Traffic Counts Up at Apparel, Beauty Specialty Stores

NPD Group reported that 69 percent of U.S. consumers visited stores last week.

Holiday shoppers in New York.

Apparel and beauty specialty stores were the two biggest beneficiaries of consumers’ shift to stores from their computers and smartphones in the week leading up to Christmas.

According to The NPD Group’s Shopping Activity Weekly Holiday Trends Report, beauty specialty stores saw a 30.6 percent increase in shopping visits during the week ended Dec. 26, the highest of all general merchandise channels monitored by the Port Washington, N.Y.-based research firm. Apparel specialty stores were second with a 26.2 percent increase. Bookstores, footwear specialty stores and department stores rounded out the top five with visit increases of 22 percent, 21 percent and 19 percent, respectively.

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While the overall brick-and-mortar conversion rate fell to 67.9 percent last week from its second highest mark of the season, 68.1 percent, during the week ended Dec. 19, the largest increases in conversion rates were seen by bookstores and sporting goods stores, both of which had a 16 percent rise in conversion, which is the percentage of those buying out of all those engaged in shopping visits. Beauty specialty stores saw the fifth highest conversion increase from the prior week, 7 percent, reaching 69 percent, while apparel specialty store conversion rose 1.7 points, to 45.8 percent.

Marshal Cohen, NPD’s chief industry analyst, called the stability of the week-on-week conversion rate “a good sign that holiday held its own this year. With so much of the season being front-loaded with ‘self-gifting,’ it would have been easy for the consumer to be tapped out and forgo some important gift shopping for those on their list.”

NPD reported that 69 percent of U.S. consumers visited stores last week, up from 68 percent in the prior week.

As expected, the online share of buying visits declined significantly in the week leading up to and including the holiday as retailers passed the cutoff dates for guaranteed and, in many cases, free delivery. The online portion of visits slumped to 13.9 percent from 16.4 percent in the prior week and 17.4 percent in the week ended Dec. 12. Free Shipping Day occurred on Dec. 16.

For apparel specialty stores, the online share of buying visits slid to 16.4 percent from 25.6 percent in the prior week.

Cohen said that retailers had a “nice Christmas, with a full load of shoppers, buyers and online visitors,” but may be confronted with consumers pulling back in the holiday’s aftermath as many are “‘bought out’ or even ‘tapped out’ after the first week in January.”