Back to School Study: Fewer Shoppers but More Spending

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Chicago—As the back-to-school season begins–the second most active retail season behind Christmas–ShopperTrak predicted Tuesday that it expects total. U.S. foot traffic to decline in August, but retail sales may still increase.

While ShopperTrak predicts back-to-school traffic levels should decline 1.4% this year, the company says back-to-school performance will most likely mirror sales and traffic levels seen so far this year.  Last year year’s data shows retail sales during “back-to-school” 2009 slipped 4.9%, but this year price-conscious consumers are spending more but making fewer visits to stores.

“The data we’ve received from thousands of retail clients throughout the year shows traffic levels have been slightly down since just before the holidays, but spending has remained positive during this time, which points to value-driven consumers spending more during less trips to malls,” Bill Martin, co-founder of Shopper Trak. “We think the relative positively compared to last year added to pent up demand and the need to replace some worn out items will equal a 3.5% sales rise, which would ultimately be considered a strong season for retailers.”

Back to School Spending: An Essential, No Discretionary

Although Martin cautioned:  “While we anticipate some relative strength throughout August, we will continue keeping a close eye on gasoline prices and unemployment levels, which historically can dramatically impact retail performance.”

ShopperTrak’s report reinforces recently released figures by the retail industry. Last week, the National Retail Federations predicted a 10.5% increase in back to school spending this year with parents planning to spend an average of $225 on their children’s apparel and accessories. The International Council of Shopping Centers also predicted a 5.4% increase in retail sales in back to school sales at retail.

Both associations noted that consumers see back to school spending as essential purchases rather than discretionary ones. Said Michael Niemira, chief economist at ICSC. “The economic fundamentals are better — maybe they’re not strong, but they’re better. At some point, how long can you wear hand-me-down clothes?”

About ShopperTrak

The ShopperTrak Retail Traffic Index measures traffic across five separate retail segments including total U.S. retailing  A privately held company, ShopperTrak leverages 20 years of retail expertise to be the industry’s authority for information and analysis of the movement of shoppers in retail environments. With more than 50,000 units installed in the world’s best known retail outlets and malls, the company’s solutions also provide a proven means for retailers to gauge labor efficiencies, advertising and marketing efforts, store design and remodeling programs, merchandise changes, associate training programs, and other budget-intensive strategic initiatives.

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