Holiday Retail Busiest Days Ahead?

In Reports, What's New, Industry News by Jeff Prine

Countdown to Christmas…

New York—Although some retail analysts have lowered their expectations for sales this season, indications are that the next couple of days may be the busiest for retailers this entire year.

ShopperTrak, which tracks retail sales and foot traffic, earlier this week it lowered its holiday retail forecast from a 3.3% increase to 2.5%. Similarly, the International Council of Shopping Centers, which predicted 2.5% growth for holiday, kept its forecast but noted “a bias towards a weaker reading.”

Still, this weekend, including Super Saturday, Dec. 22, should see an increase in shoppers. ShopperTrak even suggested that the week ending on December 22 may witness the highest sales volume in 2012.

Moreover, there’s a rise in procrastinators this year. On Thursday, Consumer Reports said 132 million, or 68%, of consumers had not finished their holiday shopping.

That is higher than the 60% last year at this time. In a sign of a Christmas crunch, 17 million are estimated to make their final purchases on Christmas Eve.

Another, reported that “over half the people we surveyed are only halfway done.”

Blizzard Could Help Sales?

Responding to reports that the turmoil over the impending fiscal cliff and the sad news about the Newtown shootings had kept shoppers out of stores, Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for The NPD Group, Inc. argued that any lack of enthusiasm on consumers’ part extended back post Black Friday weekend.

“On a more positive note, a co-sponsored poll by The NPD Group and CivicScience revealed that 42% of consumers are still shopping for holiday,” Cohen said today. “The bad news is this year will be based on price more than merchandise as consumers have been groomed to wait to be rewarded with better discounts. Front loading holiday has its benefits, but sales growth is never a guarantee.”

The blizzard hitting the Midwest may impact several markets but Scott Bernhardt, president of Planalytics, which tracks the effect of weather on retailers, said he does not expect the storm to meaningfully affect retail sales because it’s hitting before the weekend begins.

Moreover, it will be hitting less populated regions.

“The upper Midwest is going to take some hits, but the areas that are shut down are not Fifth Ave., downtown Atlanta or L.A.,” Bernhardt said.

In fact, Bernhardt said the storm might actually be good for apparel retailers because shoppers could stock up on sweaters and coats. “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but this is not going to shut us down,” he said. “And for apparel retailers it’s actually good news.”


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