Holiday sales down 3.4 percent compared to last year, report says

Los Angeles TimesJanuary 4, 2013 

Early signs point to a holiday season that was not nearly as merry as retailers had hoped.

Sales were down 3.4 percent compared to the year before, while the number of store visits plunged 16.4 percent, according to a report from coupon site RetailMeNot.

Aside from Black Friday and Cyber Monday, spending came late into the season, the report found. Four of the five busiest shopping days fell within 10 days of Christmas, with Dec. 22 (commonly known as Super Saturday) surpassing even Black Friday.

Post-Christmas shoppers between Dec. 26 and the new year handed retailers a 12.7 percent jump in sales despite traffic into stores actually falling 8.5 percent as retailers got better at converting browsers into buyers.

“There were important shifts in calendar days this season, which impacted sales and traffic to stores,” said Shelley Kohan, RetailMeNot vice president of retail consulting.

She noted that Christmas last year fell on a Sunday, which suppressed sales on Saturday but boosted shopping on the day after Christmas, which was a Monday. This year, merchants enjoyed a robust weekend before Christmas, which fell on a Tuesday, but also experienced a drop on the Dec. 26 compared to a year earlier.

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