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Survey: Most retailers meet holiday sales expectations; timing a surprise


North Plainfield, N.J. – A majority of store managers (57.3%) said holiday sales met or exceeded their expectations during the 2013 holiday season. However, according to the post-holiday "Retail Sentiments Survey" from retail real estate services firm Levin Management, mid-December was the busiest time according to 26.9% of store manager respondents, followed by the weekend before Christmas with 24.4%.

This compared with 15.4% that reported peak sales for the Thanksgiving/Black Friday weekend. Overall, about half of responders, 49.4%, reported 2013 full-year sales at or above 2012 levels, and retailers show a strong feeling of confidence for 2014 in the survey: Almost three-quarters (73.5%) are optimistic about next year’s sales performance. This number jumped significantly from last year, when 56.6% expressed optimism. Only 6% said they are pessimistic about the coming year (down from 8.8% last year).

A shortened Thanksgiving-to-Christmas shopping window, and unusually cold weather in the northeast, may have contributed to uneven sales overall during the 2013 holiday season. While the majority of Levin survey respondents (51.2%) reported 2013 holiday sales at the same or higher volume than 2012, that number decreased compared with 65% last year. Holiday shopper traffic also appears to have declined, with 49.4% of survey participants reporting the same or higher volume than 2012 compared to 61% last year.

In a positive sign for employment, the Levin post-holiday survey showed 33.7% of respondents added staff for the holiday season, up from 26.6% in 2012. Of those, 40.5% indicated that they will retain those temporary hires into 2014.

While 50.6% of responders indicated e-commerce had no impact or a positive impact on their 2013 holiday sales (with 21% feeling a negative impact), nearly one-third (31.6%) believe e-commerce will affect their 2014 performance. More than half (54.9%) said they will add or increase mobile technology during the coming year.

“We have observed many retailers starting their Black Friday sales well before Thanksgiving, which may have resulted in softer sales during the actual weekend,” said Levin’s president Matthew K. Harding. “In fact, 12.8% indicated that their 2013 holiday sales peaked even before Thanksgiving arrived.”

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