BTS season will boost retail sales, foot traffic in August

CHICAGO — Retail sales and foot traffic will see a boost in late summer as the back-to-school season looms, according to the latest ShopperTrak report.

After a sharp decline in 2009, year-over-year back-to-school sales improved only 1.8% in 2010 before increasing 4.5% in 2011, ShopperTrak noted. Year-over-year retail foot traffic percentages also have declined during the past four back-to-school shopping seasons. When compared with the same period last year, however, 2012 sales will rise 4% in August, and retail foot traffic will increase 1.5%.

"This is an important shopping period, and retailers have struggled during back-to-school seasons the past few years," ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin said. "The tide will turn for retailers this year as we forecast a 4% increase in back-to-school sales. This increase will follow year-over-year U.S. retail sales growth in 28 of the last 29 months. August will present retailers with a tremendous opportunity to take all steps possible to maximize their shopper opportunity and increase conversion rates."

ShopperTrak also said that falling gas prices in recent weeks may encourage customers to make more car trips and visit more stores than they did last year, while lower prices at the pump also may translate into additional disposable income that parents can spend on their children.

"For the last couple of years, traffic data indicated a trend toward very targeted shopping. This year, back-to-school shoppers will visit more stores and browse for the best value," Martin added. "Stores that plan ahead and keep a close eye on their foot traffic and conversion rates will be pleased with their performance this season. Those who depend on last year's shopper turnout and behavior as a guide for their staffing and inventory plans are, however, at risk of losing out on business this year."

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