US retailers at risk of missing modest holiday sales goals

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
U.S. Retailers at Risk of Missing Holiday Expectations
Retailers are struggling to meet even modest forecasts for the holiday shopping season this year after the "Super Saturday" before Christmas failed to live up to its nickname, industry research groups said.

The last Saturday before Christmas often sets the annual record for retail sales, vying with Thanksgiving weekend's Black Friday. In recent years, last-minute shopping has determined the success of the season, and a relatively weak final weekend bodes poorly for retailers.

SEE ALSO: Somali government bans Christmas celebrations

This year Super Saturday weekend sales in stores and online rose 4 percent to $55 billion, after a 2.5 percent gain last year, according to retail consultancy and private-equity fund Customer Growth Partners. That puts overall store and online sales from the start of November through Dec. 22 on track to rise 3.1 percent, below the 3.2 percent pace the firm forecast and down from 4.1 percent growth in the same period last year.

"Sales have been sluggish so far this year as most consumers are still buying close to need," said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners. "What's worse is the marked deceleration from a year ago," he said.

Last year, last-minute sales gained in the final 10 days of the holiday season, driven by savings from lower gasoline prices. If sales, spurred by gift card redemptions, hold up in the week after Christmas this year, retailers could move closer to meeting performance forecasts, consultants and retail experts said.

The National Retail Federation, the leading industry body, has forecast a 3.7 percent rise in store and online sales this year.

Here's how retailers prepared for the holiday season:
21 PHOTOS
Retailers preparing for Christmas season 2015
See Gallery
US retailers at risk of missing modest holiday sales goals
GAZA CITY, GAZA - DECEMBER 17: Red Santa hats and Santa Clause figures are placed on a window of a gift shop ahead of the new year in Gaza City, Gaza on December 17, 2015. (Photo by Ali Hassan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
The Trevi Fountain is reflected on the display window of a shop decorated for Christmas in Rome on December 15, 2015. / AFP / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
A vendor arranges Christmas decorations at market store in the Relief Road area of Ahmadabad, Gujarat, India, on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015. India's rupee is feeling the heat as the Federal Reserve looks set to raise interest rates for the first time in a decade. The currency, touted as Asia's most resilient to a U.S. rate increase by Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd., has extended declines in December after weakening 2.1 percent last month in the region's worst performance. Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A jackets and coats discount sign is seen in a store window in London, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015. Despite the beautiful lights and decorations, it seems that Christmas isnât exactly in the air in Britain, where unexpectedly mild temperatures are causing some daffodils to bloom and some ice rinks to suspend operations. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Illuminated musical fountains whirl in front of a Christmas tree at a mall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015. The spirit of Christmas is felt very much in Muslim-dominated Malaysia, as shopping malls in Malaysia have decorated their premises with Christmas trees, lights, Santa Claus and carols as a chance to boost year-end sales. (AP Photo/Joshua Paul)
A woman takes photographs of a Christmas window display at the 'Le Printemps' department store in Paris on December 17, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ ADRIEN MORLENT / AFP / ADRIEN MORLENT (Photo credit should read ADRIEN MORLENT/AFP/Getty Images)
Customers buy Christmas decorations from a street stall at the farmer's market in suburban Manila on December 10, 2015. The Philippines Asia's bastion of Roman Catholicism, celebrates the world's longest Christmas season starting on December 16 with dawn masses and ends on the first week of January. AFP PHOTO / Jay DIRECTO / AFP / JAY DIRECTO (Photo credit should read JAY DIRECTO/AFP/Getty Images)
A bicycle vendor (C) is seen in front of a luxury shopping mall being decorated for the upcoming Christmas holidays in downtown Hanoi on December 10, 2015. AFP PHOTO / HOANG DINH NAM / AFP / HOANG DINH NAM (Photo credit should read HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images)
FLORENCE, ITALY - DECEMBER 09: A general view of atmosphere at Ponte Vecchio lighting on December 9, 2015 in Florence, Italy. (Photo by Laura Lezza/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - DECEMBER 01: Customers shop at a mall on December 1, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. German consumer morale and willingness to spend showed signs of declining less than expected, offering hope to retailers for a successful holiday period. (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - DECEMBER 01: Customers look at Christmas ornaments for sale at a Christmas market on December 1, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. German consumer morale and willingness to spend showed signs of declining less than expected, offering hope to retailers for a successful holiday period. (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)
A festive sign hangs near to the alcoholic spirits for sale at the Tesco Basildon Pitsea Extra supermarket, operated by Tesco Plc, in Basildon, U.K., on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015. Many European food retailers are coming to terms with persistently low inflation as well as consumers who remain frugal yet purchase food more frequently. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Frozen turkeys sit on display at the Tesco Basildon Pitsea Extra supermarket, operated by Tesco Plc, in Basildon, U.K., on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015. Many European food retailers are coming to terms with persistently low inflation as well as consumers who remain frugal yet purchase food more frequently. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images
PHILIPPINES - 2015/12/01: The EcoWaste Coalition launches the campaign for safe toys in Quezon City to ensure that children are protected against hazardous toys during the Christmas gift-giving season. The group urges consumers to think and apply the motto Safety First when selecting and purchasing toys. (Photo by Gregorio B. Dantes Jr./Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - DECEMBER 01: A Christmas market is seen at Potsdamer Platz on December 1, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. German consumer morale and willingness to spend showed signs of declining less than expected, offering hope to retailers for a successful holiday period. (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - DECEMBER 01: Customers go through their purchases at a mall on December 1, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. German consumer morale and willingness to spend showed signs of declining less than expected, offering hope to retailers for a successful holiday period. (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)
PHILIPPINES - 2015/12/01: The samples of toxic toys during the EcoWaste Coalition launches the campaign for safe toys in Quezon City to ensure that children are protected against hazardous toys during the Christmas gift-giving season. The group urges consumers to think and apply the motto Safety First when selecting and purchasing toys. (Photo by Gregorio B. Dantes Jr./Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - NOV. 30: Obie Covington, left, and hundreds of other volunteers at the Denver Processing Center in Aurora, fill thousands of shoe boxes with toys and school supplies to be distributed to children around the world through Samaritan's Purse and Operation Christmas Child. Volunteers will work for weeks leading up to the holiday to prepare the boxes for shipment. (Photo by Kathryn Scott Osler/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - NOVEMBER 30: Visitors browse Christmas decorations at the Christmas market at the Old Town Square on November 30, 2015 in Prague, Czech Republic. Christmas markets, traditionally selling mulled wine, roasted chestnuts, hot mead, and Christmas tree decorations amongst other products opened across the Czech Republic during the first Advent weekend. (Photo by Matej Divizna/Getty Images)
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - NOVEMBER 30: Christmas decorations are display for sale at the Christmas market at the Old Town Square on November 30, 2015 in Prague, Czech Republic. Christmas markets, traditionally selling mulled wine, roasted chestnuts, hot mead, and Christmas tree decorations amongst other products opened across the Czech Republic during the first Advent weekend. (Photo by Matej Divizna/Getty Images)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION
Discounts across categories have been deeper than last year, in the range of 20 percent to 50 percent, said Traci Gregorski, vice president of marketing at analytics firm Market Track. But consultants said the discounting still had not been enough to boost store traffic materially.

Promotions earlier in November took a toll on in-store sales during the Thanksgiving weekend, when total spending was the same as last year, according to the NRF.

The drop in store traffic has been offset to a large extent by online sales. Forrester expects U.S. households to spend $95.5 billion online during the holiday season, up 11 percent over last year. E-commerce accounts for 10 percent of U.S. retail spending annually, but 14 percent of spending during November and December, the company said.

The surge in online sales did not significantly disrupt services this year at delivery companies like United Parcel Service Inc and FedEx Corp, which put firm cut-off dates for gifts to ship in time for Christmas, the companies and consultants said.

Most retailers had little choice but to comply with the cut-off dates.

"We have stopped (free shipping) for orders that promised delivery by Christmas" because of UPS' cut-off date, said Noelle Sadler, chief marketing officer at online clothing retailer Lulus.

Analytics firm RetailNext, which tracks specialty stores like Best Buy Co Inc and large retailers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Target Corp, said sales dropped 6.7 percent over the pre-Christmas weekend compared with a year ago, and store traffic dipped 10.4 percent. However, customers who did hit the stores spent more."The jury is still out," said Bridget Johns, head of customer engagement at RetailNext. "We still have over a week before the season closes but it will surely be a race to the finish line."

Best-sellers during the holiday season have included toys and home improvement items like appliances, tools, furnishings and home decor.

But apparel sales plummeted as warm weather hurt sales of winter clothing and discounts on electronics hurt retail margins, even as sales volumes in the category remained robust.

See how last minute shoppers try to get in the last of holiday shopping:
Last Minute Shoppers Try to Beat the Crowds
More on AOL.com:
Notable deaths: People we lost in 2015
POWER RANKINGS: Here's who has the best chance at being our next president
Ted Cruz flip-flops on same-sex marriage in closed-door recording
Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners