Strong Sales Uptick in Christmas Week Recap

New York City In a spot of good news for the nation’s beleaguered retailers, retail sales rose a strong 21.2% for Christmas week (Dec. 21 to Dec. 27) compared to the same period in 2007, according to ShopperTrak’s retail sales estimate. Total U.S. foot traffic, however, for the week fell 4.9% compared to last week, ShopperTrak reported.

The downturn in year-over-year traffic was slight when compared to the dramatic traffic declines retailers have experienced so far this season, the report said. On a week-over-week level, shopper traffic showed a significant increase as the 2008 calendar shift allowed more of a boost from procrastinating shoppers looking for deeply discounted items and last-minute deals on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Additionally, Dec. 26, a day ShopperTrak anticipated would be the third best-performing day this season, provided a much-needed traffic lift as consumers took advantage of post-holiday sales and began redeeming gift cards.

The 2008 calendar shift significantly helped year-over-year performance (+21.2%) as more consumers shopped Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in 2008 as opposed to the days leading into Super Saturday in 2007 (Dec. 20 and Dec. 21). But last week’s strong week-over-week performance highlighted the fact that many consumers were waiting for discounted items and exploded onto the scene just prior to Christmas—and on Dec. 26—to redeem gift cards and search for post-holiday sales, according to ShopperTrak.

“Annually, we see a boost just prior to Christmas from procrastinating shoppers and that trend continued last week despite the various economic pressures on the American consumer,” said Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak. “Both the traffic and sales results of this past week indicate efficient shoppers were focusing their retail visits to stores offering value for their money with deeply discounted items, which we’ve seen throughout the 2008 season.”

Despite Christmas week’s strong performance, Martin indicated ShopperTrak’s holiday-season forecast has been adjusted to a 2.3% retail sales decline with a significant 16.0% traffic decline. Initially, the company predicated a 0.1% retail sales increase with a 9.9% dip in total U.S. foot traffic.

“We expect retail performance will dive over the next couple of weeks as retailers stop offering deeply discounted items and sales, and traffic levels return to seasonal low points following the holidays,” Martin said. “Looking ahead, retailers will most likely need to get creative to avoid the struggles most analysts have predicted in Q1 as the current economy continues to influence consumer behavior and shopping patterns.”