Doom and gloom for 18% growth

There are numerous news reports on the "awful" sales figures coming on from online vendors--it looks like "only" 18% growth for the Christmas season, compared to last year's 27% growth.

Eighteen percent growth is pretty good by any measure, since most retailers would say a good year is one that averages 4-5% growth. Any other business in America would be delirious with 18% growth, but somehow the news media wants to spin this as the world coming to an end.

What does it mean? It means that you can't have 27% percent growth forever. What is amazing is that people fall for this over and over again, dating back hundreds of years to the Dutch Tulip craze, the first well-documented market bubble. The "collapse" of the housing market was fueled by a naive belief that somehow, housing prices could appreciate at 10% to 20% a year indefinitely, when the historical annual appreciation for a home is more typically around 2-3%.

The good news hidden in the 18% growth rate is for bricks and mortar retailers--the slow down in online buying means we are finding out what people are likely to feel comfortable buying online, and what they would rather go to a real store to shop for. The past seven or eight years has been a turbulent time for retailers, but the news this Christmas is that we probably close to figuring out what the new "normal" is for retail, and that's a good thing.

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