Chain Store Sales Boosted by Christmas, Hanukkah Shoppers

Sales at chain stores rose in the week before Christmas, retailers said Wednesday, with last-minute shoppers and the late Hanukkah holiday boosting the bottom line.

However, some retailers said most transactions took place on Dec. 23 and were disappointed shoppers did not take advantage of the extra shopping Saturday on Dec. 24.

Chain store sales were 2.8 percent higher in the week to Dec. 24 after rising 2.4 percent in the prior week, according to a report by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) and UBS Securities LLC.

In a separate report, Redbook Research, an independent research company, said sales at major retailers rose 4.5 percent on a year-over-year basis in the week ended Dec. 24.

"Procrastinating consumers and a late Hanukkah (Dec. 25) helped to lift the holiday season's performance," said Michael Niemira, ICSC's chief economist and director of research.

Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, is based on a Hebrew lunar calendar, which means it falls on different dates of the Gregorian calendar every year. This year it began on Christmas day for the first time in decades.

Despite differing views on the week preceding the two holidays, retailers are looking forward to the next phase of holiday shopping, gift card redemptions.

"While retailers are pleased with last week's performance, the holiday shopping season is far from over, since about 60 percent of gift-card redemptions occur between December 26 and the end of January," Niemira said.

Since revenues related to gift cards are recorded only once they are redeemed, retailers hope consumers use them soon, Redbook Research said.

"Increasingly, retailers view this period as 'Phase Two' of the season when fresh merchandise is needed to attract the consumer," Niemira said.

The ICSC-UBS Weekly Chain Store Sales Snapshot is compiled from a group of major discount, department and chain stores across the country that report their weekly results.

The Redbook data are compiled from a sample of same-store sales at general merchandise retailers representing about 9,000 stores. Same-store sales measure revenue at stores open at least a year.

Niemira said sales for the month and the holiday season remain on track for a moderate year-over-year increase of 3.0 percent to 3.5 percent.