Retail sales continued to disappoint last week, despite being the last full week before Christmas. Same-store sales at retailers surveyed by Instinet Research grew by just 0.3% over the same week last year, the group said in its weekly Redbook Average report on Tuesday. That was far below what the retailers were expecting and the smallest gain this month. Same-store sales compare results at outlets open for more than one year. In their survey of comparable-store sales, also released on Tuesday, UBS Warburg and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi reported growth last week of 0.1% compared with the previous week and 1.7% over the same week last year. Like the Redbook report, the UBS Warburg survey said that sales were coming in below retailers' plan. "Retailers are indicating that the finish will have to be considerably stronger than originally anticipated in order to bring them in on target. We expect the final two weeks to lift December's average from its current level, but the month is likely to remain
and end below plan," Instinet Research said in its report. The surveys provide further evidence of what has been a dismal holiday season for retailers. Last month, many retailers reported same-store sales that were at the low end or below their projections. That weakness has carried over to December. On Monday, ShopperTrak RCT released a report that said sales of general merchandise, apparel, furniture and specialty stores this month are down 5.5% compared with last December. Meanwhile, individual retailers are seeing the effects of soft consumer spending. Comparable-store sales at retail behemoth Wal-Mart ( WMT) are coming in at the low end of the company's 3% to 5% projections companywide, with sales at its discount stores and Sam's Club divisions coming in below plan. Target ( TGT) and Federated Department Stores ( FD) reported Monday that their same-store sales for the holiday period are coming in below their expectations.
The 0.3% growth in same-store sales reported by Instinet Research was the lowest growth rate recorded this month, following 1.1% growth in the first week of December and 0.8% growth last week. To date, comparable-store sales in December have grown just 0.8%, Instinet reported. Retailers surveyed by the company had expected comparable-store sales to grow by 2.1% over last December. Consumer worries about the economy and job security likely caused depressed sales, Instinet said in the report. The success Wal-Mart has reported with sales of seasonal items in recent weeks indicates that consumers are waiting until the last minute to buy Christmas items, UBS Warburg analyst Linda Kristiansen said in a research report. "This gives hope to some retailers that the final few days before Christmas will see a flurry of late shopping activity. However, our outlook remains for a sustained slowdown to persist through the rest of the holiday season and through the first half of next year," Kristiansen wrote. One continuing bright spot in the holiday season has been online sales. Consumers spent $1.4 billion online last week in non-travel and non-auction goods and services, according to a report released Tuesday by ComScore Networks. That was up 18% from the week before Christmas last year. Despite the heady growth, even online sales have been somewhat disappointing. ComScore had projected that fourth-quarter online spending, excluding that on travel and auction sites, would grow 27% over the same period last year to $13.8 billion. To date, consumers have spent $12.1 billion online, excluding travel and auction sales, up $9.7 billion, or 25%, from the same period last year.