Traffic at retail stores is down 4.4% through December 15th according to the latest data from ShopperTrak. The research firm also noted in its report out yesterday that holiday sales are 4.3% below last year’s level as well.
Retail Metrics, another research firm focused on retailers, said this morning that same-store sales are off in the first two weeks of December by 20 basis points, to an increase of 2.3%. The firm attributes the softness in sales to warmer weather, consumer concerns about the fiscal cliff, a dearth of must-have items except for the iPad mini from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL), lower mall traffic, increased competition from e-commerce web sites, limited discretionary funds for consumers, and early promotions, layaway programs, and free shipping, which pulled sales forward.
Both ShopperTrak and Retail Metrics point out that traffic has picked up again as Christmas Day draws nearer and ShopperTrak is predicting that the week ending December 22nd will see the largest sales volumes of the year.
Inventory levels are a concern, though, given the softness in sales which could lead retailers to take larger, unplanned markdowns in the final shopping days of the year.
ShopperTrak has lowered its holiday sales increase forecast from 3.3% to 2.5%, well short of last year’s 3.7% gain. Retail Metrics’ expected 2.3% gain in same-store sales does not compare well with last year’s sales gain of 3%.