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U.S. shoppers spent 2.4 percent more during the weekend before the Christmas holiday this year, giving a late boost to retailers after a sluggish start to the season.

Purchases during the so-called Super Saturday weekend rose to $42 billion, up from $41 billion during the same weekend a year ago, said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a research firm in New Canaan, Conn.

The performance on the Saturday before Christmas, one of the busiest shopping days of the year, still may not be enough to redeem a holiday season that was supposed to be the best in three years. While sales picked up in November and December, the acceleration may not be enough to make up for the slow start, Johnson said.

“This was a strong finish to an otherwise lackluster season,” he said. “It has taken what has been a sluggish season and made it merely lackluster.”

This year, Super Saturday was the biggest shopping day of the holiday season, surpassing Black Friday for the first time in at least a decade, according to data from ShopperTrak. The researcher said sales on Super Saturday rose 0.5 percent from a year earlier. The Chicago-based firm said its forecast of a 3.8 percent spending increase for holiday season remained “in reach.”

Estimates from the International Council of Shopping Centers showed that retailers could benefit from a last-minute shopping surge despite what the group called a “historically low” 11 percent of consumers who have yet to start buying holiday gifts. Sales in the week ended Saturday Dec. 20 rose 3.1 percent over the year-ago period, according to the ICSC and Goldman Sachs Weekly Chain Store Sales Index.

“The late shopping surge should continue all the way through Christmas Eve,” Michael Niemira, a research consultant at ICSC, said today in a statement.

The National Retail Federation has predicted that sales in November and December would gain 4.1 percent, the biggest increase since 2011. Holiday sales last year rose 3.1 percent as severe winter storms kept shoppers from stores late in the season.

Rising consumer sentiment helped spur spending last month, with Costco Wholesale Corp., L Brands Inc. and Gap Inc. posting November same-store sales that exceeded analysts’ estimates. An index of merchants tracked by Retail Metrics Inc. boosted sales 5.2 percent, topping analysts’ 3 percent average estimate.

The U.S. economy grew at the fastest pace in more than a decade in the third quarter, buoyed by gains in business and consumer spending, the Commerce Department said today.

“Lower unemployment and gas prices, as well as more manageable weather, have attributed to the season’s growth,” said Bill Martin, ShopperTrak’s founder. “We expect to see this continue as we head into 2015.”

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