U.S. Shoppers Took a Break Last Week

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Shopper traffic fell 21.6% year-over-year in the week ending December 8th according to the latest survey data from ShopperTrak released Wednesday. Sales compared with the same period a year ago were , down 2.9%.

Retail sales picked up on Saturday, December 7, however, rising 1.7% above the comparable date a year ago. ShopperTrak attributed the rise to lighter traffic and more in-store promotions. The impact of an earlier Hanukkah pulled many sales forward into November, causing the inevitable decline in December sales.

ShopperTrak’s founder said:

[W]th the shortened Christmas shopping season now in full swing, shoppers can’t procrastinate like they did last year. As we approach the holiday, we expect that shopper activity will increase each week.

Total traffic for the Black Friday weekend was down 4% year-over-year according to ShopperTrak although sales rose by 1% to an estimated total of $22.2 billion.

From the retailers’ point of view, the six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas have forced them to pull out a lot (if not all) the stops in an effort to get shoppers out to their stores early. That has lead to heavy promotional pricing and could have a negative impact on margins and profits by the time the new year rolls around.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) has already announced that it will drop prices on popular toys, electronics, apparel, table games, and other products beginning this Friday morning “just in time for last minute shoppers.” The company also said it expects the company’s largest shipments of the new PlayStation 4 from Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) to arrive at U.S. stores on Sunday. Walmart stores are currently out of both the PlayStation 4 and the new Xbox One from Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT).

ShopperTrak has predicted that the last 4 days before Christmas will be among the 10 busiest shopping days of this holiday season and that Saturday, December 21 — “Super Saturday” in retail-speak — will rank below only Black Friday in sales.