Late Shoppers Boost Retail Sales

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Shoppers hit the stores later this holiday season, helping increase retail sales more than expected, according to data released yesterday. Internet and consumer electronics were the big winners, while department stores and toy stores saw sales slip.

Visa said total spending on Visa debit and credit cards over the holiday season increased 14.2 percent from last year. From Nov. 28 to Dec. 28, $97.9 billion was spent, Visa said. From Dec. 25 to 28, retail spending on Visa cards totaled $2.9 billion, while Dec. 26 saw a 16 percent rise over the same day a year ago.

In the retail segment, Visa said spending topped $43.2 billion for the four-week period, up 10.3 percent from 2002. Online purchases charged to Visa cards increased 48.9 percent versus last year, reaching $7.6 billion for the four-week period.

MasterCard Advisors, a unit of MasterCard International, said sales climbed 6.5 percent for the Nov. 28-Dec. 24 period. Internet and catalog sales were up 6.5 percent, and consumer electronics and appliance store sales rose 6.7 percent.

Online shopping showed a big holiday surge over Christmas week as shoppers flocked to the Internet for last-minute gift buying, ringing up $950 million in total online sales, according to comScore. The market research company said sales for the week ended Dec. 26 rose 43 percent from the same period a year ago.

"With the exception of Christmas Day, when so many consumers turn their attention from gift shopping to gift giving, our data reported sales over $100 million in each day of this latest week," Dan Hess, senior vice president at comScore, said in a report.

However, online shopping peaked the second week in December, according to the eSpending report from Goldman Sachs & Co., Harris Interactive and Nielsen//NetRatings. Analyzing data through Dec. 19, it said consumers spent $2.8 billion online, down from $2.95 billion the previous week. The most popular categories were apparel, toys/video games, videos/DVDs, books and music. The final eSpending report will be released Jan. 6.

Michael P. Niemira, chief economist and director of research at the International Council of Shopping Centers and consultant at ShopperTrak, said same-store sales growth is on track to meet his 4 percent prediction for the holiday season, according to wire reports. ShopperTrak will release data today showing sales through Dec. 28.

Retailers will announce their final December same-store sales Jan. 8.


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