Mike Martinez/The Detroit News—Strong Super Saturday and Sunday sales likely won’t move the needle on a ho-hum holiday shopping season.
Fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, coupled with bad winter weather and a lack of must-have gifts have resulted in flat sales across Metro Detroit shopping malls and big box stores, analysts say.
Sales were up for the last weekend before Christmas as shoppers snagged last-minute stocking-stuffers such as jewelry, gift cards and electronics, but experts say overall December sales figures are more mediocre than merry.
“The merchants always have such high hopes, but I think there’s a lot of glum faces at corporate offices,” said Ed Nakfoor, a Birmingham-based retail analyst. “There will be a lot of satisfaction in turning the calendar from December to January.”
Nationwide, sales are up 2 percent through last week, according to data tracker ShopperTrak. That’s a slower pace than expected. The National Retail Federation in October estimated a “marginal gain” of 3.9 percent sales increase this year compared to last year.
Weak sales have lead to a number of markdowns and discounts on many store items. And while shoppers are taking advantage of lower prices, Nakfoor said there isn’t one item that’s drawing a lot of attention.
“There’s no big fad or trend this year,” he said. “That goes a long way in getting the public excited, but there’s not that mad dash to get those one or two got-to-have items.”
Officials said that’s the case at Taubman Center shopping malls, which include the Mall at Partridge Creek in Clinton Township.
“People are really buying from all different categories,” said Karen McDonald, Taubman Centers spokeswoman. “Apparel was strong around Thanksgiving. Cold weather has helped in terms of outerwear, and we’re starting to see luxury goods gaining strength.”
Partridge Creek saw strong jewelry, handbag, beauty and accessory sales in the weeks before Christmas.But bad weather two weeks before the holiday caused some stores to trend down single digits in terms of sales.
Sales were equal or better than last year at Twelve Oaks mall in Novi, according to Taubman Centers. Popular categories included electronics and beauty supplies.
McDonald said that, overall, Taubman Center’s 28 shopping malls across the country have seen flat sales.
Tens of thousands of shoppers visited Somerset Collection in Troy over the weekend, said spokeswoman Linda McIntosh. As of early Sunday afternoon, weekend sales had already beaten last year’s numbers, and McIntosh said there were long lines at electronics, jewelry and sporting goods stores.
“We’ve seen a lot of families,” she said. “People are definitely making it an outing.”
Overall, Somerset was expecting a modest 3.9 percent sales increase this year.
Jeff Green, an Arizona-based retail analyst, said the sluggish sales are a sign of low consumer confidence that started a few months back with the government shutdown and uncertainty over health care.
Back-to-school sales and Halloween sales were also down, he said.
“You started to get the sense then that people were starting to hold back,” he said.
Even in the midst of a mediocre holiday season, Somerset’s McIntosh was optimistic about this weekend’s numbers.
“Some stores are up 2 percent, some are up 20 percent,” she said.
Still, analysts don’t think that will be enough.
“I don’t know that this weekend will save the season,” Nakfoor said. “It’s not going to be one for the record books on either end of the spectrum.”