U.S. retailers suffered another drop in physical store traffic in September, according to the latest information from Big Data supplier RetailNext.
In its September 2015 Retail Performance Pulse report, the analytics firm revealed that store traffic in the five weeks ending Oct. 3 fell by 8.1% compared to September 2014, the smallest year-over-year drop in eight months. However, the drop was accompanied by an even-bigger drop in sales that drove down conversion rates for brick-and-mortar stores.
Sales in physical stores declined by 8.7%, their biggest drop since April. Sales per shopper fell by 0.5% overall, the first decrease in the metric since January.
The biggest percentage decline in traffic occurred in the West. The biggest decline in traffic and sales occurred in the Northeast, with both down by double digits.
Much of the decrease was weather related. Unseasonably warm temperatures in the first two weeks of the month rendered stores full of fall merchandise irrelevant, while fears about Hurricane Joaquin kept East Coast shoppers home during the last week of the month.
October conversion rates should see some improvement from pent-up demand and the fact that consumers haven’t finished their back-to-school buying.
“Shoppers are changing their behavior, and reinvented how they’re shopping ‘events’,” Shelley E. Kohan, VP of retail consulting at RetailNext, told Sourcing Journal. “Instead of Back-to-School taking place in the last two weeks in August, it’s now lasting into October. Black Friday used to be the just day after Thanksgiving, but now it’s a week-long event.”
Even though fewer consumers are visiting stores than a year ago, those who do tend to buy more. “Consumers today are exceptionally empowered and more committed to purchasing than ever before,” Kohan added. “They have less time, less money, and less patience.”
Although the decline in sales per shopper could also be a result of intense discounting and other promotions that gave shoppers great deals, driving down the total transaction size, a lack of sufficient and compelling in-stock product is the more likely culprit, according to RetailNext’s Kohan.
“The old adage ‘Product is king’ is still true. You have a have a really great product at a really great value, not just a cheap price, or consumers will go elsewhere.”