Holiday sales saved by last-minute shoppers, research firm says


Holiday shoppers who put off their purchases until the last minute led to a late surge in sales, ShopperTrak said Wednesday. (Jeff Janowski/AP)

Holiday shoppers who put off their purchases until the last minute led a late surge in sales, according to data released Wednesday by ShopperTrak, a research firm.

Sales in November and December were up 2.7 percent from 2012, which was better than the firm’s projected increase of 2.4 percent. But foot-traffic was down more than 14 percent from 2012.

2013’s holiday season was marked by deep discounts from retailers who tried to drive shoppers to stores in a short holiday period, as well as a surge in online shopping. (There were six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas last year than in 2012.) ShopperTrak’s report said Black Friday was the top sales day of the season, followed by two days from the week of Christmas.

Consumers headed into the holidays with mixed feelings, as the government shutdown shattered consumer confidence, but strong economic reports started to piece it back together. For that reason, retail sales were stronger in November, according to government data. Shoppers are expected to be more confident in 2014, analysts say, but that may change if there aren’t sustained improvements in the job market. An estimate of private-sector employment released Wednesday showed that businesses added the most jobs in a year in December.

The National Retail Federation’s official holiday projection estimates a sales increase of nearly 4 percent. Most major retailers are set to report their sales performance next month. Department store J.C. Penney said Wednesday it was “pleased” with its performance during the holiday period, but did not give specifics in a statement to its shareholders. The store was making efforts to revitalize its brand in 2013.

Amrita Jayakumar covers national startups, small business issues and entrepreneurship.

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