Salient to Investors:

Nancy Koehn at Harvard said the boundaries between brick and mortar and online, and between channels is blurring. Koehn said we don’t yet know if online sales adds up to incremental, organic growth, but consumers are much smarter and much more adaptable.

Nariman Behravesh at IHS said the consumer is in a very good mood because income growth is decent and job growth is coming along, housing is doing well, while online sales are growing like gangbusters. Behravesh sees a disconnect between consumers and businesses, who are more worried about the fiscal cliff, Europe, the China slowdown. Behravesh says consumer finances are in much better shape, so their spending is more sustainable – healthier because debt levels are down, not using home equity loans to spend on a car or on a flat-screen TV.

Neil Irwin at The Washington Post said online is not the best indicator of retail and doesn’t tell you what happens to personal consumption as a whole.  Irwin says the American household is gradually fixing its financial problems, with debt service ratios down to 1990s levels and household debt to GDP at early 2000 levels. Irwin said what matters to the overall economy is how much people are spending, not where, but there is not much sign of pent-up demand.

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