Xbox 360 and Gift Cards Make Wal-Mart Smile

Wal-Mart and other stores will be reporting 4th quarter earnings soon. The largest retailer in the world reported today that it recorded its biggest shopping day of the year on the Friday before Christmas, not Saturday (Christmas Eve) as expected. Wal-Mart said demand was especially strong for gift cards this year, as stores tried to display new merchandise on Monday to take advantage of consumers redeeming their gift cards.

“We were expecting to have huge gift card sales,â€? John Menzer of Wal-Mart told Reuters in a telephone interview. “It has even exceeded our expectations.â€? After-Christmas sales are expected to rise as a result, because retailers record revenue from gift cards after they are redeemed, not when they are purchased. “We literally have to reset and transition our stores immediately, the morning after Christmas,â€? he said. “Before, you’d spend a couple of days to clear out seasonal (merchandise) and reset.â€?

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Most major retailers enjoyed an early-season surge of sales, only for a sharp decline, but as the Christmas holiday neared, sales picked up again. According to SpendingPulse, who provides retail-sales data from MasterCard, Apple’s iPod and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 helped stores, as well as more affordable items like flatscreen televisions and MP3 players.

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