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Store Traffic Drops 10 Percent in August

U.S. retailers suffered an almost double-digit decline in brick-and-mortar store traffic in August, according to the most recent information from Big Data supplier RetailNext, resulting in a softer-than-expected back-to-school season and fueling concern for the upcoming Holiday season.

In its August 2015 Retail Performance Pulse report, the analytics firm revealed that August store traffic fell by 9.9% compared to August 2014, less than July’s 11 percent drop but higher than May or June. (the August retail month began on Aug. 2 and ended Aug. 29, according to the 4-5-4 retail calendar).

Sales in physical stores declined by 7.3%, their biggest drop in three months. Sale per shopper varied greatly by region, rising 4.9% in the West but dropping by 8.3% in the Midwest.

The biggest percentage decline in traffic occurred in the West. The Northeast had the biggest drop in traffic and sales, with both down by double digits.

Even though fewer consumers are visiting stores than a year ago, those who do are buying slightly more. In August, retailers saw an increase in sales per shopper of 2.9%, the lowest increase in the measure in three months.

“As a season, back-to-school did not provide the lift like it had in past years,” said Shelley E. Kohan, VP of retail consulting at RetailNext. “Much like Thanksgiving, today’s shoppers are reinventing the Back-to-School season, expanding the season both forward and backwards as they seek greater value.”

Slow sales in physical stores have been impacted by a growing tendency to shop online, but could be a result of intense Back-To-School promotions that gave shoppers great deals, driving down the total transaction size. The late Labor Day and relatively warm and dry weather in much of the country also impacted August sales performance.

Store performance was strongest in the first two weeks of the month. Sales and traffic were strongest on the first Saturday of the month (Aug. 8), while the highest conversion occurred on the last Thursday of the month, Aug. 27.