ShopperTrak: Christmas week sales slip 4.1% due to calendar shift; blizzard postpones $1 billion in spending

Chicago -- Total GAFO retail sales for Christmas week (week ending Dec. 25) slipped 4.1% compared with last year, while the company’s retail traffic index (SRTI) reported a 6.8% total U.S. foot traffic decline for the same period, according to ShopperTrak’s National Retail Sales Estimate (NRSE). The 2010 calendar shift that placed Dec. 26 on a Sunday as opposed to a Saturday last year had the greatest impact on overall performance.

Because it fell on a Sunday this year, Dec. 26 is not counted in the Christmas week performance, eliminating a day that finished third in sales and second in traffic in 2009, which was included in last year’s Christmas week data. This year ShopperTrak anticipates Dec. 26 will finish 10th in both sales and traffic.

“It seems the calendar was a bit unkind to retailers this year as the 2009 comparison week is particularly strong and a critical day in the season fell on a Sunday which created some unique challenges,” said Bill Martin, founder of ShopperTrak. “In some locations retailers didn’t have the ability to extend store hours on a Sunday due to various regulations, so there was a shorter window to move merchandise that day. Additionally, the beginning of some inclement weather in the Midwest, Northeast and South regions last week most likely influenced retailer’s levels as well.”

ShopperTrak also measured the impact of the blizzard which crippled the Northeast particularly on Dec. 26 and 27 strongly impacted retail traffic in the region and across the country. The company’s analysis reveals that because of the blizzard:

On Dec. 26 total U.S. foot traffic was 11.2% below what it would have been expected if the blizzard had not hit the Northeast

Northeast region foot traffic fell 6.1% on Dec. 26 while the other three regions (Midwest, South, West) had an average gain of 38.6% versus last year.

On Dec. 27 total U.S. foot traffic was 13.9% below expectations had the blizzard not hit the Northeast.

Northeast region foot traffic fell 42.9% on Dec. 27 compared with 2009, while the other regions averaged a 13.0% gain.

Preliminary GAFO retail sales estimates for Dec. 26 and 27 combined are roughly $10 billion. Assuming a conservative 10%  sales impact nationally for the blizzard, roughly $1 billion of retail spending was postponed during the two day period.

“As expected the 2010 blizzard throughout the Northeast halted nearly all retail visits and spending during a period that is fairly crucial for retailers,”  Martin said.  “While we do think there will be some retail strength later this week and into the weekend as folks begin to dig out, it will be interesting to see if levels recover in time to boost December sales and the overall holiday shopping season.”

Developed by ShopperTrak, the NRSE provides a nationwide benchmark of retail sales. It is derived from the U.S. Commerce Department's GAFO (general merchandise, apparel, furniture, sporting goods, electronics, hobby, books and other related store sales) statistic, as well as ShopperTrak proprietary industry intelligence on shopper movement and sales statistics.
 
The ShopperTrak Retail Traffic Index measures traffic across five separate retail segments including total U.S. retailing.