December Store Comps Mixed: Retail Forward

COLUMBUS, -- Aggregate December same store sales growth edged 3.2 percent higher from the prior month, but was down from a year ago for about 60 retailers reporting monthly results yesterday, said Retail Forward here.

The mixed results came in the face of early indications that shoppers would shop less at stores -- discount stores in particular -- in favor of online and catalog shopping. December's result is up from a revised 2.8 percent sales-weighted composite reported last month and down from the 3.6 percent composite reported in December of 2005.

"Besides a shift to online shopping, the sales numbers were often hurt by the step up in promotions as the holiday progressed," said Frank Badillo, director of the Retail Forward KnowledgeBase and the company's senior economist. "Retailers sold a lot of product, but it often wasn't at the price points they hoped for."

December's results were dragged down primarily by weak results at discount department stores and apparel and accessory stores. Department stores, dollar stores, warehouse clubs, and drug stores reported the strongest performance.

Interestingly, food purchases made popular presents this year, reflected by 29 percent of shoppers buying holiday gifts at supermarkets.

Of those shopping online, four out of five shoppers (80 percent) made a purchase -- up from 79 percent last year. Gift cards also likely played a role in holding back December's results -- and will likely help pump up January's results. More than half of households (57 percent) received gift cards this holiday season.
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