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ShopperTrak predicts traffic decrease for back-to-school season


Chicago ShopperTrak announced that the decline in retail traffic and sales will most likely continue during the critical back-to-school shopping period, according to the company’s Retail Traffic Index.

ShopperTrak reported that the total U.S. foot traffic during the season is expected to decline 10% compared to last year, while the company’s National Retail Sales Estimate (NRSE) is forecasting a 5.9% sales decrease.

The company’s data suggests consumers will continue visiting malls throughout the back-to-school season, but a more focused shopper will target sales and most likely spend moderately at fewer stores within each visit. 

In addition, consumers will better plan trips to retail locations offering the best value for their dollar, eliminating some extraneous shopping trips and influencing both traffic and sales patterns, according to the report.

“Retailers have stated they will spend less on inventories so shoppers may discover they will need to spend early in the season to avoid stock-outs that could occur later in August,” said Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak. “Despite 15 states having some type of sales tax holiday which will help boost sales in those regions, both traffic and sales numbers will continue to perform at the underwhelming levels we’ve seen since the holiday season and throughout 2009.”

According to Martin, there is one bright spot for retailers within the rather gloomy numbers seen this year and those anticipated for the back-to-school season.

“While sales and traffic patterns remain slow, our data shows enclosed mall traffic numbers for May and June leading into the season were equal to the same two months in 2008 –- indicating consumers are returning to malls as destination centers but still visiting fewer stores,” Martin said. “While encouraging, this boost in mall traffic has yet to result in increased sales.”

Additionally, ShopperTrak reported sales for the week ending Aug. 1, 2009 versus the same period last year fell 6.2%.

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