ShopperTrak: Late Season Shoppers Help Holiday ’12 Rally

Chicago—Procrastinating shoppers—many of whom waited until the weekend before Christmas to finish their shopping—helped push total November/December holiday sales up 2.5%.

According to results released today by ShopperTrak, the largest service that tracks retail foot traffic, total sales reached $248.8 billion during the two-month period (U.S. Commerce Department results are released in February). The result marks the third consecutive year with positive retail sales and the second holiday season in the last three years with positive foot traffic changes.

“Our data indicates that more people visited more stores this holiday season than the previous year,” said ShopperTrak Founder Bill Martin. “Retailers who understood their foot traffic were able to staff, stock and market to best serve their customers, ultimately converting more of the browsers into buyers.”

With a 32-day holiday season, including the longest interval possible between Black Friday and Christmas, consumers tended to procrastinate in their shopping.

But Martin said once the late-bloomers headed out to stores, their last-minute shopping and post-Christmas exchanges drove large increases in both retail sales and foot traffic during the final days of December. ShopperTrak forecasts that for the week ending Dec. 29, sales increased 18% and traffic increased 14.4% compared to the same period last year. This indicates the largest year-over-year increase of the holiday season.

“Heavy discounting by retailers at the end of December led to increases in shopper activity across the board,” said Martin.

Top Sales Days Occurred Toward End of Season

Nevertheless, the results were a bit disappointing compared to initial forecasts. In October, ShopperTrak had projected a 3.3% increase in sales from 2011, but in mid-December scaled it back to 2.5% to account for the sluggish activity. Other analysts have also scaled back their projections to above 2%.

“The presidential election and Hurricane Sandy drew consumers’ attention away from shopping at the outset of the holiday retail season,” said Martin. “However, lower unemployment, higher consumer confidence and stable gas prices positively influenced shoppers to make purchases this holiday season.”

Indeed, the power of late season promotions can be proved by the fact three of the busiest foot traffic days occurred in late December.

Though “Black Weekend” held its own–Black Friday, Nov. 23, retains the top spot and Saturday, Nov. 24, comes in as the fifth-busiest traffic day–the weekends leading up to Christmas saw the most shoppers at stores and malls. ShopperTrak reports that “Super Saturday,” Dec. 22, was the second-busiest shopping day of the season, followed by Saturday, Dec. 15 in third and Sunday, Dec. 23 ranking fourth.

Similarly, the top sales days of the holidays took place largely toward the end of the season. Black Friday again led the pack, followed by Super Saturday. Dec. 23, Dec. 21, and Dec. 15, in that order, rounded out the top five best sales days of the holidays. They helped to close the holiday season on a high note, according to Martin.

“Our data indicates that more people visited more stores this holiday season than the previous year,” said ShopperTrak Founder Bill Martin. “Retailers who understood their foot traffic were able to staff, stock and market to best serve their customers, ultimately converting more of the browsers into buyers.”

About ShopperTrak’s NRSE

ShopperTrak measures foot-traffic in more than 50,000 global locations and analyzes the data in a proprietary, econometric model to create its ShopperTrak National Retail Sales Estimate (NRSE) of general merchandise, apparel and accessories, furniture and other sales (GAFO). Its estimate precedes the federal government’s official reports by several weeks. www.shoppertrak.com

 

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Jeff Prine, Editor at Large, Accessories Magazine
Jeff returns as a regular contributor to Accessories magazine. Initially Jeff worked as senior editor at Accessories more than 20 years ago and his love of the industry has followed him until present. Since his tenure here, Jeff has continued to report jewelry, watch and other luxury goods trends as executive editor at Modern Jeweler magazine, fashion director at Lustre, and as contributor on products and trends for consumer and trade publications and websites. In addition to his editorial experience, Jeff also served as an adjunct instructor for accessories merchandising at Fashion Institute of Technology. jeffp@busjour.com