National Jeweler Network

Retail Surveys

Holiday sales up, but foot traffic falls in 2013

January 09, 2014

Chicago--Despite a shorter shopping season and bad weather across the country in the time leading up to Christmas, retail sales were up year-over-year this holiday season, according to data released Wednesday by ShopperTrak.

The firm estimates that in the months of November and December, national retail sales were up nearly 3 percent to $265.9 billion when compared with the same period last year.

This marks the fourth year in a row holiday sales have increased, according to the firm, and the final increase percentage was slightly higher than ShopperTrak’s original prediction of a 2.4 percent total climb.

Meanwhile, foot traffic plummeted 15 percent compared with November and December 2012 as consumers continued “virtual” window shopping, doing most of their research online before visiting a store. The 15 percent drop was much higher than expected, as ShopperTrak had predicted that foot traffic would be down 1.4 percent.

With a shorter season and more retailers offering deals earlier this year, consumers began their holiday shopping earlier, getting the season off to a strong start and helping to counteract the weeks following the Black Friday shopping weekend when retail sales and foot traffic decreased slightly.

“As we anticipated, retailers saw a gain in sales compared to last year as the economy continues to recover,” said ShopperTrak Founder Bill Martin. “However, consumers took a break from shopping after Thanksgiving weekend, so retailers were pressured to offer deep discounts and promotions in the final week before Christmas to finish the holiday on a positive note.”

With shoppers holding out for better deals toward the end of the season and many retailers offering big last-minute sales, the season ended on a strong note.

The five days before Christmas (Dec. 20 to 24) accounted for 14 percent of sales and 15 percent of the season’s traffic. Additionally, the week of Dec. 22 to 28 accounted for 16 percent of sales for the season as well as 16 percent of traffic.

Sales in the apparel and accessories category were up 4 percent this season, as sales in electronics and wireless stores increased by 5 percent.

Regionally, the Northeast, South and West were up 2 percent, 3 percent and 5 percent respectively, while sales in the Midwest were flat compared with last year.

Looking ahead, ShopperTrak is estimating an increase of nearly 3 percent in retail sales in the first quarter of 2014.

“We will continue to see the trend of steady sales increases as consumer confidence rises and the economy progresses,” Martin said. “And while foot traffic will continue to slow due to changing consumer patterns--with more shoppers purchasing online or researching products online before heading to stores--retailers must remember an overwhelming majority of all retail sales in the U.S. will occur in brick-and-mortar stores. Retailers who deliver a seamless customer experience both in the store and across all channels will emerge ahead of the rest.”