December sales projected to be strongest since 1999

Sales for the week ending Jan. 3 slipped by 0.1% in comparison to the prior week ending Dec. 27, according to the ICSC-UBS Weekly U.S. Retail Chain Store Sales Index. In a year-over-year sales comparison, for the week, sales were up 5.6%.

“Given that the pace of sales was slightly lower than the prior week, the real story is the relatively high level of sales for the month and holiday season,” said Michael Niemira, International Council of Shopping Center’s chief economist and director of research. “Last week, consumers were out in force using gift cards and certificates, which provided more evidence that although the holiday season is over, holiday-related spending continues.

Niemira added that December comparison-store sales should show a gain of about 4% to 4.5% over 2002.

The ICSC-UBS Weekly U.S. Retail Chain Store Sales 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 about 80 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. As such, the weekly index statistically represents industry sales and is not just a sum of sales for a handful of retailers.