearly 2% during the morning.

Well, now we know who has confidence: Wall Street.  

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by: wonderswhy This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jul 17 12:28:18 2014

I don't think consumer confidence is growing, if companies would lower prices especially on groceries the people would have a little more money to spend on other things, the ebay hack, target and others blew some of the online spending, ebay and outrageous fee's and more and more rules, screwing sellers and being so cheap not keeping up with the security of their site, what a cheezy company. The free shipping sites offer is nothing but a farce, anyone with a brain knows it's built into the price, you can see it on the Walmart site, same item online is more than in the store, then you must purchase $ amount to get free shipping!  When do these increases in profits ever stop for the corporations? Never is probably the answer, they are getting away with it.

Now a lot of seniors are entering the drug donut hole, there are a lot of boomer seniors now and they will stop spending, the drug companies are big money hogs, when it comes to pain meds and buying items which will come first? I'd bet on more online purchases but less dollars spent than last year.

I agree with Rexford, its a damn shame the rise in groceries, gas, home heating, prop taxes, utilities, I've been hit but others have it a lot worse. I live in the country where we use propane to heat, a fill up 10 yrs ago was $350, now its over $800. and electric my God.

People in this country do nothing to fight back they keep taking it.

If people would quit using electric for a day or 2 and hit these corp's in their pockets it may change their tunes. Stay out of the stores for a day. If some can don't go to work for a day, don't drive, don't ride the bus, make the county come to a halt. Just think of everything stopping or slowing down, people don't stick together, complaining all day is not going to do anything. Take the Koch bros. for example, their products are all over the stores, yet people keep buying their products.

I know people are just trying to survive and keep their heads above water, they don't have time to listen to the news especially the moms out there. Increases in SS are a joke, it doesn't even fill a gas tank.
Our congress doesn't do a damn thing and we are paying these idiots, they create smoke screens, instead of helping people get over a hurdle they'd rather them file bankruptcy and get on welfare, then they complain about welfare! they cut benefits yet now we have illegal immigrants, I feel for these children but its not the late 1800's where you went out west and land was free, there's no room to even farm anymore. What other countries are helping? No, these kids are not a bunch of animals to ship somewhere, they are human beings, some charities being formed are helping but where are they for our own people, why don't they fight for our people? We have the DEA in our health care now, men in congress up our wombs and the corporations are taking the peoples last dime, I'd bet a lot of people would love to sell on ebay but haven't the time of day, just think if they could, corporations would be as happy as pigs in slop. Shut down the government that's a joke, the people need to shut down the country for a day or two. We're screwed if we don't speak up and do something.

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by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.
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Thu Jul 17 14:03:35 2014

June was my best month for sales in over 2 years. July seems to be shaping up to be average. I don't sell anything that is Christmas presents as such, but my sales go up in late summer, early fall as I sell patterns that are most likely destined to be made into presents.
Income for the year is up from last year. Not by much, but I don't sneeze at any money.

I do know when I'm out and about, stores have plenty of people buying in them. I guess I'm feeling more positive about things than I have been for awhile. Even my international sales seem to be going okay. So I think what is selling well depends on the type of product you sell. I also think that how you list makes a huge difference. I've seen some sellers complaining about not getting sales and it is the lousy economy's fault. Then I look at their store and know I would never buy from them whether the economy was good or bad. They have a hodge podge of goods, horrible writing skills, pricing that bears no relation to reality, and I could go on and mention 5 words description with blurry picture. No sales is not connected to the economy, but you can't tell them that.

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