Weekly retail sales grew 2.8 percent at chain stores

Procrastinating consumers and a late Hanukkah helped lift last week’s U.S. chain store sales 2.8 percent from the week before, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers weekly index. The week’s sales grew 3.9 percent over the previous year.

Friday, Dec. 23 was especially strong, and gift card demand was high throughout the week, says Michael P. Niemira, ICSC’s chief economist and director of research. “While retailers are pleased with last week’s performance, the holiday shopping season is far from over, since about 60 percent of gift card redemptions occur between Dec. 26 and the end of January,” he said.

Increasingly, retailers view this period as “phase two” of the season, when fresh merchandise is needed to attract the consumer, Niemira says.

Sales for the month and the holiday season, Niemira says, remain on track for a moderate increase of 3 percent to 3.5 percent on a year-over-year basis.