Store traffic, sales decreased in U.S. brick-and-mortar retail stores over Thanksgiving weekend compared with last year, finds RetailNext; specialty retail traffic was down 10% versus last year, with sales down 16%

SAN JOSE, California , December 13, 2011 () – This season, more retailers eager to capitalize on the holiday shopping season opened their doors for the Black Friday rush earlier than ever. However, according to RetailNext Insights: Holiday Shopping 2011, the overall trend for the Thanksgiving weekend in brick and mortar stores was down as compared to last year, in both traffic and sales.

RetailNext Insights, issued by RetailNext, is an analysis of more than 40 U.S. retail store chains’ performance, traffic, conversion rates, average spend, and sales during the critical post-Thanksgiving 2011 shopping weekend. Findings reveal:

Specialty retail segment traffic was down 10% versus last year for Thanksgiving weekend, with sales down 16%. This negative trend continued for specialty, department and off-price retailers through the first fiscal week of December.

Department stores saw Black Friday traffic up 29% from the previous year and a rise in conversion of about 2 percentage points. The strong Friday activity was countered by a 14% year over year decline in traffic on Saturday and Sunday.

Off-price retailers saw a 15% increase in traffic and a 4-percentage point increase in conversion on Black Friday, but a lower average transaction value. On the other hand, specialty retailers saw a 5% drop in traffic with a significant decline in conversion of 2.4-percentage points, and a slight increase in average transaction value. Brick and mortar specialty retailers who have a strong online presence with products that dominate holiday selling, experienced significant traffic and sales decreases over the Black Friday weekend.

Travel retail results captured shopper behavior across 40 airport stores in 9 major U.S. airports in the week leading up to Thanksgiving. On average, these stores experienced higher traffic on Monday and Wednesday, with conversion spiking substantially on Sunday at 6.2%. During the heavy Sunday-Wednesday travel period, the top converting airports were Dallas Fort Worth (7.2%), Houston (6.8%) and JFK (5.4%).

Extended Hours Yield Mixed Results

Based on data gathered between 12:00 a.m. on Friday, and 10 p.m. on Sunday, RetailNext found that mall department stores saw significantly higher traffic on Black Friday compared to last year. However, a much smaller percentage of that traffic made it to other stores in the malls with most mall-based specialty retailers seeing a decline in traffic on Black Friday versus last year.

“Our analysis indicates that early openings on Black Friday helped some of the large anchor stores but were an operational challenge for specialty retail,” said Shelley E. Kohan, VP of retail consulting at RetailNext. “This ‘overnight’ trend forced most specialty retailers to open early to stay competitive and take advantage of traffic, but these retailers saw the same amount of traffic and sales spread over a longer period of time. Trends the first fiscal week of December showed similar declines in traffic across both specialty and department stores. Department stores were able to minimize the sales drop the first week of December based on significant increases in conversion rates. Both sectors showed average transaction value as flat compared to last year.”

Engagement Boosts Conversion Rates

People shop differently on Black Friday versus a regular day. On average, a given product or display in a store engages a significantly smaller percentage of shoppers on Black Friday, with an average shopper looking at fewer displays. In many cases, these shoppers spend more time in front of a display, engaging with the products trying to find a specific product or looking for the right deal. A much higher percentage of people who stop and engage with a product buy something than they do on an average day. This trend was consistent across all retail formats analyzed.

“Retailers are eager for insights about the impact of specific in-store promotions, layouts and displays,” said Alexei Agratchev, CEO of RetailNext. “Our approach to in-store monitoring and analysis delivers a unique perspective on a broad variety of elements impacting consumer behavior, giving retailers the most advanced in-store business intelligence and decision support systems available.”

Cosmetics Category Bigger than Average Draw on Black Friday

Traffic and sales patterns in small-format general merchandise stores are very different from most other formats during this period. Not surprisingly, in this segment the day before Thanksgiving showed the highest amount of traffic and sales during the week as shoppers prepared for the holiday weekend. Traffic was also high on Black Friday in this channel, with a 10% higher spend than average. The Cosmetics category in particular saw dramatic changes in shopper behavior on Black Friday. Average spend per transaction was 9% higher than an average Friday in November and the conversion to purchase of those that engaged was 7 percentage points higher.

About RetailNext Insights: Holiday Shopping 2011

RetailNext, the leader in real-time in-store analytics, automatically and anonymously tracks how many people enter a store, where they go, what products they look at, where they stop, how long they engage with different displays, and what they buy and for how much.

The RetailNext Insights: Holiday Shopping 2011 findings are based on data analyzed from 40 U.S. retail chains across 48 states, including department stores, off-price retailers, specialty stores (apparel, accessories, jewelry and watches, home and office, audio and technology, travel and health, and fitness), small-format general merchandise stores and travel retail (U.S. airport stores). Due to insufficient year over year data, this analysis does not include large format general merchandise stores, large format grocery, convenience, or drug stores.

To learn more, download the RetailNext Insights: Holiday Shopping 2011 infographic or follow on Twitter @RetailNext.

About RetailNext

RetailNext is the leader in real-time in-store monitoring, enabling retailers and manufacturers to collect, analyze and visualize in-store data. The company uses best-in-class video analytics, on-shelf sensors, along with data from point-of-sale and other business systems, to automatically inform retailers about how people engage in their stores. The highly scalable RetailNext products easily integrate with promotional calendars, staffing systems and weather services to analyze how internal and external factors impact customer shopping patterns – providing store operations executives with the ability to identify opportunities for growth, execute changes, and measure success.

Headquartered in San Jose, CA, RetailNext tracks more than 20 million shoppers per month by collecting data from more than 15,000 sensors in retail stores, and is a growing global brand currently operating in 16 countries. For more information, call +1-888-609-5877.

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