Holiday Wrap Up: Christmas Week Sales Rose 4%-8%

New York—Holiday shoppers keep retailers busier than usual last week. The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) and Goldman Sachs released today sales results for the week ended Dec. 25.

Sales for the week rose 4.8% over the same week in 2009, making it the best performance for since April 24.

Improving Economy Buoys Spending

On a week-over-week basis, sales gained 1%. “Consumers hurried to complete their last minute holiday-gift buying ahead of Christmas Day as many workers had additional shopping time on Christmas Eve, which was a federal holiday for many since Christmas Day fell on a Saturday,” said Michael Niemira, ICSC’s chief economist. “That last-minute holiday spending lift was aided by consumers who had more money as a result of the improving economy, more time as a result of the Friday holiday and more holiday-season excitement than in many years.”

ICSC forecast December same-store sales to rise 3.5% and November to December holiday-season sales to increase 4%, the strongest since at least 2006.

In other holiday sales reports released today, MasterCard Advisors’ SpendingPulse updated its data for the 50-day period from November 5 through December 24.  SpendingPulse found that overall season-over-season growth was 5.5% (excluding automobile sales) above the same period in 2009.

“If last year’s holiday story was about gaining some stability, this year’s is about getting back to growth. The 2010 holiday period is categorized by strong year-over-year growth in apparel and continued strength in e-commerce, Michael McNamara, vice president of research and analysis for SpendingPulse. “We also saw a noticeable return in spending in the larger ticket items, as exemplified by the solid growth in jewelry, luxury and even the furniture category.”

Apparel, Jewelry, Luxurygoods Sales Rebound

McNamara also noted that the strong holiday season spending appeared to have started as early as the second week of November, producing a month of solid growth and persisting through the traditional early December lull.

“The cold weather across much of the country in December appeared to be a positive for the apparel sector. While there was some disruptive weather in the Midwest and the West Coast towards the end of the season, the conditions did not seem to negatively impact the national sales momentum. In some cases the weather may have also benefited the e-commerce channel.”

SpendingPulse highlights for the period include:

Ecommerce-As with last year’s holiday season, e-commerce was the big winner this year, with seasonal sales up 15.4% . With online sales representing significant share of sector sales in areas such as apparel, the double-digit growth rates are becoming more meaningful.

Apparel–Total apparel was a strong performing category, growing 11.2% over the 2009 holiday season. Menswear reached double-digit growth weighing in at 10.5% year-over-year.  Women’s apparel grew by 5.6%, making for one of the best periods of growth in this category since the financial market turmoil in 2008. Considering the apparel category was down by 0.4% during the 2009 season, the segment recorded a significant turnaround this season, McNamara said.

Jewelry and Luxurygoods–Jewelry and luxurygoods (excluding jewelry) both improved. After a mild start, jewelry posted several weekly year-over-year increases and ended the season up 8.4%. Luxurygoods started the season with a solid gain and then picked up steam, ending with a very respectable season-to-season growth of 6.7%.

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