Late Shopper Surge Makes Ho-Ho So-So

New York — Fueled by a widely anticipated eleventh-hour surge as shoppers flocked to the malls in pursuit of last-minute promotions, same-store retail sales shot up by 3.7 percent during the fourth week of December, according to the Johnson Redbook Index.

But it wasn't enough to pull the month out of the doldrums, and sales still came up short. For the four weeks, sales increased by 3.7 percent, just missing a target of 3.8 percent.

True to form in the run-up to the holiday, cost-conscious consumers made a bee-line for the nation's discounters, leaving department stores a perennial runner-up. Discounter sales for the four weeks climbed by 4.2 percent, compared with a softer 3.0 percent for department stores.

Measured on a month-over-month basis, sales were unchanged, compared with November, missing a small targeted gain of 0.1 percent.

“The Christmas week provided the type of sales gains many retailers had been waiting for to bring the month more into line with expectations,” said Catlin Levis, Redbook analyst. But not all retailers, she noted, “shared in the good fortune.”

Helped by aggressive price promotions, she said, “certain retailers reported stellar gains and found themselves back on plan or close to it following several weeks of sub-target activity. Retailers said most of the business was done on Friday, the 23rd, and suggested that consumers had not used the 'extra' pre-Christmas shopping day to pack in more shopping, which retailers had been counting on.”

Gift cards continue to grow in importance, said Levis, “and Internet sales retained their strong surge.”

Johnson Redbook Index
Fourth week of December

Week ended 12/3 12/10 12/17 12/24 12/31 month target
*Including chain stores and traditional department stores.
Source: Johnson Redbook Index
Department stores* 2.5 2.6 2.9 3.9 3.0 2.9
Discounters 3.9 3.9 3.9 5.1 4.2 4.4
Redbook Average 3.3 3.4 3.5 4.5 3.7 3.8

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HTT Cover October 2017

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