Shoppers opened up their wallets last week, and over a quarter of them still had buying ahead of them as the Christmas countdown entered its final stretch.
According to the International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs’ chain store sales index, sales for the week ended on Super Saturday were up 3.1 percent over the comparable seven days of 2013 and 3.4 percent above the level of the prior week.
That’s the first time all year that both measures of weekly sales have exceeded 3 percent, and the unscientific but revealing combination of the two is the highest sum since it hit 6.8 percent for the week ended Dec. 14, 2013, when year-on-year sales grew 2 percent and sequential sales were up 4.8 percent.
“Business over the past week was very strong compared with the same period of the prior year as consumers unleashed a late shopping surge,” said Michael Niemira, ICSC research consultant and principal of The Retail Economist LLC. “Despite the strong demand, a historically low 11 percent of consumers have yet to start their shopping, meaning the late shopping surge should continue all the way through Christmas Eve.”
Not only have many consumers left all of their shopping until the last minute, but the percentage of those who’ve completed their shopping at this stage of the season is at its lowest point of the decade. Less than three quarters — 74.8 percent — of those surveyed had completed their holiday buying as of Sunday, a figure that has slid every year since 2010. Last year, 83.5 percent of shoppers were done shopping by the Sunday before Christmas, and that was down from 84 percent in 2012 and 89.8 percent in 2011.
Some of the decline in the completion rate could be attributable to the extra shopping day this year versus last and the wider window that online shoppers have for delivery, Niemira noted.
This year’s shopping completion rate stood at 57.1 percent one week ago, according to ICSC’s consumer survey.
While ICSC called out “particular strength” at electronics stores, the group said that wholesale clubs, dollar stores, apparel stores, online merchants, discounters and both department and drug stores enjoyed “generally strong” weeks.
Except when inclement, weather plays less of a role in shopping activity as the Christmas holiday draws closer, but temperatures last week were 1.9 degrees warmer than a year ago and 3.9 degrees warmer than their long-term average, according to Weather Trends International. A $1.30 reduction in the average price of a gallon of gasoline also benefited shopping activity.
In its calculation of shopping activity based on the monitoring of stores and malls, RetailNext found that Super Saturday generated more sales than Black Friday despite lighter traffic.
Year-on-year comparisons were less favorable, in part because RetailNext’s figures are garnered from activity in physical stores, not online.
On Saturday, net sales were down 9 percent on a 10.6 percent decline in traffic, an 8 percent decline in total transactions and a 0.9 percent drop in average transaction value. However, the company reported a 0.4 percent gain in conversion rate and 1.8 percent advance in sales per shopper.
On Sunday, sales declined 8.4 percent, traffic was down 9.4 percent, total transactions dropped 7.4 percent and average transaction value descended 0.8 percent, while conversion rose 0.4 percent and sales per shopper were up 1.1 percent.