Sales Soften for Final Holiday Shopping Week

In Industry News, What's New by Jeff Prine

Santa Carrying Shopping BagsChicago—Retailers will soon be ending their holiday season, sending shoppers and employees homes to enjoy their Christmas celebrations.

But if some of the early indications about this year’s holiday sales are accurate, many of those retailers may feel they have had a visit from the Grinch, not Santa.

In its latest shopping report for the week of Dec. 16 to Dec. 22, ShopperTrak, analyzer of retail shopper traffic, reported Monday afternoon that in-store retail sales (excluding online) actually decreased 3.1% last week from the same week a year ago. Retail brick-and-mortar shopper traffic decreased by 21.2$ compared to the same time period in 2012.

Shoppers Migrate to Online?

“Bad weather throughout the country kept some shoppers away from stores,” said Bill Martin, ShopperTrak founder. “This past week was their final opportunity to complete their holiday shopping before Christmas–and though many did finish making their purchases, retailers did not see as many shoppers as last year.”

Despite more markdowns and promotional efforts from retailers, “Super Saturday” (Dec. 21) saw a decrease in retail sales by 0.7% compared to 2012. In-store shopper traffic decreased 18.1% from the same day last year.

Some shoppers may actually be waiting for those after Christmas sales. ShopperTrak predicts after-holiday markdowns to drive robust retail sales and store traffic in the days to come, particularly the day after Christmas (Dec. 26) and the following Saturday (Dec. 28).

“Many people who have the day after Christmas off of work will be out shopping for end-of-season deals,” said Martin. “Retailers should track their stores’ conversion rates closely to turn more after-Christmas browsers into buyers.”

“Overall, the holiday retail sales season is not the best,” said Chris Christopher, director of consumer economics at HIS Global Insight. “Online is up tremendously from where it was five years ago, but everyone is hurting on the margins because of the discounting and the free shipping.”

Holiday online retail sales are projected to grow 13.5% over last year, Christopher said, predicting 3.2% growth for the holiday season, the weakest since 2009.

According to The NPD Group’s Holiday Shop-O-Meter, powered by CivicScience, consumers have completed 84% of their holiday shopping by this weekend, but “the last weekend before Christmas proved to be lighter for retailers then they would have liked,” noted Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD.

Cohen pointed out two reasons for soft sales: shopper migration to online “and the lack of new/innovative products.”

“Consumers have been shopping online to research, and then finding the convenience of ultimately making the purchase from the comfort of their couch irresistible,” Cohen said.