Late Christmas Shoppers Won't Save the Season for Most Retailers

Even though holiday sales got a major lift on Christmas week, it is unlikely that the 2009 holiday figures were good enough to insure that most retailers had a reasonably good year.Sales were up by almost 9% the week that ended December 26 over the same week the prior year, according to the latest survey from ShopperTrak. The research firm reports that four of the top seven days for holiday traffic this year occurred last week for an 8.8% sales increase year-over-year. The 26th was the best day of the season after Black Friday.

%%DynaPub-Enhancement class="enhancement contentType-HTML Content fragmentId-1 payloadId-61603 alignment-right size-small"%%"As expected, pent up demand following the snow storm on Super Saturday pushed consumers to spend heavily last week as value driven and procrastinating shoppers utilized the extended period between Super Saturday and Christmas to purchase the remaining items on their Christmas lists," Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak, said in a release. The sample for the data comes from over 50,000 stores.

But the retail sector struggled most days from November 1 to Christmas Eve to stay ahead of figures from the dismal 2008 shopping season, according to several research services. Activity at malls and stores was hindered by two huge early winter storms.

It remains to be seen is whether the late rush to stores will salvage the holiday season for retailers' earnings. It will be a mixed bag as usual and the effects of the recession will not really be known until individual companies report same-store sales for December in about 10 days.

It is almost certain that because consumer spending barely increased this holiday season, if it increased at all, the weakest retailers will be forced to close more stores and lay off more people. This may give the strongest companies in the market, particularly Amazon (AMZN) and WalMart (WMT) a further edge as 2010 begins.

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