ShopperTrak weighs in with BTS outlook

CHICAGO — Retail sales and traffic will increase during the back-to-school season, reflecting a recovering economy, according to ShopperTrak, the world’s largest counter and analyzer of retail traffic.

The company found that national retail sales, when compared to the same period last year, will rise 4.3% in August, and retail foot traffic will increase 0.6%.

“Back-to-school shopping is the first major ‘shopping season’ of the calendar year, and has the potential to set the tone for the holidays,” said Bill Martin, ShopperTrak founder. “The economy is, in many ways, stronger than it was last August. We expect that the 2013 season will continue the growth trend of both retail sales and foot traffic.”

In 2012, back-to-school sales increased 5.9% compared to the previous year. In 2011, those sales increased 4.5% over 2010.

Likewise, while this year’s retail foot traffic increase may seem incremental, it continues the positive trend. In 2012, foot traffic turned around and increased a substantial 11%, compared to the back-to-school traffic in 2011. That year, foot traffic declined 5.1% from 2010.

The expected increases in August reflect the U.S. economy’s slow but steady gains. For instance, unemployment this year is lower than it was during last year’s back-to-school time. Though consumer sentiment does not impact retail sales immediately, the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index recently reached its highest level since the beginning of the recession. The last time consumer sentiment was as high as it was in May 2013 was in Sept. 2007.

In recent years, back-to-school shoppers had focused on stores with the best values. But with this positive consumer sentiment, shoppers may be more willing to “shop around” at more stores — not just the value locations — thus adding to the increased foot traffic and sales.

“On the whole, more people feel better about their financial situation than they did last year in August,” said Martin. “Parents are ready to spend on their children’s school necessities. The consumers will be browsing. In order to seize this opportunity, smart retailers must prepare their marketing and operations to increase their foot traffic, sales and ultimately, their shopper conversion rates.”

ShopperTrak measures foot traffic in more than 60,000 global locations and analyzes the data in a proprietary, econometric model to create its ShopperTrak National Retail Sales Estimate (NRSE) of general merchandise, apparel and accessories, furniture and other sales (GAFO). 

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