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Holiday Season Physical Store Sales Declined 8%, E-Commerce Rose 15%

Recent reports from leading retail analytics firms indicate that the shift from bricks-and-mortar to e-commerce may have accelerated during the 2014 holiday season.

San Jose, Calif.-based RetailNext reported last week that U.S. retail physical store sales declined by 8 percent in the last two months of the year.

Reston, Va.-based digital analytics firm comScore reported that holiday season U.S. retail e-commerce sales rose 15 percent to $53 billion.

Though still comprising a minority percentage of total retail sales, e-commerce is growing much faster than sales at physical stores, driving many traditional retailers to implement omnichannel strategies that will allow customers to more easily shop using any channel they choose.

RetailNext reported that December was a stronger month for physical stores than November, with sales down in the last month of the calendar year by only 6.5% compared to November’s year-on-year decline of 11 percent. Traffic in December fell by 7.1%, better than November’s double-digit decline of 11.4%.

Cold and severe weather early in the month hindered store traffic in November, as did the fact that many Black Friday sales started the weekend prior to Thanksgiving, resulting in less urgency to visit stores on the day after Thanksgiving. Store traffic on Black Friday actually declined by 16 percent compared to 2013, though remained the best in the month.

The best days for physical stores in December were the 20th  (Saturday before Christmas) and Christmas Eve (Dec. 24). Conversion and sales per shopper were highest on Christmas Eve, the day on which many desperate last-minute shoppers will buy just about anything. The highest returns were on Dec. 29, the Monday after Christmas.

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RetailNext also reported that the month of December started relatively slowly, with the first three weeks having the largest foot traffic and sales declines followed by stronger performance in the final two weeks of the month. Although the month as a whole suffered declines in sales and traffic, the two days right after Christmas, Dec. 26 and 27, enjoyed a combined year-over-year increase in sales and traffic of 7.9% and 3.2%, respectively.

Not surprising, Cyber Monday (Dec. 1) was the best day for e-commerce, with spending up 17 percent to over $2 billion. The day after Cyber Monday was the second strongest e-commerce day, at $1.8 billion. Thanksgiving Day saw the biggest increase in online spending–up 32 percent to over $1 billion.

Several retailers, including Macy’s, J.C. Penney and Walmart, have announced store closings in the past couple of weeks. Virtually every one plans to increase investment in omnichannel capabilities.