More Merchants Report Soft December Finish

Last week, we reported that December sales figures were not consistent across the board (“December Sales Results a Mixed Bag“).

This week, there are more up-and-down results coming in from crosschannel retailers. And two reports indicate spending overall was down in December.

According to FirstData‘s SpendTrend report, consumers stepped back from spending in December as the fiscal cliff debate continued, lingering effects of Superstorm Sandy persisted, and the initially less aggressive retail discounting environment for most of the month dampened shopping.

Dollar volume growth was 4%, the lowest monthly growth in three years and a steep slowdown from the typical range between 6% and 10%, according to the report.

MasterCard Advisors’ SpendingPulse shows that total sales in December were down 2.4% year-over-year. Taking out both autos and gasoline, retail spending grew at a slightly stronger 2.8% year-over-year, the report says.

According to retail figures released this week, it appears it was a decent holiday for luxury merchants.

Tiffany & Co. beat last year’s figures, aided by a slight increase in ecommerce revenue. Sales in the Americas region increased 3% to $516 million in the holiday period.

On a constant-exchange-rate basis, Tiffany’s total sales increased 2%, and comparable store sales declined 2% in the New York flagship store and in branch stores. Performance was relatively similar across much of the region. Internet and catalog sales rose 4%.

As for apparel, American Eagle Outfitters is having a good fourth quarter, but it wasn’t as great as it was last year.

The company said quarter-to-date sales increased 5%. Consolidated comparable store sales, including the online business increased 5%, compared to a 13% increase for the same period last year. Excluding the online business, comparable store sales increased 1%, compared to a 12% increase last year.

Toys and electronics did not seem to fare well.

For the month of December, total sales for Toys R Us’s Domestic segment decreased 1.9%, and chairman and CEO Jerry Storch attributed that to softness in the video games, electronics and toys categories as well as the uncertain economic environment in the U.S. and abroad.”

Internationally, Toys R Us’s December sales fell 4.1% year-over-year.

Best Buy, was relatively flat for the holiday season, down just .4% overall. But it had a successful nine week period online. Best Buy’s Domestic segment online channel delivered revenue of $1.1 billion, a 10% revenue increase compared to the prior-year period, driven by a traffic increase.

ComScore indicated Best Buy was in the top three most trafficked websites for the Thanksgiving holiday and Black Friday, and Experian data ranked the electronics merchant as the number-three retail website on Cyber Monday with 9.3 million visits.

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