Consumers appear to have reset their holiday purchasing timetables in response to earlier promotions from retailers.
The International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs’ chain store sales index fell 1.8 percent during the week ended Saturday from the prior week while posting a 2.8 percent increase in comparison to the comparable period in 2013.
Sales for Sunday, Nov. 30, will be included in data released next week, but the figures for the seven-day period tracked by ICSC indicate a deceleration from the week ended Nov. 22, when sales were 2.2 percent higher than in the seven days ended Nov. 15.
An analysis by Michael Niemira, ICSC research consultant and principal of The Retail Economist LLC, indicated that department stores and non-apparel specialty stores endured an “especially weak” performance while business was “very strong” for discounters, dollar stores, wholesale clubs and electronics stores.
“Early Black Friday promotions the previous week contributed to the sequential week-to-week decline,” Niemira said. “Consumers actually reported being considerably behind on their shopping compared to the same week last year, which bodes well as consumers will play catch-up.”
ICSC also reported a decline in the percentage of shoppers who indicated they’d completed their holiday shopping. In a survey conducted between Nov. 28 and 30, less than a third — 32.3 percent — indicated their purchasing for the season was completed, down from 37.3 percent during the same period in 2013, 37.4 percent in 2012 and 46.1 percent in 2011.
A spokesman for ICSC noted that there has been a noticeable expansion of the holiday calendar, with “Black Friday turning into Black Friday weekend and Black Friday week and a corresponding spillover in promotions. What’s good to see is that we’ve moved ahead on a year-on-year basis.”
With average gasoline prices now 92 cents a gallon below their level on July 7 and at their lowest point since Oct. 4, 2010, when they averaged $2.73, U.S. consumers have about $90 billion more in annual purchasing power, according to The Retail Economist, which should help provide a lift to holiday selling.
ICSC put the month-to-date sales increase at 2.2 percent over the 2013 month, corresponding to 1.1 percent above the comparable sales level at the corresponding time in October.