In the final countdown to Christmas, stores were emptier and sales were lower than expected according to new data by traffic tracker ShopperTrak. Retailers' in-store sales for the week ended Sunday, Dec. 22, fell 3.1 percent from a year earlier while traffic plunged 21 percent.
The declines conflict with earlier estimates that predicted Friday, Saturday and Sunday, along with Black Friday, to be among the top four shopping days of the season. The performance over the weekend before Christmas also clashes with ShopperTrak's original forecast of sales increasing 2.4 percent and traffic declining 10 percent.
One glimmer of hope is that weak in-store sales may be offset by higher online sales. Online sales between Dec. 15 and Dec. 18, for instance, jumped 13 percent, with 23 percent traffic growth, according to a separate survey by Custora Pulse which tracks data from over 100 U.S. retailers.
With the Christmas rush over, retailers have shifted their focus to year-end sales. Day-after-Christmas sales are predicted to be bigger than ever, just like last month's Black Friday and Cyber Monday promos. This year, some retailers even started offering post-Christmas sales as early as Christmas Eve. Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN), for example, is offering up to 70 percent off selected merchandise, while Old Navy is offering 75 percent off in store and 60 percent off online now through Jan. 31.
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