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Jan. 4, 2013 - As ads bombarded inboxes and TV sets this holiday season, shoppers were readying their strategies for store visits and purchases. This trend was clear, found in-store analytics leader RetailNext, as sales and traffic were consistently lower than in 2011, while conversion rates and average transaction value (ATV) were higher. At the same time, spending came late in the season, with four of the top five highest sales days falling within 10 days of Christmas and December 22 surpassing even Black Friday to realize the most sales of the season.

RetailNext analyzed a total of 8.5 million shopping trips to big box and specialty retailers in the U.S. during the 2011 and 2012 holiday seasons. Key findings include:

  • The number of shopping visits to stores was down a massive 16.4% from 2011.
  • Retailers made the most of the traffic they got, with conversion up 1.4 basis points and ATV up 3.7%.  These improvements tempered the overall decline, with sales off 3.4% YOY in the specialty segment.
  • Saturday, December 22nd was a "monster shopping day," exceeding Black Friday's sales volume by 11%, and nearly matching Black Friday's traffic figures.
  • Black Friday saw YOY traffic down 9.2% and conversion off 0.7 points in the specialty segment; an ATV increase of 11.5% offset these weak points so that total sales were down 3.2%.
  • Christmas Eve and Boxing Day were both off from the previous year.  Christmas Eve saw a 1.5% reduction in sales on a 12.2% reduction in traffic, while December 26 saw a 7.5% reduction in sales on a massive 29.5% traffic drop.  (The drop on the day after Christmas can be explained by the fact that last year it was a day off for many more Americans than in 2012.)
  • The post-Christmas period from December 26 to January 1 rallied, despite an 8.5% reduction in traffic, to show a healthy 12.7% increase in sales.  This increase owes itself to a conversion increase of 1.8 basis points and a 6.7% increase in ATV for the period.
  • Highest Traffic days of the season:  Black Friday, followed by the two Saturdays before Christmas (December 22 and 15).
  • Days with the highest ATV:  Thanksgiving Day (November 22), followed by Christmas Day.
  • Days with highest Conversion rates: Tuesday, December 18, followed by Monday, December 17.
  • The top five Sales days of the 2012 Holiday Season, from highest to lowest, were Saturday, December 22; Black Friday, November 23; Friday, December 21; Saturday, December 15; Sunday, December 23

"Retailers cannot underestimate the post-Christmas potential. The post-holiday period showed better results year-over-year between December 26 and January 1. December 27 through 29 were particularly strong at 20% sales growth and a 2.5 basis point increase in conversion overcoming a 4% drop in traffic," stated Shelley E. Kohan, VP of Retail Consulting, RetailNext. "As retailers look forward to the 2013 holiday season, the calendar will again play a major role.  With six fewer days in the season, due to a late Thanksgiving and the very rare occurrence of Hanukkah starting at the same time, retailers need a strategic plan to make up for less shopping time."