ShopperTrak: Holiday season sales grew 3.5%, foot traffic declined 3.1%

Downward trend in foot traffic expected to continue

NEW YORK — ShopperTrak reported Monday that national retail sales, when compared with the same period last year, rose 3.5% during November and December, while foot traffic decreased 3.1%.

“We know stores saw less foot traffic and increases in sales during the holiday season, indicating consumers were focused and took fewer trips,” ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin said. “Retailers who tracked their foot traffic daily better understood and predicted shopper trends and made the most of every opportunity that walked through their doors with appropriate inventory and staffing adjustments.”

Throughout the holiday season, ShopperTrak has estimated that consumers spent $251.4 billion dollars in GAFO retail sales. Sales rose 3.5% over 2010, but slightly lower than ShopperTrak’s forecast of a 3.7% increase.

The season started with four straight weeks of year-over-year sales gains in November, with Thanksgiving week having the largest year-over-year sales gain for the month — a 4.4% increase over the same period last year and $134.2 billion spent. Sales lagged in early December, as shoppers assessed their budgets after “Black Weekend.”

ShopperTrak said it also attributed December’s slow start to Hanukkah falling later in the month this year than it did in 2010, negatively affecting retail sales early on. Sales surged late in the season, however. The week before Christmas saw the season’s largest year-over-year sales gain of 14.4%, $193.7 billion spent and six of the season’s top 10 sales days occurred in the eight days prior to Christmas.

While shoppers bought more, they browsed less according to ShopperTrak. In-store foot-traffic decreased 3.1% for the 2011 holiday season over the same period last year. According to ShopperTrak, foot-traffic suffered year-over-year decreases in all but two weeks from Nov. 5 through Jan. 7. Gas prices rose 13% over the average fuel prices in the 2010 holiday season, which may account for some foot traffic loss.

“Our shopper-counts from 25,000 locations in the United States indicate shoppers were more targeted in their holiday shopping than in years past,” Martin added. “Many pre-shopped for gifts online and then went to stores with in-stock merchandise priced at the best values to make purchases.”

The only week with a year-over-year gain in shopper traffic during the holiday season was the week ending December 24, as late-season shoppers procrastinated or sought out last-minute deals.

ShopperTrak said it expects the downward trend in foot traffic to continue in 2012. Converting fewer numbers of shoppers to buyers has never been more important for retailers, said ShopperTrak.

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