According to ShopperTrak, national retail sales – when compared to the same period last year – will rise 3.0% during November and December, while foot traffic will decrease 2.2%.  ShopperTrak expects foot traffic to continue decreasing through the end of 2011, due to high unemployment rates and gas prices seeing a 33% increase this season over last.

The historically popular Apparel and Accessories category’s sales are expected to increase 2.7% while its foot traffic will decline 1.1% this holiday season compared to 2010. While consumers are expected to buy a bit more this holiday season than last, they are increasingly sensitive to value. Lower-end apparel and accessories specialty stores may be pressured to reduce prices to compete with discount chains.  Higher-end stores, however, may have an advantage this season as shoppers seek quality purchases offering perceived value and longevity of use.

ShopperTrak also expects the Electronics & Appliance sector’s sales to increase slightly by 1.2% over 2010, while foot traffic will drop 4.9%. The category’s moderate outlook can be attributed to the limited number of blockbuster electronic products being introduced this season. Value-conscious consumers are also increasingly using the Internet to stretch their dollars by shopping at online outlets with potential for deep discounts or researching premium priced, large purchases. As a result, when consumers do walk into stores, they have a purchasing strategy and are less likely to browse. This will account for significant foot traffic losses this holiday season.

AFFLUENT HOUSEHOLDS TO LEAD SPENDING

Across all income levels, only five percent of U.S. households plan to spend more this year, with affluent households (those earning $100,000 or more) leading the way, according to recent findings from Nielsen’s fourth-annual Holiday Shopping Sales Survey.  At the other end of the spectrum, roughly 52% of survey respondents reported plans to spend $500 or less.  Among households earning $100,000 or more, consumers ranked online merchants, club stores and dollar stores as the top three channels where they plan to spend more this shopping season. Among households making $50,000 or less, consumers plan to increase their spending at dollar stores, online merchants and supercenters.

“Nielsen expects the vast majority of consumers to be increasingly practical and focused on value this season,” said James Russo, vice president, global consumer insights, Nielsen.  “More affluent consumers will drive spending, particularly in entertainment, vacations, toys and technology.”

“This is a year to market early.  Consumers are planning, creating lists and collecting coupons. In fact, coupon use continues to grow each year with almost 40% of consumers reporting plans to use coupons, versus a little more than 20% before the recession,” Russo added.

[Source:  2011 Holiday sales forecast.  ShopperTrak.  21 Sept. 2011.  Web.  29 Sept. 2011; “Fourth-annual Holiday Shopping Sales Survey.”  Nielsen.  22 Sept. 2011.  Web.  29 Sept. 2011.]