Retail sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas rose 2.7 percent,
compared with 3.0 percent a year earlier, while the number of people
walking into stores across the United States declined 14.6 percent,
"Not only were people more promotional this year, giving away more
margin, but it didn't generate the incremental traffic they would
have expected," said Cowen & Co analyst John Kernan.
ShopperTrak, a Chicago-based company that measures foot traffic in
more than 50,000 locations worldwide, said U.S. shoppers spent
$265.9 billion during the latest holiday period. Its data excludes
The National Retail Federation, which will publish its 2013 holiday
sales tally next Tuesday, has forecast an increase of 3.9 percent,
including online sales.
The latest ShopperTrak data marks the first time since 2009 that
sales growth has fallen below 3 percent, despite what analysts have
called the most aggressive promotions since the recession.
After a disappointing Thanksgiving-Black Friday weekend, a group of
eight major retailers, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc <WMT.N> and
Macy's Inc <M.N>, increased the number of circulars published by
nearly 16 percent in the two following weeks, according to data firm
And Morgan Stanley estimated promotions in the final week of the
season were up to 10 percent deeper than a year earlier, prompting
it on Monday to say that its retail team expects "the worst holiday
shopping season since 2008".
In a sign of how tough the season was, J.C. Penney Co Inc <JCP.N>
said on Wednesday it was "pleased" with its holiday season sales
without giving specific results, prompting many on Wall Street to
say the department store chain's sales may have declined last month.
Penney's shares fell more than 8 percent.
Retailers had six fewer days to woo shoppers last year than in 2012,
a difference that prompted many stores to offer more promotions than
usual earlier in the season.
[to top of second column]
As a result, retailers had a comparatively strong November,
ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin told Reuters. They also benefited
from strong sales in the last few days of the year, he said.
"Consumers took a break from shopping after Thanksgiving weekend, so
retailers were pressured to offer deep discounts and promotions in
the final week before Christmas to finish the holiday on a positive
note," Martin said in an interview.
But fewer shoppers ventured out during a cold snap in many parts of
the United States in early December. Martin said consumers were also
inclined to browse online before making purchases, another
contributory factor to lower foot traffic.
"It's a result of more and more technology in the hands of the
consumer, which allows them to virtually window-shop," he said.
Online spending also fell below estimates. According to data firm
comScore <SCOR.O>, U.S. online retail spending rose 10 percent to
$46.5 billion in the November-December 2013 holiday season, below
the 14 percent growth it had forecast.
ShopperTrak estimated that U.S. retail sales would rise 2.8 percent
in the first quarter of 2014, while shopper traffic would fall 9
Shares of Macy's, Wal-Mart and Gap Inc <GPS.N> were down about 1
percent on the New York Stock Exchange.
The S&P 500 Retailing Index <.SPXRT> was down 0.03 percent, while
the Dow Jones US Retailers Index <.DJUSRT> gained 0.13 percent.
(Writing by Robin Paxton; editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.