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Holiday sales at stores down for third consecutive week

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After a strong start to the holiday shopping season, sales at stores have fallen for the third consecutive week as Americans continue to hold back on spending during what is traditionally the busiest buying period of the year.

Sales at U.S. stores dropped 3.1 percent to $42.7 billion for the week that ended on Sunday compared with the same week last year, according to ShopperTrak, which tracks data at 40,000 locations. That follows a decline of 2.9 percent and 0.8 percent during the first and second weeks of the month, respectively.

The numbers, which don't include online sales, are another challenge in what has largely been a disappointing holiday shopping season for stores. The two-month period that begins on Nov. 1 is important for retailers because they can make up to 40 percent of their annual sales during that time.

Retailers started the season cautiously optimistic. But after a strong start through most of November—Shoppertrak said sales were up 3.4 percent for the month—stores have found it increasingly hard to attract shoppers into stores despite big discounts and expanded hours during the final days.

"It's been a mediocre December," said Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak.

Karen McDonald, a spokeswoman at Taubman Centers, which owns or operates 28 malls, estimated that business for the week that ended Sunday unchanged to up mid-single digit percentage compared with a year ago.

"I felt for sure it was going to be gangbusters. But it was just OK," McDonald said.

At the Garden State Plaza Mall in Paramus, N.J., on Saturday, Abercrombie & Fitch, AnnTaylor and Express had 50 percent sales, while Aeropostale was discounting its entire assortment up to 70 percent. Still, shoppers were cautious.

Barbara Jackson, 45, was one of them. She said she's capping her holiday budget at $1,500—half of what she spent last year. That's because Jackson, an aide to the elderly, is earning less than last year.

"I am more budget conscious," Jackson said.

Shoppertrak estimates that holiday sales at stores so far are up 2 percent to $218.4 billion compared with the same period last year. That's below the 2.4 percent forecast for the two-month period, but the company is standing by that estimate with a few days left before Christmas and a little over a week before the season end.

The National Retail Federation, the nation's largest retail group, also said it's still standing by its forecast that sales in stores and online combined will be up 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion.

But even online sales, which had been a bright spot for much of the season, aren't growing at the expected pace.

Online spending from home and work desktop computers in the U.S. from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15 was up 9 percent from the same period last year to $37.8 billion, according to the most available data from comScore.

That's below the 14-percent growth the Internet research firm is forecasting for the season. But comScore still expects online sales to grow at the pace for the season, but the category only accounts for about 11 percent of spending in the three months that include the holiday shopping season.

Final sales figures for the holiday shopping season are expected in January.
 

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  • the color is green
    You know it still takes money to buy things and at the rate we are doing away with good paying jobs there is less and less of it to go around. Hence sales are down and will continue in that direction.

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  1. The east side does have potential...and I have always thought Washington Scare should become an outlet mall. Anyone remember how popular Eastgate was? Well, Indy has no outlet malls, we have to go to Edinburgh for the deep discounts and I don't understand why. Jim is right. We need a few good eastsiders interested in actually making some noise and trying to change the commerce, culture and stereotypes of the East side. Irvington is very progressive and making great strides, why can't the far east side ride on their coat tails to make some changes?

  2. Boston.com has an article from 2010 where they talk about how Interactions moved to Massachusetts in the year prior. http://www.boston.com/business/technology/innoeco/2010/07/interactions_banks_63_million.html The article includes a link back to that Inside Indiana Business press release I linked to earlier, snarkily noting, "Guess this 2006 plan to create 200-plus new jobs in Indiana didn't exactly work out."

  3. I live on the east side and I have read all your comments. a local paper just did an article on Washington square mall with just as many comments and concerns. I am not sure if they are still around, but there was an east side coalition with good intentions to do good things on the east side. And there is a facebook post that called my eastside indy with many old members of the eastside who voice concerns about the east side of the city. We need to come together and not just complain and moan, but come up with actual concrete solutions, because what Dal said is very very true- the eastside could be a goldmine in the right hands. But if anyone is going damn, and change things, it is us eastside residents

  4. Please go back re-read your economics text book and the fine print on the February 2014 CBO report. A minimum wage increase has never resulted in a net job loss...

  5. The GOP at the Statehouse is more interested in PR to keep their majority, than using it to get anything good actually done. The State continues its downward spiral.

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