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Holiday sales come up short in Week 2

NEW YORK -Pre-holiday sales faltered for a second straight week advancing toward the finish line, with same-store sales for week two of December falling short of the prior week, the prior year and retailers' own conservative targets.

The widely watched Redbook Retail sales average, which tracks same-store results at key retailers nationwide, edged up just 2.0 percent, behind the 2.2 percent of the previous week, and way off the target of a 3.1 percent increase. In stark contrast, same-store sales in the prior-year period, itself no record-setter, advanced more than twice as fast, by 4.2 percent.

Sales remained weak for both the nation's discounters and big broadlines retailers, including department stores and chains, according to the Redbook report. Especially hard hit were broadlines merchants, where same-store sales inched up 0.5 percent, compared with a target of 1.2 percent. Discounters fared better, pushing sales up by 2.7 percent, but still fell far short of a targeted gain of 3.1 percent.

In one piece of good news for home textiles suppliers, soft home was one of the merchandise drivers at broadlines stores moving into the month, according to the Redbook report.

John Pitt, Redbook analyst, commented, "Customer traffic remained slow, retailers said, although the average transaction was ahead of last year, and the product mix was good. An early-December lull was factored into most sales plans for the month, so retailers remained cautiously optimistic as they continued to sit out the pre-Christmas wait.

"With the month significantly back-loaded by last-minute holiday shopping, additional shopping days and other factors, most retailers continue to maintain their official monthly targets despite the softness of the first two weeks. Unofficially, there are indications that those targets may now be more difficult to attain."

As if that weren't enough, retailers are also keeping their fingers crossed about the weather, said Pitt. "As the stakes rise for the remaining days in the month, retailers also have become more anxious about weather-a badly timed, last-minute snowstorm could easily make the difference between success and failure."

Same-store sales - Second week of December


Retail segment Week ended 12/9 Week ended 12/2 Targeted gain Year ago 12/4/99

Broadline*

0.5%

0.8%

1.2%

5.9%

Discounters

2.7

2.8

4.1

1.5

Total Retail

2.0

2.2

3.1

4.5


*Including department stores

Source: Redbook Retail Sales Average unit of Instinet

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