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Retail: Snow pads online sales; men spend more, women less

Breaking up Citigroup and Bank of America to please angry Americans might just benefit Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, warns analyst Paul Miller

"The weekend storm on the East Coast will have a slight positive impact on E-commerce," writes Janney Capital Markets analyst Shawn Milne in a note to investors today. But most online shoppers are done: "A weekend day this late in the season is likely to be (around) 30-40%" of what shoppers spent on "peak days" since Thanksgiving, or around $300 million a day, vs $900 million at the peak.

Citing ComScore data, Milne estimates total online spending is up a modest 4% through December 1, with "top online retailers" up 10% while smaller retailers are posting declines. He notes Chase Paymentech estimates online spending is up more, as much as 15%. "Demand is ahead of plan" at and a few other sites. But he concludes that margins will narrow as merchants spend more to beef up sites and inventories where maintenance was deferred in 2008-09.

Separately, MasterCard's SpendingPulse review of merchant credit and debit card records shows "since Black Friday, eCommerce growth is up 14.4%," while, in traditional retail stores, jewelry and luxury items are down 2%; women's apparel is down 2.6%; men's apparel is up 5.1%; footwear is up 4.9%; and electronics are up 4.4%.

Why are male categories (men's clothes, electronics) up, while women's (women's clothes, jewelry) down? And what's with all the shoes?

Oh, and: The National Retail Federation suggests, most wishfully, that people aren't shopping less this year, they're just shopping later.