Traffic Down, Sales Up at Retail Stores

There was slight increase in U.S. retail sales for the month of October while foot traffic for the month saw a large decline, according to two surveys by ShopperTrak RCT Corp.

Foot traffic for the month fell 12.4 percent, according to ShopperTrak’s Retail Traffic Index. However its National Retail Sales Estimate reports that retail sales were up 0.7 percent for the same period.

The decline in foot traffic for October follows September’s 9.3 percent decrease, which ShopperTrak says shows “the American consumer’s unwillingness” to make unnecessary trips to their favorite retail locations during the country’s current economic uncertainty,” the Chicago-based firm, which tracks shopper activity, said in a statement. The recent presidential election may have added to the decline as consumers were too interested in the presidential race to shop, which is consistent with previous national elections.

Despite the decline in retail traffic, retail sales posted a slight increase as shoppers may have made less frequent trips while spending more for cold weather apparel following the cold snap in parts of the country in late October,. This monthly sales increase follows the 1 percent retail sales decrease in September, which was the first year-over-year monthly drop since March 2003.

“It seems very apparent that the current economic landscape added to consumers staying home to concentrate their energies on the recent election negatively impacted retail foot traffic in October,” said Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak. “But even with a double digit traffic decrease, retailers did see a very slight rise in sales, which again seems to reflect the resiliency of the American consumer. That being said, we anticipate November will be a relatively weak month as compared to last year due to the continued struggling economy and a 2008 calendar change which will shorten the holiday shopping season.”

Developed by ShopperTrak, the NRSE provides a nationwide benchmark of retail sales. It is derived from the U.S. Commerce Department’s GAFO (general merchandise, apparel, furniture, sporting goods, electronics, hobby, books, and other related store sales) statistics, as well as ShopperTrak proprietary industry intelligence on shopper movement and sales statistics.

The ShopperTrak Retail Traffic Index measures traffic across five separate retail segments including total U.S. retailing.