Late December Surge Provides Chain Stores with Moderate Holiday Sales Increases

Consumers waited until late December to finish their holiday shopping as U.S. chain store sales for the month increased by 3.1 percent, on a year-over-year basis, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers, Inc. The increase was higher than the expected 2.5 percent forecast for December.

For the two-month holiday season (November and December combined), chain store sales posted a 2.8 percent gain, which was in line with ICSC’s projections of a 2.5 percent to 3 percent gain for the season. In comparison, the 2005 holiday season posted a 3.6 percent increase. 

The 2006 holiday season mirrored the shopping patterns of consumers over the last few months as they continued to shift their spending to luxury and department stores, ICSC said. Overall, chain store sales rose in most sectors in December. Leading sectors were luxury chain stores and wholesale clubs which saw sales increase by 8.2 percent and 6.2 percent, respectively for the month. Department chain stores continued to post healthy results as sales rose 3.6 percent in December.  he other sectors that posted increases were drug stores (7.2%) and discount stores (2.3%).  As a result of December’s weather being the warmest in five years, apparel chain stores suffered and saw sales decline by 0.9 percent.

“December sales results were moderate, but were mixed by retailer and by segment,” said Michael Niemira, ICSC’s chief economist and director of research. “More so than in past seasons, this holiday season came down to the week before Christmas as consumers waited to the last minute to complete their shopping. Overall, this holiday season was a moderate one for retailers with some sectors performing stronger than others.”

ICSC expects same-store sales to increase by 2.5 to 3 percent as consumers redeem their gift cards.

ICSC Chain Store Sales Trends is a monthly report on the U.S. retail industry’s sales performance based on an ICSC preliminary compilation of publicly available sales for 59 chain stores during the month of December.