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ShopperTrak: Holiday sales, foot traffic to realize gains

CHICAGO — As holiday sales and foot traffic historically account for about 20% of annual retail activity, a new report by ShopperTrak revealed that consumers will shop more and visit more stores during the peak holiday shopping months of November and December.

"Retailers have reason to be optimistic about this season. It's clear that foot traffic is increasing and month-over-month sales continue to be better than expected," ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin said. "In fact, our shopper visit data tell us that consumers are visiting more stores than last year. This influx of traffic will present opportunities for retailers to convert these visitors into buyers, especially with the extended holiday shopping season."

ShopperTrak said it is projecting that national retail sales will rise 3.3% above last year during the period, while retail foot traffic will increase 2.8%. ShopperTrak said that these increases will be driven by a number of factors, including a long interval between Black Friday and Christmas Day (a 32-day period). ShopperTrak also noted that weekends typically are busy shopping periods, and this year's holiday calendar provides two extra ones: a full weekend in the holiday shopping season, plus a weekend between Christmas and New Year's Eve, as those holidays fall mid-week. What's more, Hanukkah falls 11 days earlier than last year. This presents retailers with a chance for a sales boost early in the season.

"The calendar provides retailers unusual opportunities for success this season, but store managers will need to understand how the 2012 calendar differentiates this holiday season from past seasons," Martin said "Keeping stores open for longer hours across an extended time between holidays adds to operating costs. Managers need to plan optimal staffing, scheduling, marketing and advertising with the calendar to achieve best results."

Another interesting factor retailers should take note of? Political elections. ShopperTrak's analysis revealed that shopping activity tapers off before national elections — ShopperTrak recorded a decline of 6.3% the week before voting in 2008 — but rebounds quickly after the results are announced. Consumers who were distracted during the election, however, generally dive into the holiday shopping season after the ballots are counted. Store managers must have their marketing and advertising ready to go on Nov. 7 to capture the full sales potential of this holiday season.

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