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'Super Saturday' shoppers pack stores

Traffic and sales figures are expected to rank among the top three days of the season. Millions plan to hit the mall on Christmas Eve.

December 22, 2010|By Andrea Chang, Los Angeles Times

Heavy rain in the West on Saturday wasn't enough to dampen holiday shopping, with U.S. retail sales surging 15.1% to $7.58 billion over the same day last year, according to estimates by research firm ShopperTrak RCT Corp.

Foot traffic on so-called Super Saturday, the last Saturday before Christmas, rose 10.1%.

But ShopperTrak noted that the sales figures appeared particularly robust because they were being compared with last year, when blizzard-like conditions resulted in weak sales in the Northeast and parts of the South.

Super Saturday is expected to be the second-busiest traffic day and the third-largest sales day this holiday shopping season, according to ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin. With $10.69 billion in sales, Black Friday is expected to hold up as the No. 1 sales and traffic day this holiday season for the fifth year in a row.

The holiday season is extremely important for retailers because sales during the period account for about 40% of their annual revenue.

ShopperTrak, which monitors tracking devices in stores around the country, is predicting that last-minute shoppers will flood stores on Thursday, bumping it above Super Saturday as the second-largest sales day this holiday season.

"The week leading into Christmas is hugely important for retailers as five of the top performing sales days are expected to fall during this period," Martin said. "The 10 days prior to Christmas typically account for anywhere from 31% to 34% of total retail sales for the entire season, which makes this a pressure-filled few days for retailers."

Shoppers will be hitting the stores until the very last minute, with 23.1 million Americans planning to shop on Christmas Eve, according to a survey released Tuesday by the International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs.

More men (17%) plan to shop on the day before Christmas than women (13%). By age, people 18 to 34 years old are more likely to be shopping Friday (21%) than those 55 and over (8%).

By region, 19% of those living in the Midwest said they were planning to do last-minute holiday shopping on Christmas Eve, while those in the West (16%), Northeast (13%) and South (13%) were relatively less likely to shop that day.

After surveying the crowds at several Los Angeles-area malls on Super Saturday, Ramesh Swamy, a retail analyst at Deloitte, said outdoor shopping centers were affected by the rainstorms but noted that traffic overall appeared healthy through the weekend.

"Clearly there are shopping intentions out there," he said. "And it seems like there's still a lot to be done for most folks."

andrea.chang@latimes.com

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