A research firm confirmed Monday that the nation's stores had a respectable sales gain for the holiday shopping season compared with last year's steep decline.
ShopperTrak, which is based in Chicago, said Monday that sales for November and December rose 1.7 percent and customer counts slipped 2.9 percent. That's better than ShopperTrak's predictions for a 1.6 percent sales gain and a 4.2 percent drop in traffic.
For the holiday 2008 season, sales fell 6 percent and traffic declined 15 percent, according to ShopperTrak.
ShopperTrak measures retail sales and traffic at more than 50,000 outlets.
The final holiday data is in line with numbers recently released from the International Council of Shopping Centers and MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse. The ICSC said Thursday that its holiday sales index was up 1.8 percent, better than the 1 perent gain originally expected.
According to SpendingPulse, retail sales rose 3.6 percent from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24, compared with a 2.3 percent drop in the year-ago period. Adjusting for an extra shopping day between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the gain was 1.7 percent, according to final figures. SpendingPulse has not provided holiday figures through Dec. 31.
SpendingPulse estimates spending in all forms including cash.
ShopperTrak also confirmed that the Friday before Thanksgiving was the biggest sales day of the season. However, the second-busiest wasn't the Saturday before Christmas as originally forecast, but the Saturday after Christmas. A snowstorm that covered much of the East Coast held down shopping the Saturday before Christmas.
A final surge in the days before Christmas and post-Christmas shopping helped save the season as consumers, either waiting for the best deals or shut in by snowstorms, delayed their buying.
Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak, forecasts that total sales for the first quarter will show an increase compared with a year ago.
"We see stability" in spending, Martin said.
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