Christmas week retail sales reported down 4.1%


Having Christmas fall on a Saturday took its toll on retail sales. ShopperTrak reports that US retail sales for Christmas week, December 19-25, were down 4.1% from Christmas week of 2009.

ShopperTrak’s National Retail Sales Estimate (NRSE) reported that total GAFO (general merchandise, apparel, furniture, sporting goods, electronics, hobby, books and other related store sales) retail sales for Christmas week slipped 4.1% compared to last year, while the company’s retail traffic index (SRTI) reported a strong 6.8 % total U.S. foot traffic decline for the same period.
Although retail levels slowed last week, the 2010 calendar shift that placed December 26 on a Sunday as opposed to a Saturday last year had the greatest impact on overall performance. By falling on a Sunday this year, December 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 December 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.”
Because the 2010 calendar shift also provided a full week between Super Saturday and Christmas, December 23 – a day ShopperTrak deems Father’s Day because of procrastinating male shoppers – saw strong returns and finished second behind Black Friday with $7.857 billion spent. Black Friday and Super Saturday accounted for $10.69 and $7.58 billion respectively. By comparison consumers spent $7.547 billion on December 23, 2009, a day which also finished second behind Black Friday and ahead of Super Saturday.   
Switching gears, 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 shows because of the blizzard:
-On December 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 December 26 while the other three regions (Midwest, South, West) had an average gain of 38.6% versus last year.
-On December 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 percent on December 27 compared to 2009, while the other regions averaged a 13.0% gain.
-Preliminary GAFO retail sales estimates for December 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. And at this point the prospect of momentarily pausing a potential $1 billion in sales has the collective industry holding its breath,” said Martin.

“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. At this point we believe our forecast of a 4.0% sales rise with a 1.8 percent traffic increase remains accurate behind the strength of November, a strong sales day on December 23 and the possible late week surge over the next few days,” he said.