2008 Holiday Retail Predictions – Where have all the shopping bags gone?


I became sensitive to retail sales trends early in my career when I worked with JCPenney on their advertising. I learned shopping mall dynamics and became attuned to the subtle factors that drive success or failure in a retail environment.


I got very good at knowing which retailers were going to do well by tracking the shopping bags consumers were carrying. Living in NYC provided a perfect microcosm of the retail landscape and the NYC Subway system provided the perfect controlled laboratory to conduct my research. Within a single train car was a cross section of America’s consumer life – from the highest of the high to the lowest of the low.


Year after year, in December I would get a sense of which retail segments were doing well and even which specific retailers. I got very good at it. I knew when Target was on the ascend and when Crate Barrel was the rocking place.


So as a matter of habit as I travel the NYC subway system this year like all the other 30+ years living in Manhattan,  I take special note of the bags. But this year, the sad truth is there are so few bags!


Normally at this time of year, the subway would be filled with people carrying bags and boxes filled with wrapping paper rolls, new boom boxes, TV and the like. Riders would politely step over mountains of bags. You often couldn’t even see people in seats because they were often obscured by the mounds of bags.


But not this year. The bags are so few and far between that I worry because this is probably a truer reflection of everyone’s sentiment versus all the polls or pundits can muster. So with a deep sigh of trepidation… here are my retail predictions for who will have a good December.


First, who we predict will not do well…(this is a no surprise list … but just in case):

  • Electronics – Sorry Best Buy
  • Ego driven leather goods, e.g. Prada
  • Ego driven retail stores, e.g. Barney’s, Sharper Image
  • Eco driven retailers – those organic $32 t-shirts are history for now
  • Industrial strength “toys” like Hulk Hogan action heroes or Barbie’s Dream Home  

So now for the “who should do well at least in comparison to most other retailers” list. It is a short list L

  • High end food gifts or food related services, e.g. Trader’s Joe or Fresh Direct
  • Designer oriented, low priced outlets, e.g. Target, high end outlet malls
  • Utilitarian “design” household stores, e.g. Williams Sonoma
  • Books and stationary
  • Crafts or homemade clothing
  • Pampering services as long as they are not decadent. For example a gift certificate for a massage – nice. But a $2,000 Botox gift – not.
  • Quality toys and kid’s stuff will do well.   


I am sure this is not an all exhaustive list – but I do hope that this year’s shopping bag prediction poll is wrong. Maybe everyone is having everything delivered to their homes and that’s why I see no bags.


I can only hope. Happy holidays to all!  


Judy Shapiro  




One Response

  1. interesting post today on 2008 Holiday Retail Predictions – Where have all the shopping bags …

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