Consumers to Shop 'Til They Drop Through End of Holiday Season

Shoppers plan on hunting for gifts up until the very end of the holiday season, and have so far proved they will be out in larger numbers than last year, according to an industry report.

ShopperTrak said retail sales for Super Saturday weekend, the final weekend before Christmas, grew 5.5% to $18.83 billion, compared with the year-earlier period. Foot traffic, meanwhile, increased 3%.

On Super Saturday in 2009, retail sales fell a whopping 16.5%, or $6.58 billion, compared with 2008, while foot traffic dropped 12.4%.

While some of the gains were due to a rebounding economy, the numbers were being compared to a weekend last year where the Eastern coast was slammed with a blizzard, hindering the usual flow of last minute shoppers.

The full week between the final Saturday and Christmas often leads to some softness on Friday and Saturday, according to ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin, who noted that “this year was no exception.”

Compared with last year, Friday was particularly slow as consumers in 2009 shopped in the morning and early afternoon to prepare for the incoming storm. Sunday, however, lifted over the prior year period as momentum from Super Saturday materialized the next morning, Martin said.

ShopperTrak said procrastinating shoppers will flood retailers on Dec. 23, bumping the day slightly above Super Saturday as the second highest performing sales day this holiday season, a trend that also occurred last year.

The highest performing day has traditionally been Black Friday, which recorded sales this year of $10.69 billion.

“The week leading into Christmas is hugely important for retailers as five of the top performing sales days are expected to fall during this period,” Martin said, who noted that the ten days prior to Dec. 25 typically account for 31% to 34% of total retail sales for the entire season.

“Winning retailers know this pattern well and will have the strategies in place to attract foot traffic and ultimately move sales levels into the black over these upcoming critical days,” he said.

Retailers like Macy’s (NYSE:M) and Best Buy (NYSE:BBY), for example, showed strong gains on Black Friday, offering a slew of discounts and promotions in an attempt to attract consumers on the largest shopping day of the year.