weekly retail sales

Retail weekly sales declined sharply in the final week of December as one notable economist said shoppers likely stayed home amid teen fights at stores. As a result, the Retail Economist-Goldman Sachs Weekly Chain Store Sales Index showed a 2.9 percent drop in the week ended Saturday, Dec. 31 compared to the prior week.

The Retail Economist LLC’s chief economist Michael Niemira noted that year-over-year sales rose 1.3 percent that week. “Shopping immediately after Christmas is typically driven by gift exchanges/returns, post-holiday bargain hunting and gift card redemption,” he said. “However, the soft pace of sales for the week may have been negatively affected by the actual or psychological harm to the consumers’ willingness to shop in the aftermath of teen fights breaking out at a few of the nation’s malls – which got a fair amount of media coverage, including by social media.”

According to media reports, teens were motivated by several social media posts encouraging them to gather at local malls and cause disruption. Hundreds of teens showed up at about a dozen large shopping malls, and fights involving hundreds of them broke out at the Independence Center Mall in Independence, Mo.; The Chicago Ridge Mall in Chicago; the Arden Fair Mall in Sacramento; the Monroeville Mall in Pittsburgh, and the Opry Mills Mall in Nashville.

In the sales report, Niemira said that gift card transactions have seemed to stabilize “as a share of holiday gift expenditures in 2016,” according to his firm’s holiday tracking survey – which found “that gift cards accounted for a quarter of total holiday-gift expenditures by consumers.”

In a separate report from Telsey Advisory Group, analysts at the firm said that last week, “traffic seemed to return to a more normal level, and was relatively light, especially in comparison to the past several weeks.”

“The stores and websites remained promotional as the retailers worked to capture incremental dollars when customers redeemed gift cards or returned unwanted gifts,” the Telsey analysts noted. “Inventories appeared to be in decent shape.”

The research firm said that it was maintaining its expectation that retail sales will be better than its original forecast of 3.3 percent.