By Michelle Graff
Chicago--While fewer consumers shopped during the 16-day federal government shutdown, analytics firm ShopperTrak said its forecast for retail sales and foot traffic for the all-important months of November and December remains the same.
ShopperTrak, which has devices in place that measure foot traffic and customer patterns at major shopping centers, found that total retail store foot traffic decreased by 8 percent during the week of Sept. 29 to Oct. 5 as compared with the prior-year period. During the following week, Oct. 6 to 12, it declined by 7 percent as compared to 2012.

The company also found, not surprisingly, that the effects of the shutdown were even more apparent in the Washington area, where ShopperTrak saw an 11 percent decline in year-over-year shopper traffic in the week of Oct. 6 to 12.

“Consumers were already deflated prior to this due to the economy, and when you concentrate them in an area like Washington D.C., where so many were without pay during that period, it becomes even more compounded,” ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin told National Jeweler.

But as part of the agreement that the government reached last Wednesday to put an end to the shutdown, federal employees that were furloughed will receive back pay in their next paychecks, which Martin anticipates will results in a slight resurgence in visits to stores over the next seven to 10 days.

“Those that were out of the shopping cycle will get double pay and will be putting money back into the shopping cycle, which we anticipate will create some pent-up demand,” Martin said. “Our stores will be prepared, and they’re increasing the staffing to match the inflated traffic and improve conversion rates.”

Even now that the shutdown is over, some retailers are concerned about its lingering effect on consumer confidence and what that will mean for holiday shopping.

Martin said ShopperTrak isn’t changing its September forecast for both foot traffic and sales in the months of November and December.

ShopperTrak predicts that foot traffic will decline by 1.4 percent during the two months as compared to the same period in 2012, as consumers remain wary and continue an approach to shopping that includes extensive research online before going to stores.

“We expect to see flat to soft traffic throughout the rest of the year,” Martin said. “It’ll probably take some time for retailers to recover from the effects that the shutdown had on sales and store traffic.”

This year’s calendar also only has 25 days between Black Friday and Christmas, the fewest number possible, and one less weekend, giving consumers less time in stores.

Martin also notes that overall holiday spending still is expected to increase by 2.4 percent this year, which would mark the fourth year in a row that the figure has climbed.

More than 750 retail brands across the world use ShopperTrak services in more than 60,000 locations across 90 countries and territories. 

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