ShopperTrak: Holiday retail traffic and sales to increase

Chicago -- Consumers will shop more and visit more stores during the peak holiday shopping months of November and December, according to ShopperTrak, the world's largest counter and analyzer of retail foot traffic. Compared with the same period last year, national retail sales will rise 3.3% during November and December. Retail foot traffic will increase 2.8%.

"Retailers have reason to be optimistic about this season,” said ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin. “It's clear that foot traffic is increasing and month-over-month sales continue to be better than expected. In fact, our shopper visit data tell us that consumers are visiting more stores than last year. This influx of traffic will present opportunities for retailers to convert these visitors into buyers, especially with the extended holiday shopping season."

ShopperTrak's 3.3% holiday sales increase forecast follows 34 months (of the past 35) of year-over-year U.S. retail sales growth. The expected increase of 2.8% in foot traffic trumps the 2011 holiday season's 2.2% traffic decrease from 2010.  

ShopperTrak noted that 32 days lie between Black Friday and Christmas this year, the longest interval possible. Weekends typically are busy shopping periods and this year's holiday calendar provides two extra ones: a full weekend in the holiday shopping season, plus a weekend between Christmas and New Year's Eve, which both fall mid-week. Hanukkah falls 11 days earlier than last year.

"The calendar provides retailers unusual opportunities for success this season," said Martin, "but store managers will need to understand how the 2012 calendar differentiates this holiday season from past seasons. Keeping stores open for longer hours across an extended time between holidays adds to operating costs. Managers need to plan optimal staffing, scheduling, marketing and advertising with the calendar to achieve best results."

Typically, retailers market heavily in October and early November to drive store foot traffic as the holidays begin. In a presidential election year, however, political ads dominate the airwaves and reduce the impact of retailer marketing efforts. ShopperTrak's analysis reveals shopping activity tapers off before national elections - with a decline of 6.3% the week before voting in 2008 -- but rebounds quickly after the results are announced. Consumers who were distracted during the election, however, generally dive into the holiday shopping season after the ballots are counted. Store managers must have their marketing and advertising ready to go on Nov. 7 to capture the full sales potential of this holiday season.

According to ShopperTrak, foot traffic will increase 3.5% over last season in the apparel and accessories category. Sales will increase 4% compared with 2011.

ShopperTrak expects foot traffic to drop steeply by 8% in the electronics and appliance sector. Sales, however, will increase slightly, by 1.5% over last year.

"Some of the traffic decline in the electronics and appliance category can be attributed to consumers going online to research premium-priced purchases or to purchase items at discounted prices," said Martin. "You can't, however, ignore the fact that 92% of total GAFO retail sales still occur in brick-and-mortar stores. Retailers who align their in-store and online strategies to provide multiple touch points and distinct value offerings for consumers will come out on top."