ShopperTrak: Holiday Sales Beat Estimates, Stores Lose Traffic to E-Commerce

As financial reports continue to roll in this week and paint a clearer picture of holiday 2013, ShopperTrak says retailers finished the season with increased sales that beat forecasts.

ShopperTrak, which tracks data at 40,000 stores in the U.S., said that sales for the November and December months combined rose 2.7 percent to $265.9 billion. That was better than ShopperTrak's 2.4 percent forecast for the season, but below the 3 percent gain in 2012.

Data from the recent report also shows that while sales increased, fewer shoppers were in stores this year compared to last with foot traffic plummeting by 14.6 percent. That's a significant difference from the 1.4 percent decline in shopper traffic that ShopperTrak predicted. This was a banner year for online sales, so it's no surprise that many shoppers may have opted to shop online instead of visiting physical stores. ShopperTrak, too, notes that many shoppers went online to finish up their holiday shopping, particularly during a spell of abnormally cold weather in many parts of the country over the first two weekends of December. The ShopperTrak data does not account for online sales. 

Another key trend the report shows is a higher number of last-minute shoppers. Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak, says retailers slashed prices in the final days before Christmas to lure in shoppers who were still hunting for gifts.

"Stores had to go into deep discounting after the softness they saw," noted Martin. In fact, the week ended Dec. 28 accounted for 15.5 percent of sales and 16 percent of all traffic for the holiday season. That compares with 10.9 percent of last year's holiday season sales and 11.5 percent of last year's traffic.

There had been a lot of nervous energy around this year's holiday season, which had six fewer days than 2012 between Black Friday, the traditional shopping kickoff, and Christmas. To make up for lost time, retailers launched Black Friday deals up to a week early and also extended store hours to never-before-seen timeframes. This holiday season was also more promotion-driven than in years past, as stores desperately tried to win over cost-conscious shoppers. According to analysts, the slew of December deals may have backfired on retailers who saw less-than-stellar revenues in the vital year-end period.

For more see:
-This ShopperTrak report
-This Wall Street Journal article

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