Revised Holiday Sales Forecast US Sales to Rise 3.2%

Holiday SalesChicago–Better than expected response to early sales promotions mixed with relatively mild weather throughout the country is already driving holiday traffic to malls and retail outlets.

Consequently, ShopperTrak revised its 2010 holiday forecast—upward. According to the company’s Retail Sales Estimate (NRSE), sales during the upcoming holiday shopping season (November / December) are now expected to increase 3.2% versus last year, an increase from the 2.9% originally estimated last month. In addition, the company’s Retail Traffic Index (SRTI) is forecasting a 1.0%traffic increase for the same period–a substantial rise from the previously expected 0.1% decline.

Foot Traffic to Rise 1%–A Gain

Studying initial traffic in the six weeks from October 3 to November 13, ShopperTrak reports shopper traffic has increased 3.2% compared to the same period last year “as earlier sales and promotions prompted consumers to visit various retail locations and spend.”

Additionally, retailers received a rather unexpected lift from Veteran’s Day–which accounted for a 10% rise in enclosed malls compared to 2009–helping boost overall traffic performance early in the holiday season.

During the 2009 holiday shopping season, retail sales posted a 0.4% decline, while total U.S. foot traffic fell 3.4% as compared to 2008. In 2008, sales dropped 5.5% and foot traffic slid 15.4% compared to 2007.

November vs. December Sales

This year, ShopperTrak’s NRSE and SRTI indices are now forecasting a 1.1% total U.S. foot traffic increase and a 3.1% retail sales rise in November. In December, the company anticipates a 1.0% traffic rise with a 3.2% retail sales increase.

While heavy price reduction promotions may hamper retailers’ quarterly profits—especially as many face tougher comparables–ShopperTrak’s data shows such price-off discounting may increase traffic—and sales. All year long, consumers have been making fewer trips to retail locations but spending more during their visits. Over the last 10 months, shoppers have visited an average of 3.32 stores per shopping trip, down from 3.43 in 2009, and well down from between 4.0 and 5.0 stores visited prior to the recession in 2006, 2007 and early 2008.

“Winning retailers will effectively entice today’s more spendthrift consumer this holiday season by creating more events to raise foot traffic and by offering various sales to maximize the shoppers spend during each visit,” adds Bill Martin, ShopperTrak’s co-founder.

Confirming that early promotions has generated sales, MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse reported today that preseason sales of appare, luxurygoods and jewelry are on the rise. “We are now beginning to see sharper increases in key holiday categories, indicating a solid start to the holiday season,” said Michael McNamara, vice president, research and analysis for MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse. “For now at least, we are seeing some decent growth numbers and while levels are not yet back to 2007, the year-over-year growth stats are helping to get the holiday season off to an encouraging start.”

Outlet Stores Share Grows

Additionally, the company’s historical data shows the American shoppers has become more frugal and “deal sensitive” as outlet store foot traffic has outperformed regular store traffic. On a weekly basis in 2010, regular stores have averaged a decline in traffic of 2.8% compared to the same weeks in 2009. However, outlet stores have averaged a gain in traffic of 2.5% compared to the same weeks in 2009.

“Despite various economic pressures, consumers have remained resilient and found a way to spend throughout 2010, although not at the level retailers experienced prior to the depths of the recession,” said Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak. “Although we are predicting a nearly 3% sales rise this season, any small increase has to be seen as relative at this point.”

Top Selling Days This Holiday

In analyzing the top performing traffic and sales days of the holiday shopping season since 2003, ShopperTrak predicts Black Friday, Nov. 26, Thursday, Dec. 23 and Super Saturday, or the Saturday before Christmas, (Dec. 18) will be the strongest sales days. The company also reports Black Friday will post the strongest daily foot traffic, followed by Super Saturday and Saturday, December 11.

“Although retailers are losing a Saturday this year, the day after Christmas provides an enormous selling opportunity and retailers who plan promotions and store operations wisely on this day will undoubtedly have a leg up this season,” said Martin.

About ShopperTrak

Developed by ShopperTrak, the NRSE provides a nationwide benchmark of retail sales. It is derived from the U.S. Commerce Department’s GAFO (general merchandise, apparel, furniture, sporting goods, electronics, hobby, books and other related store sales) statistic, as well as ShopperTrak proprietary industry intelligence on shopper movement and sales statistics. The ShopperTrak Retail Traffic Index measures traffic across five separate retail segments including total U.S. retailing. Available as a database or in newsletter format, SRTI reports national and regional traffic trends in a rolling 16 month trend line.

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