More disappointment for retailers

Research group says holiday sales were weaker than forecast despite final week surge.

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By Lara Moscrip, contributing writer

NEW YORK ( -- Despite a last-minute rush by shoppers looking to take advantage of deep discounts during the Christmas week, sales during the holiday retail season are looking even weaker than expected, according to a retail research firm's preliminary report issued Wednesday.

ShopperTrak said it now expects its final figures to show a record 2.3% decline in retail sales over the November-December holiday season, with a 16% drop in store traffic. Those figures were the lowest estimates since the company began compiling the data in 2001.

In November, the firm forecast that overall retail sales would rise a mere 0.1% and store traffic would drop by 9.9%.

Even a 21.2% increase in year-over-year sales for the Dec. 21-27 week, which included the days before Christmas and the post-Christmas discounts, wasn't able to salvage the season. And with one week left to track in December, it's unlikely that any uptick will make a difference.

"We expect retail performance will dive over the next couple of weeks as retailers stop offering deeply discounted items and sales and traffic levels return to seasonal low points following the holidays," said Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak.

ShopperTrak's estimates are drawn from a sample of around 50,000 retail and mall shops throughout the United States. The company's retail sales estimates are based on Commerce Department statistics and on ShopperTrak's own industry research. To top of page

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