Traffic has been down for more than a week as the holiday season's uncertainties and pressures mount and the briskness of the Black Friday weekend fades to a memory.
But business should bounce back by Saturday and surge again Dec. 22 to 25. Retailers have a full weekend and extra day of shopping before Christmas, which falls on a Tuesday, though since the start of December, some are lamenting the season's slow progress.
"The tenor of the business hasn't picked up the way we hoped it would," David Jaffe, chairman and chief executive of Dress Barn Inc., said Monday. "We've seen weaker traffic than last year. The consumer is focused on deals and getting the best bargains. Maybe that customer has focused more on consumer electronics or other home goods. It seems the misses' customer is not shopping to the same extent that she was last year."
"It's almost like you get two bell curves between Thanksgiving and Christmas," observed Tim Olson, president of the management division of Urban Retail Properties, the Chicago-based development and property manager.
Between the surge in shopper traffic on Black Friday weekend and the one anticipated just before Christmas, "everyone has just stopped shopping for awhile," Olson said. "But the good news is retailers will hit the top of the bell curve on the Dec. 22 and 23 weekend," he added.
"I see a lot of inventory on the floors, with sale prices continuing. People are a little disappointed by the lull. There might be another attempt to jump-start traffic even more," predicted Arnold Aronson, managing director of retail strategies at Kurt Salmon Associates. Aronson characterized this season's crop of retail promotions as more aggressive than last year's "in terms of extra hours and incentives, though price promoting is in the same range."
Dress Barn's Jaffe said his company has additional promotional posters for store windows and merchandise deals ready to go to lure more shoppers. The company operates the Dress Barn chain, which targets misses' customers, and Maurices, for juniors, which is seeing better trends.
High-end and better-priced retailers, and those concentrated in the Northeast, seem to be faring the best. "Business last week was definitely better than the week before," said Jane Elfers, president and ceo of Lord & Taylor. "We are pleased with the results of the month, but there is lot of time left between now and the end of December. It's a long road."