TheStreet reporter Brian Sozzi is visiting a dozen key retailers on Thanksgiving and Black Friday to assess their performance during one of the biggest shopping events of the year.
ISLIP, N.Y. (TheStreet) -- If you're searching for signs the U.S. economy is stronger than last year, look no further than the pricier items shoppers were buying at Macy's (M) on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday.
Boots, handbags and luxury watches from brands like Michael Kors (KORS) , Calvin Klein and Marc Jacobs are top sellers, according to Macy's chairman, president and CEO Terry Lundgren.
"We have had just huge lines around the women's shoe department. Boots in particular have been the strongest category," he said in a phone interview with TheStreet. "Handbags, which have been strong all year, continue to perform well," adding that "all of the brand name watches are doing well."
At three Macy's stores in the New York area -- visited Thanksgiving Day after 6:00 p.m. and Black Friday before 8:00 a.m. -- crowds hovered around the pricier departments, confirming Lundgren's comments. Cold weather apparel from V.F.'s (VFC) North Face brand was a standout seller, less so the case for Coach (COH) handbags and accessories.
Early success is good news for the holiday quarter, a period that accounts for about 33% of Macy's annual revenue. Sales of women's accessories, intimate apparel, shoes and cosmetics represent the largest portion of Macy's business.
Macy's operates 840 Macy's and Bloomingdales stores in the U.S., and expects fourth-quarter same-store sales to increase by 2% to 3%. A year ago, Macy's reported a same-store sales gain of 2.3%. According to Yahoo! Finance, analysts are expecting Macy's to report fourth-quarter sales of $9.37 billion and earnings per share of $2.38 a share.
But, with one month in the holiday quarter nearly wrapped up, Macy's could be poised to deliver some cheer to investors come February 2015 when the fourth-quarter results are announced.
Macy's Black Friday Scorecard
Number of stores visited: Three
Location: Long Island, N.Y. and New York City
Times visited: 6:00 p.m. Thanksgiving Day to 8:00 a.m. on Black Friday
Bag size (Big bags means big items which mean more money for the retailer): Fair and included items other than door-busters (deeply discounted goods intended to bring crowds) in men's and women's apparel.
Crowd size (How big are the crowds): Consistently large, with cold weather apparel department, handbags and watches as bright spots.
Staff size (Is there enough staff to handle the crowds): Checkout lines moved well, with appropriate number of staff on the sales floor offering assistance.
Out of stock areas (Empty shelves): Women's boots, North Face apparel
Too much stock (Overstocked on key items): Coach handbags; Levi's denim in men, women and kids sections; pricier housewares
Line of shoppers waiting to get in a Long Island Macy's.