Experian FootFall: Mixed results for holiday 2012

New York -- The 2012 holiday shopping season didn’t provide the sales and traffic lift anticipated by retailers, according to Experian FootFall. The company said the season got off to a blazing start as consumers responded to some of the earliest Black Friday sales and promotions, effectively extending the Black Friday shopping experience to a four-day event. Following this annual start to the season that accounted for billions of dollars in retail sales, the 2012 calendar shift began to impact consumer behavior.

“We typically see a spending lull just after Black Friday until about a week prior to Christmas, and with this year’s calendar that provided the most days possible between Thanksgiving and Christmas consumers seemed to extend this lull waiting to capitalize on late-season deals,” said Roseanne McCauley, VP of the Americas for Experian FootFall.

Although sales and traffic were moderate during the first half of December, spending improved towards the end of the season as the annually strong Super Saturday approached. Anticipating this late season push spurred by procrastinating and deal-conscious shoppers, retailers employed many of the strategies from Black Friday weekend, including deeply discounted items and extended hours, to convert as many late-season sales as possible.  And while Super Saturday weekend was still a very large event for the industry, sales and traffic patterns ultimately fell short of both retailers’ and economists’ expectations.

Following Christmas, retailers saw some expected strength on Dec. 26 as the annual rush of returned items and post-Christmas sales and promotions attracted shoppers, but the impact was weaker than retailers anticipated.  Nevertheless, gift-card redemptions and extended post-holiday sales continue to drive consumers to various retail locations and the full impact of the season may not be known until late January or early February.

“Super Saturday didn’t perform as expected but it still drew hundreds of millions of shoppers and accounted for billions in sales, so reports stating the day was disappointing for retailers are a bit of a red herring,” said McCauley. “In reality the 2012 holiday shopping season was successful, posting slight gains versus a very solid 2011 behind the strength of Black Friday weekend and the annual late season push. Overall retailers should be pleased with performance and cautiously optimistic in early 2013 as gift-card redemptions continue to boost sales.”