From: Reuters
Published January 2, 2008 05:35 PM

U.S. retail sales rise 14 pct in post-holiday week

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Post-holiday discounts and shoppers redeeming gift cards helped boost retail sales 14 percent for the last full week of December, according to data released on Wednesday.

ShopperTrak RCT, which tracks sales at more than 50,000 U.S. retail locations, also found that retail traffic rose 7 percent over a year ago during the week ended December 29.

"In the days immediately following Christmas consumers flocked to stores to take advantage of post-Christmas sales and to begin redeeming gift cards, which was definitely a welcome sight for retailers this season," ShopperTrak co-founder Bill Martin said in a statement.

But both sales and traffic that week were down from the prior pre-Christmas week, a peak period when droves of shoppers hit stores to take advantage of final last-minute discounts, the data found.

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Sales fell nearly 18 percent and traffic dropped 8 percent from the week ended December 22, ShopperTrak found, a decrease that also reflects one less shopping day -- Christmas Day -- in the week ended December 29.

This holiday season has been marked by heavy discounting and promotions in an attempt to lure penny-conscious shoppers to stores.

American consumers have been hit by a slumping housing market, tightening credit, high gasoline prices and fears of a weakening economy. Some retailers, including Target Corp <TGT.N> most recently, have warned of lower-than-expected holiday sales.

Winter storms in the U.S. Midwest and Northeast also curtailed shopping during the first part of December.

But ShopperTrak said it still expects total holiday season sales, which it defines as sales in November and December, to rise 3.6 percent over the prior year.

SpendingPulse, a report released by MasterCard Advisors that measures the period from the Friday after Thanksgiving through midnight December 24, said two weeks ago that holiday sales rose 3.6 percent this season.

But those results do not include the post-Christmas spending activity, which has been growing with the popularity of gift cards.

(Reporting by Alexandria Sage, editing by Richard Chang)

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