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It's a holiday miracle! American retailers enjoyed a major boost this year, with holiday sales increasing 5.5% to create the biggest Santa-driven surge since 2005. It's great news, but Americans' urge to splurge may not last given the continued weak economic climate.
MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse said overall retail sales jumped to $584 billion from Nov. 5 through Christmas Eve; the figure includes Internet shopping through e-commerce giants such as Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) , which this week touted robust sales of its Kindle, stating it's Amazon's best-selling product of all time.
According to Bloomberg, Tiffany (NYSE: TIF ) and Macy's (NYSE: M ) are among the retailers that have already revealed holiday sales success. Luxury sales increased 6.7% compared to just 0.9% this time last year, and that may bode well for high-end retailers Coach (NYSE: COH ) , Nordstrom (NYSE: JWN ) , and Williams-Sonoma (NYSE: WSM ) in the near term. Each has already shown strong sales momentum recently.
Jewelry sales rose 8.4% compared to last year's 3.5% jump, and that may bode well not only for Tiffany but for online jewelry retailer Blue Nile (Nasdaq: NILE ) , among others.
Men are apparently in the mood to update their wardrobes as male clothing sales outpaced women's this year, rising 11% versus 5.6%. Perhaps Men's Wearhouse and Jos. A Banks will be beneficiaries of a surge in sharp-dressed men.
Still, it's not too hard to come up with the pragmatic view that a successful holiday sales season may not be sustainable. Even if consumers got sick of the "the new normal," frugality-driven economy and busted their budgets to provide a merry Christmas with exciting bling, many will probably return to their newly frugal habits once the lights and decorations get dismantled.
Meanwhile, yesterday's newswires filled with tidings of a surprise decrease in consumer confidence in December as well as data regarding October's continued downward spiral in home prices. With unemployment remaining at historic highs, it's hard to imagine that constrained consumer spending is really behind us; choose your stocks wisely, and focus on the true leaders in retail and consumer goods.
What do you think? Is this year's joyous holiday season simply an anomaly, owing to consumers' pent-up desire for some fun purchases, and destined to mostly fizzle out for 2011? Let us know what you think in the comments box below.