Retail Forecast for December Raised at ICSC on Discounts

Retail sales at stores open more than a year may have gained as much as 4.5 percent in December, more than previously estimated, as U.S. shoppers pursued holiday discounts, a trade group said.

Same-store sales in December were earlier projected to have advanced as much as 4 percent, the International Council of Shopping Centers said in a statement today. Sales at retail chains last week rose 5.3 percent from a year earlier, according to the New York-based researcher.

Sales in the last two weeks of December increased from a year earlier as retailers extended hours and benefited from Christmas Eve falling on a Saturday, providing a strong end to a holiday season that already had exceeded some forecasts. Macy’s Inc. (M), Gap Inc. (GPS) and Target Corp. (TGT) also offered discounts on already marked-down merchandise in the week after Christmas.

“The last few weeks of December helped to lift the full- month performance above our earlier expectation,” Michael Niemira, chief economist at the ICSC, said in the statement.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Apparel and Accessories Index (S5APAC), which includes VF Corp. (VFC), Ralph Lauren Corp. and Coach Inc. (COH), advanced 3.5 percent at the close today. That outperformed the S&P 500, which was little changed.

Earlier Hours

The National Retail Federation last month raised its forecast for the holiday shopping season after steeper discounts and earlier opening hours contributed to a record $52.4 billion in sales during the Thanksgiving weekend. The Washington-based group said sales may increase 3.8 percent to a record $469.1 billion in November and December, up from a previous projection for a 2.8 percent gain.

The increase would be higher than the 10-year average of 2.6 percent growth and slower than last year’s 5.2 percent increase.

Store and online sales on Dec. 26 soared to an estimated $29 billion from $20 billion last year, said Craig Johnson, president of consulting firm Customer Growth Partners.

“There was a level of pent-up demand, and people decided the deals were worth taking,” Johnson said in a telephone interview from New Canaan, Connecticut, before today’s results were announced.

Sales for the week ending Dec. 24 increased 4.5 percent from a year earlier, the ICSC said Dec. 28. Unemployment at the lowest in more than two years boosted consumer confidence to an eight-month high in December.

The ICSC’s numbers are based on the ICSC-Goldman Sachs Weekly Chain Store Sales Index.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ashley Lutz in New York at alutz8@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Robin Ajello at rajello@bloomberg.net

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