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In-Store Christmas Sales Slip In Final Week: Report

ChicagoBrick-and-mortar retail sales declined 3.1 percent last week as pre-winter storms put the kibosh on late Christmas shopping, according to market research firm ShopperTrak.

The bad weather, combined with a deluge of last-minute online orders, also swamped UPS and FedEx logistics systems, leading to a small percentage of missed Christmas deliveries and prompting to offer shipping refunds and $20 gift cards as compensation.

Brick-and-mortar retailers can still recoup some of last week’s lost sales days during the post-Christmas period, ShopperTrak said, particularly today (Dec. 26) and this Saturday (Dec. 28), when gift card redemptions and after-holiday markdowns can drive robust retail sales and store traffic.

“Many people who have the day after Christmas off of work will be out shopping for end-of-season deals,” noted Bill Martin, founder of the market research firm. “Retailers should track their stores’ conversion rates closely to turn more after-Christmas browsers into buyers.”

 Still, last week’s storms kept shoppers away in droves, with foot traffic falling 21.2 percent from Dec. 16 through Dec. 22, the last full week before Christmas and a critical sales period for retailers.

What’s more, sales on so-called “Super Saturday” – the last Saturday before Christmas and traditionally one of the busiest shopping days of the year – slipped 0.7 percent and foot traffic fell 18.1 percent despite additional discounts and procrastinator promotions.

“Bad weather throughout the country kept some shoppers away from stores,” Martin said. “This past week was their final opportunity to complete their holiday shopping before Christmas – and though many did finish making their purchases, retailers did not see as many shoppers as last year.”

Instead, consumers let their fingers do the walking, driving double-digit online sales gains this holiday season. According to market research firm comScore, online spending excluding transactions through mobile devices grew 21 percent from Thanksgiving through Dec. 15, to $19.2 billion.

Indeed, Amazon said the holiday season was its best ever, with more than 36.8 million items ordered worldwide on Cyber Monday, and more than one million customers joining its $79-a-year Prime membership program in the third week of December.

Amazon’s top-selling TVs were three Samsung models: a 32-inch Smart LED, a 40-LED and a 22-inch slim LED; its best-selling laptops were a Samsung Chromebook; an Asus Transformer book and an Acer Chromebook; and its top-selling cameras were Canon’s EOS Rebel T3i and PowerShot A2500, and Fujifilm’s Instax Mini 8 instant film camera.

Not surprisingly, Kindles were Amazon’s top-selling tablets, led by the Fire HD, Fire HDX 7-inch and Fire HDX 8.9 inch, and the Black Friday-Cyber Monday weekend period was the “best ever” for the Kindle line, the e-tailer said.

Amazon added that more than half of its customers shopped using a mobile device this holiday season.