Tallahassee Journal

Prolonged holiday shopping boosts season sales

Prolonged holiday shopping boosts season sales

Buoyed by lower gas prices, increased consumer confidence and never-ending discounts, retailers enjoyed a relatively robust holiday shopping season. Same-store retail sales increased 3.2% from Nov. 1-Jan. 4, far better than last year’s 0.5% gain, according to First Data’s analysis of billions of card transactions across more than 400,000 retail websites and stores. The National Retail Federation expects total sales to increase 4.1%.635548725986190143-AP-Holiday-Shopping-Final-Stretch

The number of purchases was also up 3.2% during the holiday shopping period. All 50 states experienced positive sales growth. Some retailers are already backing up these figures, boasting significant November and December sales increases ahead of fourth-quarter earnings statements that will start rolling out in a few weeks. J.C. Penney announced 3.7% same-stores sales growth for November and December and revised its guidance for the quarter to the higher end of the 2%-4% range, while Macy’s reported a 2.7% same-store sales increase for November/December. But both department store retailers said this week that they will shutter dozens of stores and lay off thousands of employees by early spring.

Urban Outfitters had a 4% same-store holiday sales increase across November and December while Pacific Sunwear jumped 9% in December alone. Still, some teen apparel retailers, a sector that has struggled to attract shoppers in recent years, continue to crumble. Wet Seal announced 338 store closings and nearly 3,700 layoffs earlier this week, while Delia’s filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The season’s trend toward more sales over a longer period of time didn’t seem to crush shoppers’ stamina, despite diminishing the typical sales lift on key days like Black Friday. Instead, more people shopped later in the season, waiting until the last minute to make purchases. Christmas Eve had the highest amount spent of any day throughout the season, according to First Data. But Dec. 21 — the Sunday before Christmas — had the strongest foot traffic, accounting for the most holiday purchases. Black Friday, typically one of the largest shopping days of the year, didn’t rank among the top 10 days for sales or total number of purchases.