The final weekend of the holiday shopping season will likely bring a sigh of relief from many retailers who feared that sales would be weak.
Although sales estimates won't be available until today at the earliest, some industry observers who track seasonal activity were upbeat yesterday that sales would meet modest growth expectations.
This holiday season, "we had projected a 3.6% increase [in dollars spent from a year ago], and we expect that number will be hit and, potentially, could go a little bit higher," said Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak RCT Corp., which monitors retail sales. The National Retail Federation, a trade group, has been predicting a 4% increase in sales, the smallest gain in five years.
Despite heavy traffic at malls around the country over the weekend, many consumers still apparently had put off their shopping until the last minute -- contributing to some pessimism about how the season would turn out. America's Research Group said 71% of the 800 people it surveyed said they had completed their Christmas shopping as of yesterday -- although most planned to do so by tonight. "Normally 85% of consumers would have been done," firm Chairman Britt Beemer said. "This says shopping levels were down, and buying levels were down even more."