Weekly retail sales showed a slight gain last week, according to The Retail Economist-Goldman Sachs Weekly Chain Store Sales Index. The report followed a quarterly sales analysis from another firm that suggested the Census Bureau’s holiday sales figures released last week were significantly off the mark.
The weekly chain store sales index came in with 0.5 percent gain compared to the prior week. Results are for the week ended Feb. 16. “On a year-over-year basis, the latest week’s sales pace advanced by 2.7 percent — which was the strongest pace since the final full week of 2018,” said Michael P. Niemira, chief economist of The Retail Economist.
“With retailers beginning to report their performance for the holiday-sales quarter, a fuller picture will emerge as to how strong the 2018 Christmas season’s sales were,” Niemira added. “Based on the TRE tally of 100 retailers, TRE projected ahead of the season that the industry’s holiday-quarter comparable-store sales would post a 2.5 percent year-over-year gain compared with a 2.9 percent year-over-year increase in the final quarter of 2017.”
Niemira said that although it is “too soon to assess the final sales picture, a slightly softer sales performance seems appropriate given the geometric average of the weekly sales growth rates in the fiscal quarter.”
Last week, the Census Bureau released December sales results that showed a year-over-year gain of 1 percent, which surprised analysts and investors and triggered several reports that suggested the data was off and will need to be adjusted.
Craig R. Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, said in a research report that “based on a new analysis of major retailers to date reporting December or total 4Q results — including [Tuesday]’s solid report from WMT — actual holiday sales growth is poised to far exceed the dismal 1 percent December year-over-year sales growth reported last week by the Census Bureau.”
Johnson described the Census Bureau’s Advanced Monthly Retail sales estimates for December as “clearly anomalous” because it undercounted the sales results reported to date “by such major retailers as Amazon, Costco and Walmart, the three largest U.S. retailers.”
“Major retailers that have not reported Holiday quarter actual sales data include such major players as Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Ross, Target, TJX and Wayfair — all chains that are anticipated to report good if not great sales for fourth quarter later this month or early March,” he added. “One major sector that reported only comp sales but not actual holiday sales include the beleaguered traditional department store sector; but, this sector comprises barely 1.4 percent of total sales.”