Full-season holiday report: Traffic down 16.4%, sales down 3.4%

San Jose, Calif. -- A Friday report by RetailNext said that its analysis of 8.5 million shopping trips to big-box and specialty retailers in the U.S. during the 2011 and 2012 holiday seasons revealed that:

  • The number of shopping visits to stores was down a massive 16.4% from 2011;
  • Retailers made the most of the traffic they got, with conversion up 1.4 basis points and average transaction value (ATV) up 3.7%. These improvements tempered the overall decline, with sales off 3.4% year-over-year in the specialty segment;
  • Saturday, Dec. 22 exceeded Black Friday's sales volume by 11%, and nearly matched Black Friday's traffic figures. Black Friday saw year-over-year traffic down 9.2% and conversion off 0.7 points in the specialty segment; an ATV increase of 11.5% offset these weak points so that total sales were down 3.2%.

The report also found that Christmas Eve was off from the previous year, recording a 1.5% reduction in sales on a 12.2% reduction in traffic. But the post-Christmas period from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1 rallied, despite an 8.5% reduction in traffic, to show a healthy 12.7% increase in sales. This increase owes itself to a conversion increase of 1.8 basis points and a 6.7% increase in ATV for the period.

The highest traffic days of the season according to RetailNext were Black Friday, followed by the two Saturdays before Christmas (Dec. 22 and Dec. 15). The days with the highest ATV were Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 22), followed by Christmas Day, and the days with the highest conversion rates were Tuesday, Dec. 18, followed by Monday, Dec. 17.

The top five sales days of the season were Saturday, Dec. 22; Black Friday, Nov. 23; Friday, Dec. 21; Saturday, Dec. 15; and Sunday, Dec. 23.

"Retailers cannot underestimate the post-Christmas potential,” said Shelley Kohan, VP retail consulting, RetailNext. "There were important shifts in calendar days this season, which impacted sales and traffic to stores. “As retailers look forward to the 2013 holiday season, the calendar will again play a major role.”

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