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Northeast Blizzard Delays $1B In Post-Holiday Sales

Chicago – The blizzard that crippled the Northeast on the days immediately following Christmas strongly impacted retail traffic and delayed some $1 billion in post-holiday spending.

According to market research firm ShopperTrak, the two days after Christmas were projected to generate $10 billion in sales alone, as shoppers returned to stores to exchange items and redeem gift cards.

But total U.S. foot traffic on Dec. 26 was 11.2 percent below what would have been expected had the blizzard not hit the Northeast. Traffic throughout the region fell by 6.1 percent as the storm approached, while the Midwest, South and West had an average gain of 38.6 percent over last year.

The following day total U.S. foot traffic was 13.9 percent below expectations, falling 42.9 percent in the Northeast compared to 2009, while the other three regions averaged a 13 percent gain.

ShopperTrak estimates that the storm impacted sales by at least 10 percent over the two-day period, forcing shoppers to postpone an estimated $1 billion in purchases.

“As expected the 2010 blizzard throughout the Northeast halted nearly all retail visits and spending during a period that is fairly crucial for retailers,” said ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin. “And at this point the prospect of momentarily pausing a potential $1 billion in sales has the collective industry holding its breath.”

Martin believes retail sales will resume this week and into the weekend as shoppers begin to dig out, although it is unclear whether levels will recover in time to boost December sales and the overall holiday shopping season.
At this point ShopperTrak is sticking to its previous holiday sales forecast of a 4.0 percent sales rise with a 1.8 percent traffic increase.