Second week of holiday sales fell slightly as expected; a strong finish is projected

Retail chain stores saw sales decline by 1.7% for the week ending Dec. 4, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC)-UBS Weekly Chain Store Sales Index. On a year-over-year basis, however, the sales pace improved to 3.3%.

“So far, this holiday season has been following the same shopping pattern as we experienced last year – a moderate start with softness the week following,” said Michael Niemira, ICSC’s chief economist and director of research. “Given this pattern, this may very well mean that the consumer will step up their holiday shopping and spending over the upcoming weeks to finish the 2004 holiday season on the strong side. For December, ICSC expects sales to grow by 3.5%to 4%, on a year-over-year basis.”

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 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. As such, the weekly index statistically represents industry sales and is not just a sum of sales for a handful of retailers.