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Storm hit East Coast retailers

Saturday sales were not so super

ShopperTrak reported that Saturday’s sales totaled $6.9 billion, compared with $7.9 billion last year and $8.7 billion in 2007. Stores are now trying to make up for that by extending their hours in the last few days before Christmas. ShopperTrak reported that Saturday’s sales totaled $6.9 billion, compared with $7.9 billion last year and $8.7 billion in 2007. Stores are now trying to make up for that by extending their hours in the last few days before Christmas. (Mark Lennihan/ Associated Press)
By Anne D’Innocenzio
Associated Press / December 23, 2009

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NEW YORK - Super Saturday - the last Saturday before Christmas and usually the biggest or second-biggest sales day of the year - got walloped by a big East Coast snowstorm that kept many shoppers at home.

Merchants in the Northeast are now left to hope for an even bigger-than-usual last-minute spending surge from shoppers who, according to several surveys, are well behind on their holiday purchases compared with previous years.

Several stores, including Target and Toys R Us, announced earlier this week they will extend their hours to accommodate shoppers in the final days before Christmas.

But analysts say there are no signs stores have begun a wave of discounting to make up for the Saturday shortfall.

Research firm ShopperTrak reported yesterday that Super Saturday sales dropped 12.6 percent from a year ago, while foot traffic fell 12.4 percent, as a winter storm lashed the East Coast. That’s on top of a 12.4 percent sales decline and a 17 percent drop in foot traffic on Super Saturday in 2008 compared with the prior year. The firm, based in Chicago, tracks total retail sales at more than 50,000 outlets.

ShopperTrak reported that Saturday’s sales totaled $6.9 billion, compared with $7.9 billion last year and $8.7 billion in 2007. For the full weekend, sales slipped 2.1 percent to $18.8 billion compared with a year ago.

“Mother Nature was very unkind to retailers on Saturday,’’ Bill Martin, cofounder of ShopperTrak, said in a statement.

He added that the sales decline was the steepest for the Saturday before Christmas since it started reporting holiday sales figures in 2002.

For the week that ended Saturday, sales slipped 1.2 percent compared with the year-ago period, but showed a 20 percent increase compared with the previous week.

The International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs index reported yesterday that for the week ended Saturday, sales rose just 0.6 percent compared with the previous week.

Compared with the same week last year, the index rose 0.4 percent. A week earlier, that figure was up 2.4 percent.

The measurement is based on sales at stores open at least a year, considered a key indicator of retailer’s health.