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ShopperTrak Report: Retail sales rise 2.4% in September

Chicago The National Retail Sales Estimate released Friday by ShopperTrak found that total GAFO (general merchandise, apparel, furniture, sporting goods, electronics, hobby, books and other related store sales) retail sales for the month of September increased 2.4%, while ShopperTrak’s Retail Traffic Index reported total U.S. foot traffic rose 1.1% for the same period as compared with last year.

September’s slight year-over-year traffic increase was a bit unexpected, said ShopperTrak, as retailers have seen slower levels throughout 2010. Previous to last month, total U.S. foot traffic was flat in August and posted year-over-year declines in July, June and May.

ShopperTrak reported that although traffic numbers were up, results throughout the country were mixed. Regionally, traffic was down in the Northeast due to wet weather from various tropical storms and also slipped in the West most likely due to warmer weather slowing fall seasonal sales. Throughout the month, SRTI traffic data showed the Midwest and South experienced stronger year-over-year gains behind some cooler weather, which boosted fall merchandise sales and positively impacted the comprehensive monthly traffic figure.

Looking at September sales performance, ShopperTrak’s data showed a minimal 2.4% increase as retailers reported the expected rather slower levels following the August back-to-school spending rush, which generated a slightly higher 3.7% retail sales increase for the month. Sales will most likely show a bit of an uptick in October behind Columbus Day and some Halloween spending, said ShopperTrak, followed by a larger rise in November behind Black Friday weekend, the official starting point of the holiday shopping season.

On a month-over-month comparison, total U.S. foot traffic and retail sales decreased a significant -- but expected -- 13.9% and 9.4% respectively as the August comparison month contained back-to-school levels.

“The slight traffic increase last month was a bit of a surprise as September is annually a slower month between back-to-school and various holidays, and because our data has shown a pattern throughout 2010 of slower traffic levels with a bigger spend as consumers shop more economically,” said Bill Martin, founder of ShopperTrak. “Smart retailers will most likely push holiday promotions throughout October in an effort to maintain these slightly higher levels and possibly drive sales as the critical November/December holiday shopping period approaches.”

ShopperTrak also reported that foot traffic in the apparel & accessories store segment was flat compared with last year, followed by the wireless & electronics segment which fell 1.0%.

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