December Retail Results: In like a lamb, out like a lion | RetailNext

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December Retail Results: In like a lamb, out like a lion

Shelley E. Kohan
Shelley E. Kohan
Vice President of Retail Consulting

December’s performance metrics for brick-and-mortar stores were down, but the month ended with a bang – will it foretell a positive start to the New Year?

RetailNext released its Retail Performance Pulse this week and the December performance metrics for brick-and-mortar stores showed a ‘mixed bag.’

Overall, the month saw a year-over year decrease in sales of 6.5 percent, coming on a 7.1 percent decline in store traffic, but overall, the month was more favorable than November across most metrics. However, summing up December with overall numbers would be a mistake, because like the Holiday season as a whole, December was really a story of two distinct ends.

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December may have come in like a lamb with some post-Thanksgiving weekend malaise, but it exited like a lion. December’s strongest performance for brick-and-mortar retailers came at the end of the month with an exceptional post holiday result of a 7.9% increase in sales on a 3.2% increase in traffic for December 26 and 27.  Additionally, Average Transaction Value (ATV) was up post-Christmas by 11.1% – a positive sign for retailers from a margin perspective.

And, it wasn’t just those two exceptional days – the fourth week of the month, which included post-shipping cut off period for most retailers, delivered a 3.5 percent pick up in sales year over year.

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December’s traffic decline was offset slightly in sales with a stronger performance in Sales per Shopper (SpS), which grew .5%. Shoppers who armed themselves with digital apps to help with product knowledge and price adeptness showed less of a sense of urgency in spending on specific days, and many even held out until the end confident in continued, ceaseless promotions from retailers.

Of course, December doesn’t Holiday make. I’d be remiss in writing about December without the bigger context of Holiday, made up of both November and December. Combined performance showed an 8.3 percent drop in traffic with a corresponding 8 percent drop in sales. Strong conversion and SpS were evident in both months.

Overall, the Holiday period for physical retail can be summed up with rather strong ‘bookend’ performance. Early-November and late-December had the most positive results for retail stores. Digital stole the show in between and captivated shoppers with aggressive promotional strategies. Retailers able to effectively converge digital and physical channels to encapsulate the entire period are the ones who will show the most positive results for the Holiday season.

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