ShopperTrak: Holiday Sales to Rise Less Than 2012

In Industry News, What's New by Jeff Prine

Christmas Shopping Chicago—In one of the first sales forecasts for the 2013 holiday season, ShopperTrak today predicted that retail sales in November and December would rise 2.4%. That’s lower than the 2012 increase of 3% and below the 2011 rise of 3.7%.

Store traffic, which rose 2.5% in 2012, is expected to fall 1.4%.

“Although the economy continues to recover slowly, consumers remain cautious about spending and are not ready to splurge,” said ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin. “Even though online buying increases every year, brick-and-mortar sales remain retail’s largest profit opportunity. Retailers who deliver a seamless experience both in-store and at every customer touch-point have the chance to capitalize and grab their share of wallet when shoppers visit the stores.”

Online sales are expected to rise at a slower rate than in past holidays as consumers overall are pulling back, particularly on non-essential discretionary items. But look for consumers to research where and how much they’ll spend on their shopping lists. Martin believes consumers predetermine which stores they want to shop for. “So even if traffic is down from last year, those shoppers in the store are coming to buy. Retailers who don’t convert them into sales stand the chance to lose a significant business.”

Apparel, Accessories Sales to Rise 2.8%

ShopperTrak makes sales projections based on its measurement of shopper visits to more than 60,000 locations of more than 700 retailers.

Non-essential, discretionary purchases could include apparel and accessories, but ShopperTrak estimated that retail sales in these categories will increase 2.8% compared to last year. Shopper traffic at apparel and accessories stores, however, will be down about 1%. Apparel and accessories sales, too, could be stronger than expected since warmer weather last year hindered sales in some categories and a pent-up demand exists, Martin said.

ShopperTrak also predicts that Christmas sales will continue to shift from December into November due to increased Black Friday doorbusters (many starting on Thanksgiving Day). There’s also a shorter season this year: only 25 days between Black Friday (Nov. 29) and Christmas, compared with 32 days last year. Moreover, there are only four weekends instead of five to shop.

“No one can afford to procrastinate,” Martin said. “Retailers must have their holiday marketing and operations ready to go when November begins as consumers will be ready to take advantage of those deals.”

Already Kmart ran a TV commercial about its holiday layaway plans 105 days before Christmas, Martin noted. Expect similar pushes to begin even earlier.

Super Saturday, Dec. 21, may be exceptionally strong this year, perhaps even eclipsing Black Friday since Christmas falls on the following Wednesday.