Story updated with commentary from NPD. See end.
We all know that it's going to be a "soft" holiday shopping season. There are stories to back it up from Amazon.com and elsewhere. And now Retrevo, a consumer electronics research site (arguably a CNET competitor), is launching the charts and graphs we all need to drive the point home. They call the service Retrevo Pulse.
Using data from its own site--the reviews content it aggregates, traffic analysis from user behavior, search keyword tracking, and so on--Retrevo is making available daily updates of two charts: pricing trends and demand trends. It's the demand trends that are the most ominous. Where you would usually see a nice ramp-up to the holiday gift-buying season starting in September, what you have now is the beginning of the usual ramp, followed by the clear collapse in demand in the first week of September that's sustained to the present day.
Some categories are spared, Retrevo CEO Vipin Jain says. Laptops will still be moving out the door, and according to Retrevo, at higher prices than earlier in the year. And although demand is soft, the prices on televisions and GPS units are going down, keeping their demand curves a little more horizontal than in some other categories.
What's also interesting about these charts is that Retrevo is putting them on its public-facing site, and for no charge. Usually you'd see a consumer-facing company like this take these interesting data sets and sell them out the back door to manufacturing and retail companies. But those firms probably already know what they're in store for, and aren't about to spend additional money to be told again. So instead, Retrevo is showing the users themselves what they are not buying, in hopes that more people will use the site, and keep traffic (and thus monetization) up during what is sure to be a gloomy holiday for tech.
At least Retrevo, which raised some money six months ago, is not joining the pool of companies that are laying people off. Although, Jain says, he has put his hires on hold.
Update: I got this comment via e-mail from Stephen Baker, VP of Industry Analytics at The NPD Group, which provides market research and analysis to the retail industry: "I am not sure the conclusions reached are right. Our sales data also saw a serious spike down after Labor Day so that is directionally correct but you never (even though retailers wish it was not so) see any type of real upward movement until about 2 weeks before Thanksgiving when sales start to tick up. October is almost always a miserable month with sales flat to down every single week, sequentially after Labor Day. So it isn't surprising that a 30 day tick would show a downturn in interest right now, people just don't buy a lot of electronics between Labor Day and mid-November."