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ShopperTrak report: Back-to-school retail sales up 3.7%; traffic flat


Chicago A report 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 back-to-school 2010 -- the month of August -- rose 3.7%, while the company’s Retail Traffic Index reported total U.S. foot traffic was flat for the same period as compared with last year.

ShopperTrak’s National Retail Sales Estimate determined that both sales and traffic finished above the its forecast of a 3.5% sales rise and 1.4% traffic decline as pent-up demand and favorable weather boosted sales throughout the back-to-school season.

“Retailers should be pleased with the steady performance in August for back to school, but we are comparing with a period last year that was still mired in the recession, so any strength at this point is relative,” Bill Martin, ShopperTrak founder, said. “Analyzing the numbers, GAFO sales for back-to-school 2009 actually fell 5% compared with 2008, so even though sales were positive last month, we’re still not at the levels retailers experienced just two years ago.”

Martin added that 2010 results should still be encouraging for retailers as “pent-up demand and seemingly higher consumer confidence should bode well for the upcoming holiday shopping season.”

Looking at month-over-month performance, ShopperTrak reported strong gains in both sales (+6.9%) and traffic (+5.9%) versus July as both back to school and warmer weather throughout the country drove spending. Because August is on record as the fourth warmest August in the last 50 years, ShopperTrak’s data shows consumers might have been focused on summer apparel spending -- rather than the typical fall clothing rush seen in August for back to school -- a phenomenon that could benefit retailers over the next two months as shoppers stock up on fall apparel.

ShopperTrak also reported foot traffic in the apparel and accessories store segment increased 0.8% compared with last year, followed by the wireless and electronics segment, which fell 0.9%.

Regional year-over-year traffic breakouts for August showed total U.S. foot traffic down 1.8% in the Midwest, down 4.5% in the Northeast, up 3.5% in the South and down 1% in the West.

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