Holiday illustration

Retail sales last week bounced back, driven by markdowns, which analysts expect to ramp up in the holiday home stretch.

Moreover, the markdown cadence on certain items like outerwear has reached the “red zone” with discounts of more than 70 percent. And in a sweeping survey of 40,000 consumers, shopper satisfaction with Amazon Inc. this holiday is climbing back up after a steep decline last year.

Regarding sales, the Retail Economist-Goldman Sachs Weekly Chain Store Sales Index jumped a robust 3.6 percent for the week ended December 19 over the prior week. And on a year-over-year basis, the index is up 3 percent.

Michael P. Niemira, chief economist of The Retail Economist LLC, said today that as “Christmas Day is finally in sight, consumers briskly completed more of their holiday-shopping lists. Indeed, this past week’s business was the strongest for the year and considerably stronger than its comparable period in 2014.”

Niemira said the “‘force’ is with the retailers. Retailers also are poised for the post-Christmas gift-card redemptions that will begin online as early as Christmas Day.” Still, Niemira expects holiday sales for the season to see “moderate growth, but somewhat weaker growth than last year.”

In a report this morning from the researchers at Telsey Advisory Group, the analysts said “promotions remained abundant” over the past week and although “markdowns appeared at similar levels as the prior week’s, there was a noticeable shift toward the upper-end of the 40 to 60 percent range and several categories entered the plus-70 percent ‘red’ zone.”

Keywords in the markdown ads included “outerwear, boots, sweaters, sleepwear and jewelry,” the Telsey analysts noted. “A few retailers notched up the enticement to spend by offering buy more now, in order to save more at a later date,” the analysts said.

The analysts also said that retailers have done a good job in reducing shopper fatigue and stress by extending store hours and pushing their omnichannel capabilities, which have been a part of a stepped-up mantra at retail since the back-to-school shopping season kicked off earlier this year.

“It’s the bottom of the ninth and bases are loaded for retailers as they get their last licks in terms of holiday shopping and clearing unwanted inventories at rather respectable markdown rates,” said Telsey analyst Joseph Feldman. “Although promotions have taken a step upward on the discount scale, we still believe there is more to come in the days leading up to and after the holiday. What’s interesting is the constant adjustment in the markdown rate for site-wide and category-specific sales, and we believe this to be an attempt to relieve some margin pressure in [the fourth quarter].”

For consumers, they seem to be having a better online experience, according to the ForeSee Experience Index. ForeSee, a consumer-experience analytics firm, polled 40,000 consumers across a variety of channels from Web sites to in physical stores — in the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

For the holiday shopping season, the firm found that Web site “satisfaction is up while mobile and store satisfaction stagnates.” The company noted that “brick-and-mortar satisfaction continues to stall along with sales despite Black Friday starting earlier than ever.” On a 100-point scale, the company said Web customer satisfaction scored a 79, which is up from 77 in 2014. Store and mobile shopping scored 78 and 79, respectively.

Meanwhile, satisfaction with Amazon is rising. Last year, “Amazon dropped a whopping five points from a customer satisfaction score of 88 points (on a 100-point scale) to 83,” the company said. “This year, they are climbing back up, slowly but surely, to 86, which is where they were in 2010. While Amazon lost focus before, they now lead — again — by a statistically significant margin.”

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