Chain Store Sales up 1.7% During Final Holiday Week

Chain store sales finished the “first phase” of the holiday shopping season with very mixed performance as sales increased by 2 percent for the week ending Dec. 23, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers, Inc. and UBS Securities LLC. On a year-over-year basis, the adjusted sales pace receded to a 1.7 percent increase, which was the softest year-over-year performance since Feb. 12, 2005.

“As the first phase of the 2006 holiday shopping season came to a close last week, we saw pockets of strength, pockets of weakness, shifts in where spending occurred (online/in-store), shifts in share of spending on gift certificates/merchandise, a heavily discounted season (though largely planned), late consumer shopping, warm weather bouts paring seasonal demand and calendar issues, all of which affected the perception of how the season went,” said Michael Niemira, ICSC’s chief economist and director of research.

“With about one-in-five consumers saying that they were planning to shop on the day after Christmas, the last week of the fiscal month might exceed modest expectations as consumers redeem those holiday gift cards and shop for the bargains on clearance. Given this, comp-store sales appear to be on-track for the low-end of our monthly range for December (2.5-3.5 percent) and, as a result, on the low-end of our range (2.5-3 percent) for the two-month November-December season.”

The ICSC-UBS Weekly U.S. Retail Chain Store Sales Index is a joint publication between ICSC and UBS Securities LLC. The index measures nominal same-store or comparable-store sales excluding restaurant and vehicle demand. The weekly index is constructed using sales-weighted geometric average growth rates to preserve long-term consistency and is statistically benchmarked to a broad-based monthly retail industry sales aggregate that currently represents approximately 75 retail chain stores, which also is compiled by ICSC. A representative sample of those major retailers has been used as a control group to extrapolate the weekly sales index.