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Cold weather and consumer confidence boosted holiday sales in Philly and the nation

The Inquirer
By Suzette Parmley

The cold weather actually helped retailers.

So did an extra weekend of shopping and tons of consumer confidence.

All that helped create one of the best holiday shopping seasons in recent memory, according to a joint report released last week by Fung Global Retail & Technology and Global Services Planalytics.

The report, “U.S. 2017 Holiday Wrap-Up: Season Exceeds Expectations Due to a Holiday Surge,” showed that brisk shopping started strong on Black Friday and never waned through Christmas Eve.

The report found that the weather induced shoppers to spend more time inside warm shopping centers. Retailers also unloaded lots of winter-gear that, two years ago and to some extent last year, they couldn’t give away given the unseasonably warm temperatures.

Case in point: In the report’s outlook for January 2018, boot sales were up 42 percent in Philadelphia compared with last year. The report estimated the bump could meant about $200 million in additional boot sales for the East Coast alone.

“Data continue to suggest that the 2017 holiday season was a success,” said John Harmon, analyst for Fung, speaking in a webinar on the report. “Consumers felt more confident and had more money to spend, e-commerce outperformed, and the calendar and weather were favorable.”

Some key findings:

E-commerce sales, led by Amazon, were up 18.1 percent for the holiday season, Nov. 1 to Dec. 24, over last year, handily outperforming total sales growth of 4.9 percent, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse.

The best performers overall were home products, including electronics, appliances, furniture and furnishings. Even department stores and apparel saw moderate gains, which is notable given so many store closings.

In-store traffic rose 20 percent year- over-year on Super Saturday, Dec. 23, according to ShopperTrak.

Deep discounts were common at malls again this year.

Retailers benefited from having an extra full weekend before Christmas and an extra shopping day between Thanksgiving and Christmas compared with last year.

The best shopping days tended to be cold but dry. The Top 5 holiday shopping days nationally based on traffic were: Friday, Dec. 22; Black Friday, Nov. 24; Super Saturday, Dec. 23; Saturday, Dec. 9; and Thursday, Dec. 21.

Evan Gold, executive vice president for Global Services Planalytics, said the weather played a big role this year.

“Weather in November and December was colder and drier than the prior year, particularly in the East,” which helped to boost store traffic, Gold said. “That’s why we’re seeing a big jump in the sale of coats, boots, scarves, hats and gloves.”

Weather-driven winter-wear sales were up 2 percent nationally in December 2017 vs. the year before, according to the report. In New Orleans it was up 14 percent and New York saw a 7 percent rise.

Likewise, sales of snow blowers were up 16 percent in Boston year over year. . . .

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