ShopperTrak: Holiday sales were up 2.7%

NEW YORK — A last-minute shopping surge helped holiday sales wrap up better than expected, according to one measure. But stores had to discount heavily to lure shoppers.

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 the data service’s 2.4 percent forecast for the season, but below the 3.0 percent gain in 2012.

The number of customers in stores dropped 14.6 percent from last year for November and December combined.

After a decent performance in November, sales at stores had been weak for most of December as shoppers held back for the best deals in a still challenging economy. Stores were also challenged by a season that was six days shorter than a year ago.

That put more pressure on stores for the last few days before Christmas. Merchants had been aggressive with discounting as early as late October but many stepped up price-cutting more than planned in the final days before Christmas.

“It was a lackluster season, but not devastating,” said Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak. “Stores had to go into deep discounting after the softness they saw.”

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.

The numbers do not include online sales, which have been a bright spot for merchants but also faced some challenges.

Holiday shopping online rose 10 percent to $46.5 billion in November and December, the research firm comScore announced Monday. That was lower than the 14 percent growth expected as shoppers showed reluctance to spend freely and faced a shorter holiday season this year.

The results include sales from desktops and laptops but not mobile devices.

Online shopping has been a bright spot for retail sales, growing at a faster clip than overall spending. But the results were hurt primarily because of the six fewer shopper days, according to comScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni.

“Consumers did not have the same opportunity to buy that they would have in a more typical holiday season,” said Fulgoni. “They made up for it to some extent by spending significantly more online on the weekends, but so many fewer workdays provided a headwind for the season that ultimately proved very challenging to overcome.”

The National Retail Federation, the nation’s largest retail trade group, is expected to release final holiday sales figures Tuesday. The group expects a 3.9 percent sales gain to $602.1 billion for November and December. That would be higher than the 3.5 percent increase seen in 2012. The figures include online sales.

More in Herald Business Journal

Tesla rolls out the design for its 500-mile electric big rig

The truck will have an Autopilot system, which can maintain a set speed and slow down in traffic.

How Airbus’s A380 deal with Emirates evaporated in Dubai

It came down to concern by Emirates that Airbus might shut down the jumbo program.

Equipment rental and sales business H&E opens Mukilteo shop

Company hopes to capitalize on construction occuring in northwest Washington.

New Chick-fil-A draws dozens of campers in Bothell

A second restaurant of the popular chain is opening on Thursday.

Tulalip Resort Casino to feature locally grown hazelnuts

The resort wanted to put a focus on meals created with the nut.

Alderwood Water general manager named president of state association

Alderwood Water & Wastewater District General Manager Jeff Clarke has been installed… Continue reading

Boeing earns top marks for LGBTQ workplace policies

Boeing was one of 609 businesses nationwide to earn a 100-point score… Continue reading

Derided by critics, trickle-down economics gets another try

The concept — also known as supply-side economics — has frequently drawn ridicule.

Richard Branson’s 747 to launch satellites for the Pentagon

Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket would be “air launched” from a 747-400 it calls “Cosmic Girl.”

Most Read