After a modest start to the holiday shopping season and a post-Black Friday
weekend lull, retailers are hoping shoppers come out in force during the final
countdown to Christmas.
"You're looking at a final stretch where the country should spend. This upcoming Saturday or Friday/Saturday period could possibly be the peak in sales volume for the year -- even larger than the Black Friday sales period -- so there still is opportunity for the numbers to return to positive territory after an early December swoon," said Michael McNamara, vice president of research and analysis at MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, which estimates retail sales across all payment forms.
Analysts predict this Saturday -- known as "Super Saturday" because it's the last Saturday before Christmas -- could be the No. 1 shopping day, capping a week that's forecast to account for more than a quarter of total holiday sales.
Seventy-three percent of consumers still have Christmas gifts to buy, according to a survey released yesterday by Visa Inc.
"Traffic levels this past weekend really picked up," said Ken Perkins, analyst at Retail Metrics in Swampscott. "Retailers still have some ground to make up ... given the sales that were lost as a result of Hurricane Sandy. They could really use strong results every day this week, then a really robust weekend."
The two-and-a-half-week lull after Black Friday was anticipated because this year's calendar includes the maximum number of days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but Hurricane Sandy and the presidential election also hurt early sales.
Fortunately, the weather should cooperate this week. The Boston-area forecast calls for two days of rain during the week and partly cloudy skies for the weekend.
Sales in the 10-day run-up to Christmas are projected to hit north of $147 billion, according to SpendingPulse. More than 50 percent of jewelry and luxury holiday sales are expected during the period, due in part to procrastinating men.
Super Saturday landed on Christmas Eve last year and generated about $12 billion in sales, but a full day of shopping this year could result in sales of more than $18 billion, according to SpendingPulse.
Braintree's South Shore Plaza expects heavy traffic right up until the mall closes at 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve, said marketing director Vicki Bartkiewicz. "(Last) Saturday and Sunday, we were just jammed," she said.
Traffic and sales at the CambridgeSide Galleria are running ahead of last year, according to general manager Issie Shait.
"We've been having a good year anyway," he said. "Through the end of November, we were up 7 percent for the whole mall. The Saturday before Christmas typically is our busiest day of the year, so I would anticipate it will be a very, very good day. The whole weekend will be very busy."
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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